Worcester,Mass - Places of the Past, Tornado of 1953
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Christine Howe - Report this comment
I'm so sorry that I can't provide you with pictures but yes, I was in the '53 tornado, I lived at 54 Assumption Ave, across from the athletic feild from what used to be Assumption College and is Now Quinsigamond Comm. College. What used to be the athletic field is now the upper parking lot for Quinsig Comm College. We and the rest of the people in our "three decker" were among the homeless. Our house was a shambles. When it was over, we climbed out of the space in front of the house where three windows had been and were sitting on our roof outside the house. Our kitchen clock stopped at 5:11 p.m., June 9, 1953. We were to have roast chicken for dinner that night. Although the house was tipped on its side, the chicken was still in the oven. This may be difficult to follow, but I'll do the best I can. If you walk down Assumption Ave from Burncoat Street, on your right will be the parking lot for Quinsig Comm College. If you walk to the lower part of that parking lot and look to the left at the empty lot, that is where our house used to be. There was also another single family house next to us on the lower side. We could look across to Randall Street from our back yard. In fact, I used to cut across the field from our back yard to get to Randall Street to go to school at Greendale School. Also known as (Leeds Street School). I had been outside puicking up the huge hail stones and just as I got in the house, it hit! I was very fortunate. I had been playing with a friend in the school yard and got home just in time! She was not as fortunate. When she got home, the house blew on her and she was killed. That's the version I was told, however, it was very sad!! Her brother was in the 8th grade graduating class scheduled to graduate that June. He did ultimately graduate with his class. Well, I guess that's enough for now, I could go on and on but don't want to bore you!! Thanks for the oportunity to let me talk about this. It helps as it seems like just yesterday that it happened.
Richard Zolnowski, Jr. - Report this comment
We lived in the Curtis apartments which took a direct hit from the 1953 tornado. I was two, but I can remember the panic as people fled to the basement....interestingly I cannot remember anything after the tornado hit although we lived in a trailer for a period of time because of the damange done to our apartment (third floor). I have scanned a booklet (about 48 pictures) that was published after the tornado and am working to scan a Worcester Gazette...it is larger than my scanner and will take some time.
DiAnna Goughnour - Report this comment
I have recently been writing about my own life to leave to my future generations, & one of my earliest memories at a month shy of being 3, was this tornado. We then lived at 275 Massasoit Rd. My Father was working the 3- 11 shift for Dapol Plastics near the Plantation/Franklin streets area. It wasn't long after my father left for work when my mother got the phone call from him telling us to get in the cellar for safety. I remember my mothers hysteria & panic. She had scared me so much, that everything she said sounded like it was in a slow motion mode to my ears. I am sure this was my way of dealing with my fear. I remember the wind as we left the house to go to the cellar & I remember my mother shouting to a neighbor who was waiting for the bus, to go home that a tornado was coming. We then went to the root cellar, which was probably 4-5 feet lower than the cellar & we stayed there until my father came home. We were lucky & our only damage was a huge maple tree that was downed in front of the house. My mother also found the face of a woman's wrist watch on a second floor window sill, which I still may have.
Lesley M. Kent - Report this comment
For the record, I believe there were 94 fatalities, not 90, and the wind speed was clocked at 320 MPH before the anemometer broke. At the time of the tornado, I was four years old and residing with my parents at 2 Marlen Road, Holden. My parents tried to shield me from news of the more horrific consequences, but I was curious and inquisitive and heard everything anyway. My father did take me to see the empty bed of Chaffins Pond, the tornado having taken up all the water.
Milton Hurwitz - Report this comment
Yes, i remember well the tornado in 1953- i had returned from the korean war a few months earlier- my parents live in the great brook valley area. i was working at olsen mfg and heard about the storm on the radio- i drove to great brook valley- i follwed an ambulance in order to get through. i found my mother in a rescue station-she was covered with debris and was itching from exposure to fibre glass. my father was waiting for me in worcester and we drove to framingham mass where my sister lived.i remember there was a young girl who lost her limbs when a refrigerator fell on her- eventually my mother lost an eye because of exposure to fibre glass assumption college lost the roof on the main building- it was an awful experience-47 years ago- the area looked like a war zone- cars were piled up in a pond near my house -the horror!!!
