This week in our history • 12/30/ 1955 • Contributed by the Inside Observer
SEVERAL THOUSAND FLEE FLOOD AREA WILLIAMS WELCOMES 900 VICTIMS
And Then The Rains Came!! After several years of sub-normal rainfall, the Northern Sacramento Valley received more than its share of water from the sky. When we ask for a “drink of water” we do not expect the donor to turn the hose on us; however that is what happened with disastrous results. As we watched the rain gauges accumulate we began to wonder where and when the over flow would come.
Last Thursday the city of Marysville looked like an empty jug with liquid – liquid water-surrounding it and threatening to overflow into its very heart via the approach to D. Street Bridge and certain other places. During this trying time the levees of the Yuba and Feather Rivers were being patrolled and watched by other people; official, military, and civilian. Wherever a threatening situation developed, volunteers were called and put to work to bolster fortifications against the ever rising enemy-unwanted water. We understand that personnel from Camp Beale were responsible for the final combating and repulsing of the onslaught.
Where ever a threatening situation developed, volunteers were called and put to work against the ever rising water. Finally at Gumtree, the enemy found a vulnerable spot, where an onslaught could be instituted and a break through was successful. Then it was a case of “All humans in the Area, Flee for Your Lives.” Many families had taken in evacuees from the Marysville area and had bedded them down, and had they themselves retired. Suddenly a newer more vital evacuation situation had developed. Within a few minutes of the initial break at Gumtree, the area encompassing the whole Yuba City section was either under water or threatened.
Then very soon another break in the river bank near the northeast corner of the city, which spelled disaster for the entire area. These two breaks meant not only evacuating the people of Yuba City and all sections south, but also the residents of Marysville, who had previously evacuated their own home and take refuge in the Yuba City area.
With this development, the town of Williams, about thirty miles to the west about doubled its size in a matter of a few hours. During the flood threat, the Colusa County Board of Supervisors under the leadership of Mr. Bill Ast and the County Civil Defense Council had held a meeting to plan ways and means of supplying possible aid. As a result of that meeting, Colusa County was able to do its fair share, we believe, in aiding and sheltering the distressed refugees.
Alva Lane and Frank Taylor attended the above meeting and immediately thereafter, returned to Williams and set up procedures for processing and sheltering all evacuees. Others were soon called upon to aid in the work and a town of little more than eleven hundred people grew to double its size. The local schools, fraternal groups, Williams fire and police departments, civic and service organizations, farmer groups, and veterans groups –in fact every person in town made this possible. The veterans’ building was used as relief headquarters; the schools were made available for housing and feeding as was the I.O.O.F. building.
Other housing facilities were provided in the churches, Women’s Clubhouse, and many private homes. Several families got out of bed, remade the beds and made available places for evacuees to rest. The Masonic Hall was prepared for an infirmary, but had no call for use, due to the adequate attention rendered by the doctors and assisted by trained women in town. Groceries and clothing were provided through the services of the Red Cross, Salvation Army and individual donors. The Williams Fireman not only provided a Christmas tree for the kiddies, but also maintained radio communication for those who desired to send messages and the Kiwanis Club provided gifts for the children.
For a small town, this reporter believes, the residents in their sincere cooperative efforts did a commendable job; such a marvelous, well ordered operation, that the evacuees were eager to assist in the project, proving efficient and gracious.
At this point we would like to mention each and every one, who, in any way helped though this crises, but time and space are running short. Also there are many whose services we are unaware, of, suffice it to say, that the PEOPLE of the town of WILLIAMS have typified a genuine cooperative, concentrated effort under organized leadership, in an urgent, disastrous need, mention and deepest sincere appreciation. Nearly every evacuee, upon checking out of this area, has expressed his sincere thanks to all of the town of Williams.
People of Williams, YOU have made many friends and have extended a priceless service.
At this time of year when thoughts are on giving, I always like to post one of my favorite columns of all time.
I was only six years old on the date of this event but I remember it like it was yesterday. The rains came that year and they never left.
I remember my mother telling my sister and I to go through our closet, as meager as it was, and find things that other people needed more than us.
I remember lugging things up that seemingly never ending staircase to the top of the Oddfellow’s Hall and the hustle and bustle of volunteers making sure that everyone would be taken care of.
I remember huge kettles on the stoves and ladies stirring, adding ingredients and scurrying around the huge dining hall.
This season, let’s all reflect on how much we have, and how much we have to give to others. Sometimes a smile is enough to make someone’s day special…..not just on one day but every day.
I was lucky enough to have parents that gave me a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, and food to sustain my hunger. But more than that they taught me kindness, respect and that intitlement is something that is earned not expected.
So enjoy this little letter of thanks to all the folks of Williams who opened their hearts, their wallets, their homes and their closets to folks who in a blink of an eye were left with nothing.
Merry Christmas everyone!