Name of interviewee: Willis Rivinus
Date of birth/age at interview: 1928/86
Interviewer: Jack Donohue
Interview date: November 25, 2014
Interview location: Rivinus home
Interview length: 19 minutes
Time span discussed: flood years starting in 1841 thru 2006, but primarily 1955
Summary: Will’s overview of his movements during the 1955 flood that inundated New Hope and Solebury Township towns and other Delaware River valley towns on Friday, August 19th, 1955, provides a rare eye witness recounting of this devastating event. Wikipedia tells us the record flooding was “in the aftermath of the passing of the remnants of two separate hurricanes over the area within less than a week: first Hurricane Connie and then Hurricane Diane, which was, and still is [in 2014], the wettest tropical cyclone to have hit the northeastern United States. The river gauge at Riegelsville, Pennsylvania, recorded an all-time record crest of 38.85 feet (11.84 m) on August 19, 1955.”
00:00 – introduction
01:01 – early floods that carved the valley 15,000 years ago
01:53 – 23 years old in 1955 when flood inundated the valley, just purchased farm between Centre Bridge and Cuttalossa; working for De la Val Steam Turbine Company
02:28 – driving home from his Trenton office, Stockton/Centre Bridge bridge closed, returned to Trenton to cross the river
03:02 – other floods, periodic pain
04:24 – rain starts in the Poconos, timbering increased water runnoff, rain farther south fills small streams
04:25 – many bridges and mills destroyed in different floods, stories of bridges not replaced
06:42 – river beautiful to watch during flood, crests after rain stops
07:37 – in 1955 tourist problem not anticipated, drove in to see the damage
08:55 – New Hope Police Chief Maxwell meeting to take action, barricaded roads for three days to stop tourists
12:15 – Robert Icelow disaster chief, set up command post in the high school; “nuts” appeared to help solve problems
12:42 – 6 inches of mud and silt; smell appalling, chicken farm below New Hope with dead chickens
13:50 – “angel” Mennonites from central Pennsylvania came in buses every day and helped clean area
15:26 – flood was bad all along the river, areas with open fields near river water could spread
16:26 – story about woman crying about looters and other problems, discovered she was the wife of famous Jazz player Charlie Parker
Will Rivinus recording 1, auto show.
Will Rivinus recording 3, authored books.
Will Rivinus recording 4, FODC.
Will Rivinus recording 5, restaurants.
Will Rivinus recording 6, Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor