Kathy's story of surviving the flood when she was only 15 years old.
My father was downstairs and it filled up so fast, a mattress swirled around and got on top of my father—then my uncle got my father and the man who came in with the water, and helped them both upstairs, to where we all were, on the second floor.”
As the waters rose, 15-year-old Magdalena Toht clung to her mother, brothers, sister. She remembers clearly her mother encircling the children and the neighbor in her arms, as they all stood on a bed, praying.
Her uncle found a window leading to a low roof at the back of the house, where the families and the neighbor gathered. In the rain they climbed to the second, higher roof of the house and stayed there until, as Magdalena describes it: “The house came off the foundation and started swaying; we would all move from one side of the roof to the other, our feet hung in the water already. My father and my uncles found some two-by-sixes and laid them across the water to the next house over, which was a little cottage.
Then we walked on that to the end of that tip (the end of the roof), we saw all these piles of lumber from the (Barney) car shop, all laying down on Monument Avenue—so we all crossed to lumber piles on boards as they laid them—we got to the corner house, which was over on it’s side but held fast by two big trees. When we got there, we laid boards over piles of lumber again until we got to Requarth’s (lumber company).”
The Toht family spent three days on the second floor of Requarth’s without food or water, surviving on an intact barrel of pickles that had been “hooked” as it floated by. The large biscuit company still stood nearby; a man came across lumber piles from there and told them to come and get flour and what ready-made biscuits there were.
On the third day, the families left the lumber company building; again laying boards across piles of lumber to reach a brick building that housed a pulp paper mill. They used rags from the pulp bales to make beds, and since the building was brick, built a careful cook fire. Magdalena recalls the excitement when they caught a live duck, and how her mother made duck soup with dumplings to feed everyone.
The Toht family lost everything in the Monument Street house, but soon bought a house on Herman Avenue that had been less severely damaged by the flood. Magdalene found a job in a cigar factory, where she worked until her marriage to Mr. Heberling.
After her marriage to Michael Heberling, Magdalena’s life was devoted to the care of their six children. Eventually she returned to work, retiring six years ago when she was 75. Most of her time has been spent crocheting more than fifty Afghans for her children and grandchildren.
She says of that disaster: “It was a terrible time, after the flood, in Dayton—but everyone helped each other. Families opened their homes and shared what they had with those like us, who lost everything. It was a terrible time, but it was a giving time, and we were all stronger afterwards.”
Footnote: Magdalena moved from North Dayton in the spring of 1980. She died in 1981; she was 84 years old.