Jeff Long - Report this comment
When I was a kid growing up in Holden, one day I asked my mother about a faint recollection I had (and still have!) of crawling about on our kitchen floor while she was racing about hysterically and the daytime air seemed to have taken on a dark tinge. She told me that even though I would have been less than 6 months old at the time, that I must have remembered June 9, 1953, and she was out of her mind with worry about my father's whereabouts. Although the twister ripped off the second floor of his mother's house (on Worcester's Randall St.), neither he nor any relatives were killed--although his mother, in trauma, remained sitting in their living room while the ceiling was sucked up and shards of neighbors' slate roofs were embedded in the wall by her head, and she had minor scratches from the flying debris. Her sister, Ethel Newton, also survived, and a picture of her standing, stunned, amid the rubble of her Burncoat St. house appeared in the Worcester newspaper. To get home from work (Heald Machine Co.), my dad had to abandon his car, due to downed power lines and tree limbs clogging streets, and ran and hitchhiked home finally. He and his brother-in-law rebuilt the upper half of my grandmother's Randall St. house. Also, my Aunt Eleanor (whose last name, "Long" is misspelled "Lang" in John O'Toole's otherwise fine book on the tornado) also saw the tornado from her house (on Norbeck Ave.) She and my dad are still alive, and will never forget that day.
Dick Bolt - Report this comment
We have the list of Tornado Victims on our Grafton History site. I was in Grafton High School at that time of life.It went very dark in Grafton & was alot of hail. My dad drove us to Westborough the next morning to see all the flattened homes. I still at 61 have my family go to the cellar when it hails & blows hard here in MD.
Carol A. LeFort - Report this comment
I also grew up in Worcester and do remember the Tornado of "53. We lived on Water Street at Kelly Square. Not far from Wyman Gorden's Steel. That day was quit dark and glumy. Mother made me go to the store that day, I really did not want to, it was so windy I could hardly see where I was going. Though we did not have much damage there we did hear about all the damage it had done. I especially remember mom talking about a pig farm that was destroyed up on Tacoma Street where the housing project is now. It was horrible. Some of the other tenants came to our house most of the day and evening. We did not have television then we listened on the radio when the power came back on.
Maureen Ayotte - Report this comment
How well the torado seems to be embedded in everyones minds. I lived on maranook Rd. off of West Mountain St. I was at home already in the yard picking up hail stones while the sun was shinning. Then the real storm came and I went running in the house. My mother and I were alone. I wasn't afraid of storms, but this one was different. I wasn't in the house to long, when my mother began to scream. I went running into the living room where she was standing at the picture window and saw our huge huge oak tree comming toward the house. I paniced as the tree took a corner of the house. I ran to my closet and grabbed my winter coat??? I hurried to put it on and headed for the door to go outside. I have no idea where i was going. My mother grabbed me and was trying to hold me back and at the same time shut the door. The strong winds were terrible. She screamed at me. maureen help me, help me shut this door. The both of us were pushing on the door to try to shut it and at the same time crying for our lives. neither of us thought we would live. My Dad worked at Arter Grinding (sp) when it rained he took the long way around and hoped to be able to give someone a ride up the hill as it was 1 1/2 miles. Usually he would leave the shop and go straight down brook st. Luckily he did because all the cars that passed Nortons and all the ones driving by ended up over the fence on the opposite side of the st. piled high looking like a wreckage co. When my Dad got home we were relieved that he was safe. He worried about his sister in paxton with three kids. We tried to call but the lines were down. So we got in the car and drove. On the way I remember all the live wires in the street and hangind down from above. All of a sudden we heard a horn blowing. A sound of emergency, not "hey you cut me off" It was jut deffinetly noticable of emergency. My mother told my father to pull over someones in trouble. The car passed us. As the person pulled in fromnt of us I looked and began to cry. The assumed husband was driving and his wife was sitting in the back seat holding his chin together ..holding it up. At this point we were calling this a cyclone or something. We still did not know it was a tornado. W I remember the national guard being at the end of the st. protecting people from live wires. My Dad and Uncle made numerous trips to kansas to bring back mobile homes for people to stay in. I know there were convoys making the trips, as I went on two of them. It ws a strange happening. The sun shinning on one side of the street and the wrath of the devil on the other side. I guess it was the day after that we toured the Greendale area. Assumption was a heartbreak to see. Great Brook Valley was pure disater. I too will never forget the tornado. Does anyone remember getting a hurricane shortly after the tornado? Within the month maybe.
Todd Forsman - Report this comment
My great-grandmother, May Eveleen Slack, was killed in the tornado. I was told she was found under a door. My mother still has a scar on her leg from when a rock embedded into her leg.
