Reminiscences of Joyce Phelan Micciantuono

Hurricane Carol Memories by Joyce Micciantuono

My parents, having gone through the Hurricane of 1938, were pacing the floor when Hurricane Carol was blowing through the streets of Dorchester while I, at the age of 8 and ½ was blissfully unaware and quite excited that the wind was blowing so hard and causing such a ruckus.

My aunt and uncle were taking a much anticipated vacation at their house on West Beach Road (if you drive through the campground opening on route 88 straight through to West Beach Road you will come to the previous location of their lot.) They hadn’t had the radio or TV on and so they had no idea Carol was in the area and about to make herself known to Westport’s beach community. The first they knew of trouble was when my uncle went to get the mail and saw water gushing down the road from the direction of Ally’s (spelling?) Clam Shack (now the refurbished life saving station) and Allens’ Pavilion (now the last house before you drive the Gooseberry Island Causeway). Wasting no time he told my aunt they were leaving immediately because something was radically wrong. They jumped in the car and headed for the Midway Pavillion Road that topped a very tall sand dune at that location and then travel on to the old bridge that spanned the river (from the boat ramp now next to the current Back Eddy Restaurant, at that time Moby Dick’s Restaurant) to Lees Wharf and up Main Road to Fall River and home. On their drive they came upon the Cooper’s young daughter carrying her cat as she ran down West Beach Road crying, clearly in total terror at what was happening around her. My aunt and uncle stopped and put her and the cat in their car as they raced on toward Midway and their planned escape route. (what was The Midway Road is the current entrance to the State Reservation’s parking lots, bath houses and first aid station-the dune was much higher at that time) When they reached the top of the dune they saw it was impossible to continue on as the water had filled John Reed Road (now route 88) in front of them and West Beach Road to their rear, and so it was that Elmer and Gloria Phelan, the Cooper’s daughter and her cat spent Hurricane Carol’s wrath sitting in my uncle’s Chevy on the top of a sand dune. I imagine my uncle’s car needed a new paint job after being sandblasted while sitting on the top of that hill.

Meanwhile, a family friend, Mason Padelford, who owned a house a couple of doors down from my aunt and uncle’s, had headed out in his brand new car, taking the same route my family tried to traverse a short time later–he had gotten approximately half to three quarters of the way across the old bridge when his car stopped due to the river water pouring over the bridge span.

He got out of the car and started walking toward the Paquachuck In though the raging wind and water–as I remember the story, some men saw Mr. Padelford, and either made a human chain and pulled him over the last section of the flooded area, or someone brought a rope and they pulled him over the final stretch onto Main Road in Westport Point. His car was not so fortunate, it wound up at the bottom of the River.

The house across West Beach Road from my uncle’s two houses took a ride on the tidal surge and was deposited almost on the front porches of my uncle’s houses as he, my aunt, the Cooper girl and her cat were sitting up on top of that dune. There was a picture of the Taylor-Topping house in it’s new location on the Phelan’s two lots in the green hurricane book that was put out by the Fall River Herald or the New Bedford Standard Times, I don’t remember which one.

Mr. and Mrs. Cooper managed to somehow get as far as the Point after having attended a funeral in Fall River. They obviously had no idea Carol was bearing down on the area when they left. They were frantically searching for their daughter and the cat, but were unable to get to their house on West Beach Road so they had to wait, praying all the while I’m sure that somehow she and kitty were all right. Thankfully, they were, but it took some hours before they would find out this most welcome news..

I do believe that Hurricane Carol was the first shot fired in the eventual take over by the Commonwealth of the majority of West Beach and Gooseberry Island in Westport, Massachusetts….4 years later most of the area was taken by eminent domain and the houses were either repurchased by their original owners, or sold at sealed bid auctions. All had to be moved off their state owned locations and moved elsewhere. That was the only time I have ever heard of people acquiring a house for $50 or $100 or $200. My family’s house was the first one moved off West Beach Road over to Small’s Village (in the area of the Bayside Restaurant). As a point of interest there was a glass of water and an egg left on the counter of the house during it’s move and placement on it’s new foundation–both arrived on First Street and were found in perfect shape after the house was placed on it’s new foundation…..


Reminiscences of Joyce Phelan Micciantuono (now a good bit older than 8 and a half)