Torrington Flood of 1955. Classmate Recollections
 AUGUST 19, 1955

Published by the Torringter Register Citizen in 2010, this link offers an excellent overview of the Flood of 1955 with some great photos. Click on this link:
 Another excellent photo link:
 The morning of August 19, 1955, changed many lives in the Naugatuck valley, and especially for us in the Torrington area. There was mass destruction and considerable loss of life. It was just about a week and a half before we were all ready to embark on our high school careers. This event delayed our arrival by about two weeks and for many weeks and months, we made our way to school via Bailey Bridges, railroad tracks, and many round-about routes..but we made it !! This Class of 1959 has always had great resolve and continues to be one of the tightest classes in THS history. There are some great stories below, so please take the time to read them and please feel free to send in your memories of the Flood of '55 !


Janet Sikora Sullivan: Hi Jack,What a great thing to remember,even though it was scary for all at the time. My dad had George’s Tire Shop on South Main St.across from the armory and we lived next door.I remember the water rushing down the street like a huge river.My dad and uncle went to rescue my grandparents who lived on Baeder St on the east side of Main St.My uncle could not make it,but dad did. He had to go down Water St in his truck and had to swim from the truck to my grandparents and uncle and aunts house,because the water was so high.We did not know what happened to them for two days because all the lines and power were gone. They had to be rescued by boat from the 2nd floor of their home.Thank God all went ok. Family and friends stayed with us for days and then I remember someone saying the dam was going to break and we all went to stay with friends in Litchfield. Nothing happened and we came back home. It was a scary time for all,but we came through it ok,some did not. Hope you receive more memories. Always, Janet Sikora Sullivan
Sally Jasch Gifford: Wow, I didn't remember that the flood of '55 was actually in the middle of August! Growing up in hilly Harwinton, we didn't even realize what was going on in Torrington, except that after the storm we were without power for several days. We probably got word by phone of what was going on in Torrington from my grandmother or aunt and uncle, who lived on Migeon Ave. No TV, radio, etc. with the power outage. My mother, an excellent cook, had stashed several pies and other foods away in the big freezer in the cellar (I've since learned to say basement here in the Midwest!), and with no power, but a gas range, she decided we'd better start eating some of that stuff. I still have a good-sized scar on my thumb where the knife skidded off the frozen pie when I was trying to stab some air vents into the top crust. No more fish market, and the A&P downtown where we used to shop, plus all those stores that used to be on the bridge; pretty fast and devastating urban renewal! I think I remember that the Red Cross put people who'd lost their homes up in the Wetmore School. As a 14-year-old, I was kind of happy the start of school was delayed a little. Ricky Ameika's story, as well as all the others coming in, made me realize how much many of our classmates in the Torrington area went through! Our class is amazing, and many thanks to Jack for setting up our website! See you next September..'be there or be square!!' Sally Jasch Gifford, Niles, Michigan/Bonita Springs, FL
Naomi Pincus Cramer: Jack, Here are my flood recollections. We lived on Edward Avenue, which was a small street at the top of the fairly steep Calhoun Street hill. That hill was not fun to walk up twice a day (in those days we walked home from North School for lunch) but that same hill saved us during the flood. I recall friends whose homes were on lower ground coming up to Edward Avenue because it was up high. My poor dad had to go to Besse Pond several times a day to get water so we could flush our toilets. (Did I help him? Probably not!) Dad worked as a salesman for a paper company in Waterbury, a city which had its own share of flood problems. His company was washed away so I know he was out of work for a while. Now I am sympathetic to the fact that he probably had no income coming in, but in those days, I think all I cared about was that the opening school would delayed. Jack, this was a great suggestion. I so enjoyed reading recollections from others. Best, Naomi Pincus Cramer