David Roche - Report this comment
When the tornado hit, my mother, father, her boss and his wife were eating at the old Nick's Grill at the corner of West Boylston and Forest Streets, about a half mile away.My mother was employed by the Telegram and Gazette at the time. I can remember her telling stories about seeing an endless stream of fire, police and ambulance vehicles rushing toward Greendale. Soon rumors were going through the restaraunt that 3 three-deckers in Greendale had been struck by lightning and were on fire. If I recall correctly, her boss was paged at Nick's by the Telegram and told that something was going on in Greendale but they couldn't get anyone near there so could they go up and try to see what was going on? On the way to Greendale, all the announcer on the radio could say was there had been some sort of a disaster in the northern part of the city; they didn't know exactly what it was and were trying to find out. That's what stuck out in my mind of all the stories I heard about the tornado- very few people initially knew what had happened. My father told stories about people seeing it and calling their children to the door to look at this "funny cloud." One of my mother's friends had spent time in the mid-west and had seen them. This time she never saw it but she heard it and knew immediately what it was. Since her home didn't have a basement she took her kids, ran across the street and told those occupants its a tornado, get in the cellar. When it was over and they emerged from the cellar and looked across the street, her house was a pile of splinters.
william collins - Report this comment
My memory of the tornado is very clear, I was working in a gas station on West Boylston St. That morning, a customer’s car, which I serviced among other things, filled his gas tank to the top. About an hour after the storm had past, this gentleman came walking into the gas station and said to me in a very nervous voice, “ Hi Bill, I guess you didn't have time to pick up my car this morning and service it as you had promised?” I replied to Mr.----, “ I did. I changed the oil, greased it, washed it, filled the gas tank, and then delivered it to your home on Asumption Ct.” He replied, “ Bill, I know you to be an honest man but how do you explain that my car won't start and the gas gauge reads empty?” I took my costumer in our service truck and after navigating around a lot of debris by Diamond Match Lumber Co., and past what was left of Asumtion College, we turned into Asumtion Ct. The six decker on the corner had lost the whole top floor. We walked the rest of the way and came to my customer’s home, which was also in bad shape. His car was still setting in the spot where I had parked it. I got in turned on the ignition and tried to start the car. The engine turned over but would not start. I took a small amount of gas from a gas can that I had in back of the truck, and poured some into the carburetor. I tried again to start his car; it started right up but only ran for a few seconds, I tried once more with the same results. I then looked at the gas gauge and it showed empty. But how can this be I had put 12 gallons in the tank less than an hour ago. I then proceeded to check the car all over. The gas tank was sound and no leaks, He also had a Locking Gas Cap that was still on and in good coundition. I proceeded to check the gas line but that was OK. I then made sure the carburetor was OK. After a complete once over, I then put the remaining gas from my gas can into his car, then turned on the ignition and stepped on the starter. The engine started right away and ran perfect, the gas gauge registered a little over a quarter of a tank. I know that I had filled this tank around 4 o’clock before I had delivered it, had put the locking gas cap on. SO WHERE DID THE GAS GO, did that tornado suck the gas though the vent pipe on the gas tank??? If anyone has an idea please let me hear from you. I'm 75 years old now, and would love to know the solution before I pass into the great beyond.
Just wanted to inform you that the statement made by Lesley M. Kent "The wind speed was clocked at 320 MPH Before the anemometer Broke" This statement is TOTALLY FALSE, In Fact, the tornado DID NOT Cross the path of any official wind gauges and therefore the storms highest winds were NOT CLOCKED. The estimates of wind speeds were extrapolated from the damage the tornado caused to structures, etc. The extrapolated wind was determined to be approx. 200-250 MPH.
Roger Martell - Report this comment
I was born a year after the Tornado. But it sticks in my mind today because it was still the talk of the city for years. My father,Grandfather,and my uncle were painters. They were painting a house on Lichon street when from the 3rd floor stageing they could see it comming. My dad said they didn't even try to lower the stageing but slid down the ropes. and got into the celler of the house. When they came out they saw all the damage and people hurt and killed. MY dad was in ww2 and was a machanic in the african campian untill they hit Itly, then he was helping in the medics division. So my uncle went home to make sure everyone was ok and safe and went back with my dad to help as many people as they could. He didn't like talking about the war so much in fact very seldom We had moved into curtis appartments a year after i was born. But the storys remained with everyone.
Marty Lineen - Report this comment
Sat March 23 2002 A few days after it went by my dad or my grandfather drove by there and i was in the car also. i was 11 in age at the time. All i can rmember was the trees with the leaves missing as it went by. it left a path. i lived in Connectict at the time. i live in Florida now.
Jon Melick - Report this comment
I was a 7-month old baby in Newton, Mass. (just west of Boston) on the day of the tornado. My mother remembers having to clean a lot of Worcester-area debris from our yard after the tornado. Mom was very nervous when she heard about the storm, because she is a Worcester native and had a lot of family there. She later found out that the house of her first cousin, Jean Kemp, had been flattened in Holden (with no fatalities, thank God), and that the storm had missed the apartment of another cousin as it tore through Greendale.
