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“Such a delightful time”

July 1909 — Seven billion gallons of water fall on the Duluth area in two days. Grass, trees, timbers, paving blocks, mud and debris are washed down the city’s hillside during the torrential rainfall. Two children drown after being swept out of their mother’s arms.

Within two weeks a postcard is made, and the mood on the back doesn’t quite seem to fit the mood on the front.

For the sake of mental health, we tend not to wallow in despair for long. Any number of things could be pulling you down today — from the serious struggles of life to silly things like Memorial Day parade politics — and you must deal with it in your own way. The tragic loss of the Romano boys can still hang in our hearts 100 years later, but you have to believe there’s a perfect Duluth day awaiting you. It could be today, if you allow it.

In the words of M. K. Stewart: “Duluth is certainly very pretty. Will tell you all about it when I see you.”

4 Comment(s)

  1. Thank you, Paul. I actually am having a Serious Struggle Of Life pulling me down today, including tears, glumness, and whatnot. But you’re right, it’s a beautiful day today. I am going to take my dog for a walk and enjoy it.

    I hope everyone enjoys this gorgeous day.

    emmadogs | May 23, 2014 | New Comment
  2. The real question is where in Duluth this is!

    Almost looks like a house on 19th Ave East and Jefferson that was for sale.

    Any guesses?

    Endion | May 28, 2014 | New Comment
  3. I found a Duluth Herald account that I’ll attempt to add here later, but it notes:

    “Their house stands in a gully between Second alley and Second street at Ninth avenue, and almost at the first of the downpour the water began coming in.”

    That description would put the Romano house in the vicinity of where Jefferson Square Apartments is today.

    Paul Lundgren | May 28, 2014 | New Comment
  4. Perhaps someday I’ll find a second version of this story and fill in the [???] sections if the text is legible enough.

    Children torn from mother’s arms by flood
    Swept to their death from home on Ninth Avenue East
    Family lost all its possessions in San Francisco quake

    When the rushing upon the house at [???] street, occupied by [???] named Romano, the waters came down 902 East Second an Italian family mother and three children were hemmed in, and when the swirl carried away the back porch upon which they were standing, it wrenched two little boys, aged 2 and 4 years, from the woman’s arms and carried them to their death. The woman was herself nearly drowned, and the third child, 5 or [???] years old, managed to save itself only after a heartrending struggle.

    The death of the Romano babes marks the climax of a pathetic story of misfortune. The family lost every earthly possession in the San Francisco earthquake and were lucky to escape with their lives. Coming to Duluth for a fresh start in life, they were just beginning to see silver linings in the clouds, when the storm brought fresh disaster for them.

    The woman went through what was perhaps one of the greatest catastrophes in the history of the world, to see two of her children drowned during a storm in their own back yard. Mrs. Romano was all alone with the children when the storm came. The husband, who is a shoemaker by trade, was on the range looking for work. Their house stands in a gully between Second alley and Second street at Ninth avenue, and almost at the first of the downpour the water began coming in.

    Grabbing her two smallest children in her arms, the frantic woman rushed to the back porch in an effort to escape from the water, which was then rushing in at the rate of hundreds of gallons a minute. At the porch, the poor woman was [???] by the mad torrents. She clung desperately to the babies she held in her arms, while the oldest child hung in terror on its mother’s skirts. She scarcely had time to think of what to do next when the onrush of water took matters in its own hands.

    The rickety porch, upon which the frightened little group was huddled, broke from its mooring and supports with a crash, tearing the babies from their mother’s arms and carrying them off to their death. The woman gave a shriek of despair as she found herself thrown into the mass of broken wood and water and felt the children wrenched from her grasp. She made a wild effort to recover the babes, but the flood had swallowed them, and the third child was fighting wildly for its life. The mother had a very narrow escape from death.

    Mrs. Romano finally managed to escape from the gully, and the third child was rescued from its precarious position. The rush of water drowned the child’s cries for help, and it was choked and confused by the rush of the water, but had sufficient presence of mind to grab for support. Its fingers found a stout tree, to which it clung with desperation until rescued a few minutes later, not much the worse for the experience. It was a very narrow escape.

    In the meantime the frantic mother [???] search the flood and neighbors and the police [???] for the babies which the night had swallowed.

    The fears that both children were dead, either drowned or crushed by the stones and timbers with which the torrent was charged, were in part confirmed by the finding of the body of one child about half an hour after the accident. Life was extinct.

    Search for the second body then began and was kept up all night without avail. However, this morning the flooded ravine in which the Romano house stands gave up its dead, and the [???]

    Paul Lundgren | May 29, 2014 | New Comment

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