  Richard Ameika 4:33 PM (18 hours ago) to me Hello Jack, Yes, I have very vivid memories of that night and following day. We lived on the 1st floor of a 3 family on Center street, next to Fica's tavern. The water came up so fast that we didn't notice anything until the water in the street was up to the top front steps!. The 2nd floor apartment was was empty and my father decided to grab some bedding and we all went up there. The third floor was occupied by a young couple and they also decided to stay. We were between two branches of the river and there was now way we could have even wadded out of there! My mother, who was recovering from a cancer operation, had medicine we kept on the top of the refrigerator and I had to go and get it. By this time the water was up to my waist and I had to go across the kitchen floor to get to the medicine. The electricity had not gone out yet for some reason and as I got half way across the floor I started to feel a tingle in my legs. My father told me to jump up on the kitchen table as it was wood -which I did! The tingling stopped but the water keep rising. Just then the lights went out . We had lost all electrical power to the house. I was able to get the medicine and got to the 2nd floor. We could see lumber from the lumber yard coming down the street that ran between the shop and fed into center street at the corner of the tavern. We saw furniture from the stores in the center come down the street along with mannequins that were in the store windows that had broken! I remember they looked like bodies!!! Cars, and all kinds of other stuff came for quit a while. The water got to about 6'-7' in the 1st floor. We could hear our furniture banging around at night. The next morning the water had receded to the level of the landing in the front of the house but still to high to wad out. By late morning, the national guard came down the street in a boat, taking neighbors to high ground. They got to us and my father told them to get P.J. and my mother, with the medicine out 1st as the boat was pretty full at that time. They came back for us shortly. We were fortunate that my Uncle P.J. and Aunt Footie lived up on Crestwood road, high ground! We stayed with them for the next couple of months. We lost every thing in the floor. The red cross gave us clothing and eventually when we were able to find another rent, ,provided us with some furniture. we were able to get some stuff from family members that were not affected also. As I write this I can see various images of that night and next day! One thing I know for sure - I will never live next to a stream/river or in a low area!!! Rick
Jack Wallace: I remember waking up around 3 AM or so in my small bedroom at 153 New Litchfield St, as the fan in my room suddenly stopped working. However, being a typical teenager, I went back to sleep only to be awakened by my mom who told me the town was under water, and that my father was nearly killed. He had left for work at the Torrington Post Office, traveling via New Litchfield St to Litchfield St to Prospect Street. Everything was pitch black and as he made his way down Prospect St in the area of today's Torrington Towers (Summer St), his brakes failed, forcing him to pull over. He walked back home in that pouring rain. What he didn't know, was that if he had continued on for another 100 feet, he would have driven into a huge cavern, 20 feet deep, full of rushing water, caused when the road washed away as water poured out of the second floor windows of the American Brass Company. (See center photo above...can't believe I found that ! ) Someone was watching over him on that fateful morning. I remember walking to school via the railroad tracks along with many who lived on the West Side, which took us all the way to Church Street. Spent a lot of time carrying gallon jugs in a wagon to fill them with water for flushing toilets etc. Doesn't seem that long ago !!!
 Shirley and Lee McCray: Hi Jack-- Boy do I remember! We were down at the Warner theater for a program (I can't remember what) when the lights came on and they told us to all go home. At that point it was just a bad rain storm and there was water starting to get into the theater. Later on my father and I (he worked for what is now Patterson Oil Co.) went from one Patterson customer to another with the necessary tools and removed oil burners and motors from furnaces and brought them out of the basements. We finally had to stop for obvious reasons. The flood was certainly a pivotal point in Torrington history. Prior to the flood it was a solid manufacturing center. After the flood using federal, state and private funds it was rebuilt, retooled and ready to go, however, manufacturing on a large scale was destined to leave town and leave the refurbished factories empty. After a time the town has had a recovery, but it will never be what it was prior to the flood. Another vivid memory is the series of three inoculations for typhoid. They were a strong medication that effected the recipient for days. Just about the time one recovered it was time for the next inoculation in the series. I think the nicest memory, however, was how everyone pitched in to help. Friendships were made and most of us made it through. Thanks for the memories. I trust this finds you and yours healthy and prospering. We here are doing fine. Lee
 Dave Ferrato: I lived on Britton Ave…right across from the Torrington Ice House…they made a fortune selling ice…they had their own wells…I remember looking down East Main Street from Brookside Ave…and seeing the water up to the top of the Sign at Petricone’s Pharmacy…I was a Boy Scout and we were on one of the clean-up crews…and helped shovel out mud….