Eloise Jewers Brandt - Report this comment
I am a Worcester native, and was there at the time of the June, 1953 tornado. I was 16 years old, on my way home from school on a bus.We stopped at Curtis Apartments, apparently just after the tornado struck, the driver telling us that he could go no further. Strewn around the street and neighboring field were bodies, dead and wounded, and blood everywhere. There was such moaning and screaming and wailing as I hope never to hear again in my life. I next remember arriving at my home in Boylston, a distance of several miles, and to this day I cannot remember how I got there. Most likely I walked, although I have no recollection of it. My dress was covered with blood, and my mother stated I told her, "everybody is dead." We anxiously awaited my father, who worked at the Norton Company. When he finally arrived, pale and shaken, he said he had been driving when the tornado hit, and the car had been repeatedly lifted and dropped. I do remember when I arrived home that everything there seemed so normal -- there were no broken buildings, smashed cars, or wounded people. It was like waking from a bad dream. Unfortunately, though, it was not a dream.
Nancy Morin - Report this comment
I was a newlywed of 9 months and pregnant and was overseas with my husband at the time of the tornado. I read about it in the paper and being from Rhode Island, I knew about Worcester. I remember reading about it to this day as it told about a baby being wrenched from its mothers arms by the wind from the tornado. All through the years whenever I heard of a tornado, I'd remember that baby.
Mike Girouard - Report this comment
I wonder why it is that nobody seems to mention the hurricane of 1955 (or was it 56) which, I think, probably accounted for more property damage than the famous tornado. I can still remember walking from where we lived (at the foot of College Hill) down Cambridge Street and standing there seeing Webster Square under what seemed to be feet of water which was flowing very fast.
Bill Brown - Report this comment
The Tatnuck Bookseller published a book about this about 10 years ago...very interesting...
Pat Baker - Report this comment
In re: the tornado of 1953. The young girl who "lost her limbs" in the tornado actually lost parts of her legs. I encountered her in the late 1970's at a local business. She was walking very well and was using custom-created prostheses. On sight, the uninitiated could probably not identify her as a double amputee. I was given to understand that this was due to a fund established for victims of the disaster (or quite possibly for her exclusively). She was living quite normally and I presume would not like to be identified. I found the encounter quite sublime. It has affected my own life: I know that life goes on, even after horrible tragedy.
wendy cragan - Report this comment
I grew up in Shrewsbury, and my earliest memory of knowing about the tornado was my mom telling me that my older brother's graduation from SHS had been cancelled due to the tornado, but how Warren and many others had been heroes and gone to help people that had been affected by the storm. Then, when I began dating my now-husband, he told me of his dad, who was trying to catch a bus home. They lived in the Curtis Apartments and Arthur had been working downtown. He missed the bus, even though he was running down the street with it for a ways and banging on the back of it. Dan, about 5 at the time, and his mother were trying to find a safe place, as Josie had always been deathly afraid of storms anyway. Eventually, Arthur made it to his damaged home. He was releived that he had missed the bus after he saw it had been overturned by the tornado! Then, several years later, Josie was on the porch of the 3-decker they had moved to (when they were unable to stay at Curtis Apts.due to tornado damage), and someone noticed her neck "sparkling" in the sun. As it happened, glass that had been unknowling imbedded in her neck from the tornado had just worked its way to the surface!
Pat Abruzzise - Report this comment
I remember the 1953 Tornado very well. I was 5 yrs old and we lived in the Great Brook Valley Apartments on Constitution Ave, just above the Office building. The devastation the "Project" tramatic to say the least. Brick building sliced diagonally from corner to corner. Someone else metioned the girl who lost her legs when the refrigerator fell on her. That was Diane Defosey. Once the Project was rebuilt we moved back, but this time to Tacoma Street. For years I looked at what was once a farm located on W. Boylston Street, just across from the entrance to the Project. It had been flattened, but the stalls that held the cows were still there. The "Poor House" that was located at Cozy Corner was completely destroyed. Jamesbury Corp has its building on what use to be the Poor House. St. Pierre's Farm, located across from Clark Street School was a fraction of what it once was. St. Joan of Arc Church I think was under construction at that time. I just recall all the wood laying around it as we went by. One woman (I don't remember the family name) had 10 children. She sat them down on the couch, and threw a blanket over them to protect them from the flying glass. Unfortunately, she was badly hurt from all the glass with all kinds of cuts on her legs. She must have put her husbands shoes on when they took her to the hospital because I recall thinking her feet had shrunk due to blood loss (the rationalization of a 5 yr old). I am very happy to see this site. I would be interested in any pictures (especially those published in the newpapers)of the area at that time.
