Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

The extension of East Broadway, which is n...

The extension of East Broadway, which is now named Route WW was first called Boone’s Lick Trail, then Cedar Creek Road and, in 1928, it was called Fulton Gravel Road. Natives like myself knew that it was the shortest route between New York City and Los Angeles. The first buses traveled this route coast to coast. One of the first was the Yelloway bus line and another earlier one was called the Purple Swan. We don’t hear about “cloudbursts” anymore, but that was a popular term in 1928, when a Yelloway bus accident was the talk of the neighborhood for months after it happened.

This particular cloudburst was more than a drenching rain or a flash flood. It was a torrent that fell over thousands of acres upstream and sent creeks out of their banks on Fulton Gravel Road and elsewhere. About 2 one morning a Yelloway, loaded with 28 passengers, was plying its way down a long hill east of Columbia, and the rain was still coming down. The bus passed the present locations of Cedar Ridge School, El Chaparral subdivision and Jim Meyers’ driveway. On down the hill, at the present entrance to Friends Together Antiques and the home of the Mike Russells, the road made a sharp right turn, onto the bridge over the north fork of the Grindstone Creek. When the driver made that right turn, the huge yellow bus plunged headlong into the raging waters. The bridge was gone! Washed away by the flood!

Miraculously, the driver and all but two of the passengers survived. The Eugene Crouch family and the Tilden Turners would have been near enough to hear the frightened and injured people screaming. I don’t know who sounded the alarm, but someone cranked that party line phone.

When that happened, every phone on the line rang, and people got the message from “Central,” if not from the caller. O.D. and Nancy Meyers, my parents, were almost a mile away. Dad rushed to the scene in the Model T dairy truck; others went by horse and buggy. They took coal oil lanterns, blankets and bedsheets with which to make slings or bandages.

Some people were washed downstream and into pastures and fields. They called out in the darkness, trying to locate family and friends. They came trudging through the darkness and rain, back to the place where the bridge had been. People kept counting the living, hoping to account for everybody. I heard nothing about the two fatalities except that one was a tiny child and the other was an elderly man “who had sand in his lungs.” Rescuers took those frightened and injured people into their homes, fed them and gave them warm beds.

Party line’s Central reported that two other bridges were out farther up the road. The Roy Mitchell bridge over Hominy Branch was washed downstream, and the long one across Hinkson Creek lost all of its floorboards, but the framework was still in place.

By dawn the creeks were back in their banks. People wandered around in the mud, finding their lost belongings. Carl Hobart, who lived downstream, found hats, shoes, purses and all sorts of things for several days and took them to the bus depot to be returned to their owners.

Mom and Dad and their friends often talked about that tragedy, but I’ve had no help in relating it today. I welcome corrections and additions. Write, in care of the Columbia Daily Tribune, PO Box 798, Columbia, Mo., 65205. Later, I’ll tell how people got across these creeks while bridges were being built.

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