OCEAN CITY -- Edna Streaker May calls herself “The Southend Talespinner.” Listening to her recall the Great Atlantic Storm of 1962, the name fits.
May was born in Philadelphia on July 3 1926 and moved, along with her parents, to West Avenue near 57th Street in the south end of Ocean City in 1937.
When the storm hit in March, 1962, May was a stay-at-home mother with three children. “But I have six,” she said. “One was born the end of December, 1962,” she said smiling. “I hear about that one, too.”
According to May, “The storm came up. I live on West Avenue. But across from me are the wetlands,” she said. “My husband and I looked out the front of the house and there were cottages backing up to the wetlands. Some of those cottages had been built in the ‘20’s. The house at the end of the block, toward 58th Street, we saw there were flames. There was no sense in trying to call anybody because the flooding had already come. We looked again and it was out. The water must have risen pretty fast.”
May’s house was built on a cinderblock foundation. “It was four cinderblocks high,” she said. “We had never had water in the house but we had a floor heater under the house and we lost that,” she said.
Since the house was literally high and dry, the May family was able to stay in their home for the night.
“By that time it was pretty well flooded toward nighttime and bedtime,” said May. “We could have gone upstairs because it was a duplex, but we didn’t want to go out in the weather.”
Making it through the night, the family stayed part of the next day. The house never lost electricity or telephone service, said May, so she was able to notify people that she and the family were okay.
“It was not good that day,” recalled May. “So we moved the children across the alley to one of my neighbor’s homes.”
May explained that she and her husband would often keep keys for the houses of summer homeowners and would check in on properties in the event of something being amiss.
“They weren’t there,” said May. “But they still had the heat on, so we took the children over.”
“That afternoon, I stepped out onto the step of the cottage and I saw a National Guard truck. They told me that I had to leave.”
May told the Guardsmen that she had to close up her house first. They acquiesced and told her they would be back after picking up people at 59th Street.
“The fellow in the truck actually had said to me ‘You can’t take anything with you, you’ll be back tomorrow,’” she said. “I got the metal box with the house papers and a few things for the kids. The fellows came back for us. They evacuated us in a big truck.”
“I had taken the house papers because there was a stop on 34th Street where we had to show identification to get back on the south end,” said May. When asked why she took the box with the papers, she said so she could prove she owned the lot in the event she lost the house.
As the National Guard truck made its way up Central Avenue to Ocean City High School, May and her family were able to see the devastation. “It was not nice at all,” she said.
After spending the night at the high school, the evacuees were told if they had some place to stay that had heat, they were able to leave, but they could not come back into town. May contacted a close friend with a rooming house at Seventh and Central.
“She said, ‘Yes, please come,’” recalled May.
The Guardsman who told May “you’ll be back tomorrow,” was wrong. The Mays were not allowed back to their home for two weeks.
When they finally returned to their property, the house was unharmed, except for the loss of the heater and an automobile.
The family was luckier than a lot of families. “The south end had a lot of damage,” said May.
May remains in her family home that weathered the storm. “I don’t know why my house was spared,” she said.
For related articles, go to www.capemaycountyherald.com/stormof62.