Patricia Davidsen-Craft nee Benjamin - Report this comment
I was six the summer of 1953. My mother and sister, MaryAnn, had recently moved to the projects from Lafayette St. It was quite a big deal. It was the first "house" I had ever lived in. It was brand new and had both an upstairs and down. I thought we were "rich". The afternoon of the tornado, I was playing at a neighbor's when the sky turned an eerie shade of pink, than grew dark and all of a sudden I heard a train coming which I thought was stupid cause we didn't live near a train station. My friend's mother came running from her kitchen and grabbed us both and pulled us behind an old occasional chair. Than she pulled up behind the couch. She was so freightened. I didn't know what was going on. All I knew was that my friend's mother was acting quite strangely. We finally ended up beneath the stairs in a small closet. But I remember when we were behind the chair that I could see wallpaper being peeled from the wall. And just like that, it was over. She said without ceremony, "go home, now". When I arrived at my house, two doors down, the backdoor was gone. I remember that I had left my shoes in the yard. My feet felt very itchy. I was so scared that I hadn't noticed that my feet where cut from the shards of glass that lay everywhere. Where was my mother? Where was my sister? I went upstairs and found my sister, who was sixteen at the time hiding under her bed. She said that Mommy had been telling her not to worry, that she had seen worst storms than this. MaryAnn begged her to hide with her, but Edith was stubborn Irish and held her ground. Mary didn't know where she was. We were told by a volunteer that our mother had been taken away by the Red Cross. Later, we discovered that she had been standing in front of the picture window when a blast of wind hurled her into the parlor closet. She had been stuck in the calf twice by huge pieces of the window. My brother, who was in the National Guard, was sent help with the aftermath but he never made it to our door. My oldest sister had been babysitting. She came home and took a shower, of all things. She said she could feel fiberglass on her skin. She said we shouldn't worry and left us and returned to her charges. MaryAnn and I sat for hours on the front stoop waiting for someone to come and tell us what we should do. We ended up at the Worcester Armory. My mother had been treated and released and she spent the remainder of the day and all nite trying to find us. First the authorities sent her to Holy Cross, and another place I can't recall, and finally to the Armory, but by than my uncle had come and taken us to his house. Mary and I were sure that our mother had died. Back than nobody told children anything. It was a horrible 24 hours. I remember the little girl whose legs were crushed by the refridge. I also remember cars filled with mud. But mostly, I can still hear the wailing of the victims as we sat for hours praying that we would see our mother once more.
Bruce Edward Hedquist - Report this comment
On the afternoon of June 9th, 1953, I recall I'd been home from the 6th grade at Sacred Heart Academy (downtown) for just a little bit. My earlier city bus trip home took me right along West Boylston Street, right through Greendale and by Assumption Prep, no more than an hour earlier! I must have been on the "right bus", because I don't think I had to get off at the Malden Street turnoff, to wait for another city bus to take me the mile or so down to Park Villa Ave. Or I may have walked it, as I sometimes did, especially if there were some kids I knew doing the same. Anyway, there I was on my front porch, playing hi-fi audio tapes of this new "rock & roll" music I recently recorded off some local radio station. All of a sudden, I heard this very strange roaring sound, coming from my right as I faced south. I first thought it was one of those new neat kind of aircraft called a jet fighter, maybe getting ready to land at Worcester Airport. Then I saw it! The dark roughly funnel shaped cloud slowly moving its way along the top of Blueberry Hill, about a mile or so to the south, with all kinds of debris being thrown up and down in the air. Our home was on the top of a small rise and I could clearly see everything over the tops of nearby homes. I yelled for my mom and sister to come out to see this crazy freak of nature. But they were too slow or doing something. They missed seeing most of it, save for a little bit to the east. Soon we heard radio reports of some kind of awful disaster that had struck the northern Worcester area, out by Greendale! Wow!! I immediately wanted to run over there, but my Mom's good sense and scared look on her face kept me from doing that. I can't remember when my Dad got home from his job at Nortons. I'm guess he meandered his way up around through Holden or perhaps along his usual route which is now I290, assuming it was passeable a the time. The next day we visited the upper Burncoat Street main disaster area. My Mom (Frances), Dad (Eddie) and older 16 year old sister (Marilyn) helped the Red Cross. She was in the Civil Air Patrol and I seem to recall her "manning" emergency radio equipment for them. We also visited my uncle Wally and his family who lived up in Holden. Ditto on my paternal grandparents who lived on Ararat Street. They all apparently escape any serious injury or damage to their homes. But I remember some friends whose homes were totally demolished. There was still a smell of death lurking. I thought I had lost a previous classmate, but I didn't find a name that rang any bells in that list that Chuck provided. Another thing was our Catholic Church, the Holy Rosary on Fales Street, was so devastated that nearby Assumption Prep opened up their chapel to the area Catholics, letting us use it for Sunday Masses. That was how I learned about the wonderful brothers and priests at Assumption Prep. I eventually developed a desire to further my education there. Well, my Mom was a big influence on that one anyhow! Previously, the school was sort of a cloistered dormitory type environment for only the "canuck" kids. Now it is home to QCC (Quinsigamond Community College), after "The Prep" moved over alongside its big brother Assumption College.
Sallyann Swank - Report this comment
yes,I was there as well my father John Swank owned the SEVEN-UP_Bottling co. On West Boylston Street, next to Assumption ...across from the lumber yard....My Dad almost flew out the door..but was caught by one of his men..I believe Roger LePlant and Royal Tyler...We lived on Roxbury Street in Worcester..At that time my life was so expreem...but I was taught how [eople on a situation like that became so spiritual and so loving towards each other...Wow it has helped me cope whith Hurrican Andrew...We were in the middle of that one too,,,But, nothing can compare to the TORNADO >>I will send pics..next week...
Valerie Pederson - Report this comment
This is the story my father wrote. I was the 6 month old baby he brought into the closet and who lost my mother in the tornado. It was like any other Tuesday morning, June 9, 1953. I had to get up early for work at 4:15 a.m. My wife having been up since 4:00 a.m. making my breakfast and lunch. Work that day was the same, tiring and nerve-breaking. I could have worked that afternoon, but refused even though we needed the money, because the following day was my elder daughter’s Mera, birthday and I wanted to baby sit my baby Valerie, so my wife Mary could get some needed things for the birthday party - candy , decorations, etc. I came home about 1:30 p.m. My wife and Mera and my son Paul F. were ready to go up town. My wife Mary said something about what she was going to buy and then I kissed her goodbye. Now knowing that that was the last time we were to speak or kiss. I wish if I could foretell the future, things would have been different today. I prepared my lunch and ate. I then took Valerie and went upstairs to have a nap, being a little tired from working. I woke between 4:30-4:45 p.m. I went down and got the evening paper and wentupstairs to read in bed while waiting for my wife and children to come home. I expected them at any time. I was reading about the tornado that hit Flint, Michigan when I heard a whirling screaming noise. I looked out the window and saw a big dark mass of air over the Northeast sky. It was coming in my direction. I slipped on my pants and slippers and somebody hollered to get to the cellar. I found out later that it was my neighbor next door Donald Ostromecki who yelled. I could not make the cellar and being told to get away from flying glass, I went to the closet downstairs located between the kitchen and the dining room. I took baby Valerie with me. Then all hell broke loose. I held the door open a little for two reasons. One was because I was a bit afraid of the dark and of tight spaces. The other, most important, is because if the house was damaged, the door wouldn’t jam on me and I could get out. I was in a half kneeling position with Valerie on my left thigh. I said a few Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s. The rain was coming from left to right, the door opened to the left. Lucky for me, because the wind was trying to close the door all the time. If the door had been right handled or the wind had come from the right, this story might have been different or not written. The wind and noise stopped. I opened the door a little and looked out into the room, not being sure that it was all over. I stood in the closet a couple of more minutes to be sure. Then, I went out. What a mess in the house. All the furniture was upside down. Broken pieces of glass, small stone, tar paper and fiberglass was all over the place. The parlor rug was in one bunch and all the clothes that my wife had washed and ironed were all over the place. WHAT A MESS. I laid Valerie on a clean coat on the couch and went out to see what I could do or to help out. One woman across the court was crying and calling for help. I broke through the door and saw her holding a baby in her arm. She kept saying – Help my baby. I looked at the baby and saw a big gash on the back of her head. It wasn’t bleeding and the baby was in good spirits, so I told her the baby was alright and her other child, only a few feet away was alright too. Only a few cuts and they weren’t bleeding. She told me to call one of her relatives, which I did. I wanted to get back to my baby who was still lying on the couch. I was afraid that she might have fallen off on the floor into all the glass and debris. I was afraid the coat I had wrapped around her to keep her warm might come off, for it was blowing after the storm (or tornado which I now know). My next door neighbors, the Ostromecky’s came over to see how we were. I found some clothes for Valerie and wrapped her in a clean blanket that I found. Donald Ostromecky was down in the cellar and said there was a bunch of kids with cuts and gashes and all bleeding and wanted to get them to a hospital. I went to my car and pulled some tar paper from the bumper. A window was broken. I cleaned the glass. The rest of the car was alright except being smashed with mud and fiberglass. I started it and piled the children in - about a half dozen or more – all crying. I tried the starter a few times, and the car didn’t start. I got a kind of worried that these kids needed medical aid. A neighbor, Hank Peterson, suggested that a push would start it. So, we pushed it out of the court onto Constitution Street, which had pretty steep grade. While it was rolling on the grade it started, luck was with us. I went down the street dodging debris, strewed all around, looking for a place to turn around. After