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Lawrence County Floods, Illinois: An Interview with Janet Faro

As told by Muriel Brumley, Lawrenceville High School student
Lawrenceville, Illinois

Story Narrative:

A farmer wearing overalls holds a snake that was killed in flood waters in a vintage 1950s photo.

Janet Faro recounts what it was like to be young during the 1950 and 1953 floods in Lawrence County. She mentions how local the farmers worked together to protect their properties if there was a levee break and tell a story about one of her teachers living with her family for a few weeks during a flood.

Muriel Brumley (00:04): So, I just want to say thank you for coming in and... Well, for letting us be in your home and doing this interview for us.

Janet Faro (00:12): You're very welcome.

Muriel Brumley (00:12): We appreciate it.

Muriel Brumley (00:14): So I'd like to start off... So you experienced the 1950 flood and the 1953 flood as a child, correct?

Janet Faro (00:22): Right.

Muriel Brumley (00:22): Could you elaborate on some childhood memories that you have of during that time?

Janet Faro (00:27): I've been trying to think of what I could tell you. I would have been about 10 or 11 years old at that time. Probably 11. And I do remember it vividly because our school was surrounded by water. There was no way for a schoolteacher to get to the school or home from the school without going in a boat. I remember other things about it, too. Not as much as I wish I remembered because somehow it probably didn't affect me as much as my parents, but I jotted down some things that I do remember.

Janet Faro (01:11): Farmers, when there's high water, they all are very alert to that and they're really worried about whether there will be a flood or not. Are you familiar with the levees and how that operates?

Muriel Brumley (01:22): Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Janet Faro (01:23): Well I don't think it was any official organization, but the farmers would contact each other and they all knew that they better be watching that levee. So they would go over and walk that levee and watch and see how high the water was. Sometimes they would sandbag, do you know what that is?

Muriel Brumley (01:40): Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Janet Faro (01:41): And I don't think it was officially organized, but they worked together really hard to try to keep the flood from happening. And if it did, there were times when a little piece of the levee... Some water would trickle through. So they'd all rush and sandbag around that area. But in the year '53, it apparently broke. I can't remember exactly where it happened, but when it broke the word gets out pretty fast. We weren't in any danger, but I'm sure there were some people whose homes had to be evacuated. They had to get livestock out of fields or whatever. So it affected a lot of people. Want me to keep going?

Muriel Brumley (02:27): Yeah.

Janet Faro (02:27): Okay. One thing that I remember, and this probably... I don't know if it was the same flood or not. But I have a picture that shows my grandpa standing... It was [Arthur Eikom 00:02:40], and he was standing in his front yard and there was a boat at the edge of the yard and the water was right up to... It was about halfway between the road and his house. So the flood really impacted them. And he had this huge snake that he held up. I'm sure the waters had washed it up and I think it was dead. But anyway, I have a vivid memory of that picture of my grandpa. And I do remember the boat ride. And I don't know if I can actually remember it as a child or if I just heard about it. But there was a time when our family got in a rowboat and went around and saw some of the floods by this little rowboat.

Janet Faro (03:27): The schoolteacher that I remembered so well, I wanted to tell you about her. Her name was [Mrs. Creighton 00:03:33] and she was probably the loveliest teacher I ever had in grade school. She was tall and elegant and wore her hair in a bun. She was just the most refined lady. And so it was determined that they would have to close the school down or do something if the teachers couldn't get there. So my parents said to her, "Well you can stay at our house." So she moved into our home for probably... It seems like it was at least two or three weeks. But that was a really big deal to me. That's my biggest memory of the flood, was having my schoolteacher come and stay with us. And she ate all of her meals with us. I think she got the downstairs bedroom. I'm sure we probably gave her no privacy, us little kids. But after the flood was over, I think we almost hated to see her go back home to [Winston 00:04:23].

Asset ID: 8614
Themes: Water, waterways, floods, history, education, community, teachers, kindness
Date recorded: 2016
Length of recording: 4:35 m
Related traveling exhibition: Water/Ways
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Lawrence County Historical Society in Lawrence, Illinois
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