Watery Christmas ‘Not Very Fun’
Capital Journal, Wednesday, December 23, 1964
By William Bebout
Written by the editor of the Capital Journal, a resident of the neighborhood.
Refugees from Keizer’s lowlands huddled in the chilly State Fair 4-H building today after fleeing the Willamette River’s steadily rising floodwaters. “It’s not very fun,” said 13-year-old Faith Ehrlich, petting her shivering dog Toby. “Instead of having a snowy Christmas, we’re having a watery Christmas.” But despite the water-spawned hardships, there were few tears. Most were too busy to complain.
One young man in hip boots rushed from house to house in Palma Ceia helping residents carry their belongings to waiting trucks. He said he didn’t have time to stop to give his name. The water rose so rapidly that many residents of the low areas in Keizer didn’t realize they would be flooded until it was too late to move their furniture.
When it became apparent early in the morning that the Palma Ceia area would be flooded, trucks moved in to haul furniture from threatened homes. “They just hauled the furniture out and put it in the trucks without even knowing whose it was,” said Tricia King of 790 Ventura. “People have been so wonderful to help,” she said. “Most of these people I’ve never seen.” A crowd at the corner of Dearborn and Ventura watched as a young woman with her baby beside her drove into the flooded intersection. They didn’t think she’d make it through, but she did.
“I guess she intended to get that baby out no matter what,” said Ted Gordon. Gordon had evacuated his family during the night. He stood helplessly watching today while the water moved toward his house. Those who had nowhere else to go were taken to the 4-H building. By 9 a.m. 51 persons had checked in and many more were expected. The building was cold and there were no blankets, but officials said the heating system would soon be operating. Mrs. John McAndrew and her five children were among the early arrivals at the fairgrounds. “I don’t drive, so I had to call for help,” she said. Her husband is stranded at Bend and can’t get home. Sgt. Jim Warren of the Marion County sheriff’s office rescued the family as the water lapped over the front porch.
In some of the lowest areas of Keizer water swirled around houses, ripping off siding. The walls of some houses appeared likely to collapse from the pressure of the water. Fire trucks drove through the area warning residents to move out as quickly as possible. Trucks, including big Army vehicles and school buses converged on the area to remove families and their possessions. The Albert Larsen family at 4898 Carmen in Palma Ceia stacked their furniture on tables and hoped they could avoid abandoning their home, which sits on a little knoll. Their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Mikkle, were not faring so well, however. Water sloshed through the house as furniture and appliances were carried to a waiting truck.
Those on higher ground were waiting until the last minute to determine if they could wait out the flood. The magic number was 30 – the height, the Willamette River was expected to reach later in the day. Mr. and Mrs. Roger Quackenbush, 537 Honeysuckle, hoped they could remain in their home. By mid-day, only their basement had flooded. “We just bought two dozen presto logs and look at them floating around down there,” Mrs. Quackenbush said. “It’s kinda scary.” “Thank God we’re up this high,” her husband added. But less than an hour later, the Quackenbush family was forced to evacuate as the floodwaters filled the basement and climbed toward the main floor of the house.