  Ann Church 5:09 PM (18 hours ago) to me I certainly do remember!! Your question was probably rhetorical, Jack, but I can't resist. I was staying with an aunt (recently widowed) on Oak Ave, helping with a baby. We were awakened during the night by men in a rowboat who came to rescue us and take us to higher ground. We ended up staying the night with kind strangers on Laurel Hill. My parents and siblings were safely ensconced way up on the corner of Wyoming Ave and Litchfield St, having just moved there from Daycoeton Pl. They ended up serving as a safe haven for some former neighbors. As always, Jack, thanks for your info. Ann Grenuck Church
  Emily Frost Decker At the time of the 1955 flood my Dad (Col. Robert A Frost) was the CT commander of the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the US Air Force, and as such he received a call in the middle of the night alerting him to the flood. My Dad left in the morning to survey the damage and determine the needs and how the Civil Air Patrol would be of help. He left my sisters and I to man the Air Force short wave radio and field the calls coming in. We had no power so the radio was being run by one of two USAF generators kept at our home. The second one went to the Black Rock School in Thomaston where many of their town residents were being kept safe. Early afternoon we received a radio call requesting to know if Torrington could use cots and bedding being held in New London. Since we had no phone working my Mom and I started walking to the Torrington radio station located on Perkins St. near the Harwinton town line. As we started to walk down Bumper Hill Rd we realized the road was undermined so we walked one on either side of the road in case the road caved on one of us the other could help. Using back country roads my Dad was able to guide the large USAF trucks with flood lights mounted on them from New Haven into Torrington to light the center where most of the bussinesses were located and they were used for a few weeks to light the downtown area to prevent looting. My brother Bob spent many nights helping to man the lights. When we got our power back around 4 in the afternoon Dad decided the large generator from our home would be brought to Torrington to power the armory which was Torrington's largest shelter. Since the East Albert St bridge had a 6 inch wide crack in it and was being held up by a house that was wedged under it it was determined that a Civil Defense truck from the East side of town would come with my Dad to get the generator and a National guard truck and soldiers would wait on the west side of the bridge so they all could carry the generator across to place it in the National Guard truck and take it to the armory. Before the CD truck got to the bridge the rumor came through that the Brass Mill Dam had broken and a 20 foot wall of water was heading for Torrington and the National guardsmen got into their truck and left. With that threat in mind and knowing the generator was needed at the armory my Dad drove the CD truck across the Albert St bridge to the armory. Even thought leaving your post in the time of an emergency is serious offense for a soldier my Dad refused to report them because he said they were young men 19 or 20 years of age and they were scared. As we all later found out the threat of the wall of water from the Brass Mill Dam was just a rumor. Even thought my family lived in Harwinton we still had this and other flood stories to tell. It can be said that it was Torrington's darkest hour but its greatest as well as everyone pulled together to help each other.
  Al Stickels: In the Flood of 1955, adding to Torrington`s damage was an earthen dam in North Goshen ,at the headwaters of Nicklemine Brook, that let go .Sent a huge surge of water down steam, thru our small farm at University Drive(just off route 4), thru Crystal Lake( never rebuilt ) located above the west branch of the Naugatuck , near Norfolk rd . Friend Harv Guildford witnessed that.---We lost 7 cows and 4 large pigs that were never found ... Half the of barn disappeared. Scarier yet was that dad and I almost drowned in the torrent. I remember it was about 10 pm, and soon the lights went out , Rained so hard it sounded like water was stripping the leaves off a huge maple near the house. A long heavy rope tied between house and barn saved us. Ground beneath our feet was giving way. Had no idea what was going on .... Relatives living on first floor were in water chin deep! Just made it to the second floor. Side note: For days after the storm with no electricity , we ate nothing but beef and sweet corn , `cause we filled my uncle`s old freezer next door with donated ice and saved most of it...Neighbors from up on the hill thought we all must have been swept away because all of the road was washed out near the Allen Dam. Also remember Bob Shemms`s gas station in W. Torr. disappeared.( Check out photo of totaled bait shop across the street) Bill Verderame`s gas sta.. later took it`s place. --------- Am sure there are many other stories that could be told... IT was a wonder how much was fixed up in a short time. Regards to all who braved that `55 ordeal----------- Al Stickels;;;;;;; UCONN `63
Jeri Beck Veronesi : This is what I learned that day..We lived on Newfield Road,(our family of 6) across the road from the river. As the water filled our cellar, the firemen came and took us out of our house in a rowboat. We had no where to go ,,except to a shelter , but before they rowed a few hundred feet, neighbors who had just moved into their home a few months earlier and were on high ground waved us in and treated us so wonderful for the night. Here's the lesson..they were the first Black family to move into our neighborhood ..(remember the year). They said my Dad and Mom were the only family on the whole road that were kind to them. My Dad ,being the wonderful Southern man that he was had gone there to help when they moved in, and my wonderful Mom always waved and smiled when she went by their house if they were out. It seemed the flood brought a lot of kindness to that road..Everyone helped each other for weeks . I worked at the highschool sorting clothes and it amazed me that the gym just overflowed with clothes and dry goods etc. So I think I learned to never judge anyone by the color of their skin and what wonderful parents I had. We were too young to appreciate this devastation. Thanks so much for this link. Most of us didnt have cameras (or film) so available. . These were my first views of how massive this was.. How awful it must have been for my parents to put their lives back together and get support for 4 kids! All I was thinking about was losing contact with my friends and not getting mail from my boyfriend who was in the service!