I turned around, I let Donald take the children to the hospital, not knowing that he had nearly got killed and had a hard time getting there. Mrs. Ostromecky was still holding the baby. I happened to think of the baby carriage that was under the stairs and thought that that would be a clean place to put Valerie. I wheeled it out to the front yard on Tacoma Street and put the baby in it. My worries were over for a while, seeing the baby was all right. Then I went looking for my billfold, which I left on the television before I went to bed. I moved the toppled furniture and looked under the clothes and rugs. I finally found it. Luck was with me again. My next door neighbor came out hysterical saying what, I didn’t know. While I was trying to calm her down just a little, her husband was with her and he didn’t help her much. He kept telling her to get some clean clothes on her and the kids. I guess he didn’t realize what happened for saying something like that. He was always a little firm, since I knew him. I got some milk, and Mrs. Ostromecki got glasses and we gave her children and some other kids a little lunch. For half an hour or more has gone by and no help yet. Was all the city like this, that was on all our minds. If it was, what a situation to be in. My telephone was in order and it kept ringing. Different relatives were calling to find out how we were. Every time it rang I hoped that it would be my wife, to find out if we were all right for I knew she would worry about the baby and me. But, her worrying days were all over, but I didn’t find that out till later. I looked around, waiting for order and help and wondering what to do. I surveyed the damage that was done. Every window was broken. Curtains and shades were everywhere, they had coats of brown mud and the furniture was all over the place. Cars were tipped over or smashed. Roofs smashed. Someone said a bus was tipped over against a Curtis apartment building. I had a sinking and funny feeling for a second. I found out later what it was. Why didn’t she miss that bus – my wife I mean. The fire team and help started coming in the project now. All kinds of trucks, panel, pickup and the such. I saw the National Guard move in. My brother Richard made it in some how. He parked up near St. Joan of Arc church and dashed through the woods to where we lived. He had his wife with him. They took baby Valerie out to their house while I waited for my car to come back. Rumor of another tornado was wining. We started to evacuate the place for the police were getting the residents out of the project. We were told to check in with the Red Cross on our way out, who were at the manager’s office. I did. I saw Don with my car. He said hurry up or they will tow it away. We got to the car all right. When I started to get out, the Ostromecky’s wanted a ride to a friend on Green St. I wanted to search for my wife and children. I didn’t know where to go. I got a tip from someone from the bakery (that my wife’s brother owned) that they had seen Mary up in Memorial hospital, so I drove there. I went looking for my wife and daughter and son. I went to check and told them who I was looking for. I went from one office to another and the only Pederson they could find was Mera. The only Pederson they had was a little girl and she was in the children’s ward. They said my wife Mary was there too. I told them my wife was in the hospital, I found my little daughter Mera lying on the floor all covered up. I talked to her and she was all right except dazed and shocked and I guess doped up. Some how I bumped into my brother Fred and his wife. I guess they were on the same trip. They had heard they were all in the women’s ward but couldn’t find my wife and son. I agreed with a hospital worker and helper about my wife’s where abouts. She just wasn’t in this hospital. The tip I got had the name messed up, they meant Mera and not Mary, who was there down the hall. I had coffee and at the hospital my brother Fred, his wife and myself went to Doctor’s Hospital and Hannamen’s. We went through the wards, but no Mary. A little hope was had at Hanneman, but more discouragement. We went to the Armory and Auditorium. No luck in either place. My other relatives were contacting the other hospitals. Where was my wife? Was she dead or alive or unconscious so she couldn’t contact me to let me know where she was. Our last stop, was the Red Cross Headquarters. There I registered and was told to hang around. What a line of blood donors!!! People acting in the emergency. We had a cup of coffee and a sandwich. I went from one office and then good news, they had found my son Paul. He was in some private house on Shattuck Street. I told the people I was glad to know that he was safe and sound. He had a bandaged thigh, so I carried him to the car. He was given a teddy bear, which he still has today. After finding Skeets (the nickname for my son Paul); I decided to go and hunt for my wife. It was about 2 a.m. and I was tired from the ordeal. My brother Fred invited me to stay at his place. I was also invited to stay at my brother in law’s house, Frank Tagman. But I figured I would be better off at my brother’s house. Coffee was on the stove, but I didn’t feel like drinking or eating anything. I went to bed, saying prayers for my wife’s safety. I was awoken in the morning telling me there was an unidentified woman in the City Hospital morgue which fit the description of my wife. I then broke down and cried like a baby. I called my brother in law Charles Tagman and he came with me and my brother Fried to identify my wife. When we got there, they brought me out a watch. It was my watch, but at the time I wasn’t sure. My brother in-law went in for visual identification, and said it was my wife. He said don’t go in, it wasn’t a pretty sight. So, we went to the chapel and said a prayer for her soul. I later learned, that everybody knew the night before because my brother had gone up there, but no one wanted to tell me. Written by Paul C. Pederson
Roger H. Frost - Report this comment
God Bless You and God Bless America. Wendy Ann Hilton was 5 yrs her brother John Hilton was 4yrs and mother Barbara Johnson Hilton was taking care of them as they were sitting down to a balony sandwich in the Veterans Apartments at at the Curtis Apartments at 5 PM when they were blown around when the tornado struck suddenly. She saw the girl that lost her legs when the refrigerator fell on her. Good website. Thank you , Yours In Christ
Victor Aijala - Report this comment
I certainly remember the tornado ! I was living with my parents in Shrewsbury near Lake Quinsigamond. I saw the funnel coming over the lake and ran for safety to our house. By the time I reached the house, the wind was so strong I could hardly close the door. I pushed my mom and sister down the cellar and within seconds the roar of the tornado was so loud unlike anything I had ever heard. Within mnutes it was over, and we creeped upstairs to see the damage. All the trees were down, the clothes in our dressers were all sucked out from the vacuum and were lieing everywhere. Our garage was in shambles and all the houses in our neighborhood was gone except ours, although our house was in bad shape with holes everywhere. It was the most tramatic experience I ever had. There were many neighbors and friends who died, including my high school class president. I shall never forget it.
Barbara Smith - Report this comment
I lived on Davis Street during the tornado. I was 7 years old when it happened and I remember going to the top of the hill and watchin ambulances bring the injured to the hospital. I remember the panic and fear even to this day -- I'm 57 years old.
Peter C.Mason - Report this comment
I lived Between Moreland Street and Flagg Street and was eight years old at the time of the tornado. The sky becme an eree dark grey green and the wind blew hail stones golf ball size accross the lawn. I remember learning a new word- "tornado" from my older sister. I did not know what it meant, but we had lived years before in the upstairs apartment attached to St Michaels Episcopal church. Dad drove us to the foot of Burncoat street and I remember walking up that street as sirens sounded and pick up trucks with bloody mattresses transported the injured out of the neighborhood. We walked past houses with gossamer curtains fluttering tattered out windows. people with chain saws were cutting away at fallen trees and at large parts of buildings. When we got to Saint Michaels the priest was walking in a bizzare procession behind two boys one who carried a twisted and bent processiomal cross. It was a very frieghtening evening for a small boy watching his parents talk in soft and frightened voices with friends and neighbors about those missing, killed or injured. Only a cellar hole was left of the house that we had once occupied.
Sid Plotkin - Report this comment
I'm going to scan a photograph from the Worcester Tornado in a subsequent Email that shows a bus thrown up against a wall of a building in the Great Brook Valley housing project. I was a freelance professional photographer called on by the Worcester Telegram and Gazette because all of their staff were tired up on covering the vast area where the storm hit. I have other photos of people and the tremdous damage of the storm if you're interested
robert pitchman - Report this comment
I lived on ledge street in worcester.i was seven years old,but i do rember that storm oh to well.I rember looking out my windo and what i though was big snakes coming up from the ground was roots poping out of the ground.But it was a big,and i do mean big tree falling over right in front of my eyes.and that scard me to death.and i do rember some other stuff but i have been up for 18 hours.you can tell by my spelling sorry mr.pitchman
Mark Darter - Report this comment
Just for the information of anyone who would be interested: With respect to the question about photos of the Worcester tornado of 1953, I am aware of at least two. They appear in a book which was published in late 1993. The title of the book is Tornado: 84 minutes, 94 lives. The author is John M. O'Toole. According to the author, there are four known pictures of the funnel, two of which are in the photo section, in the center part of the book. This can be purchased from an online book distributor such as Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. (The actual publisher of this book was Chandler House Press.)
Robb Quint - Report this comment
My recollection is relatively minor because I lived in Lowell, MA, where the tornado did not strike, and not in Worcester County. I do however clearly remember at the age of seven riding my bicycle on Sanders Avenue in Lowell, where we lived, and being frightened by someone shouting at me to get home quickly because a tornado was coming, which I certainly did! Apparently at that moment the warning had gone out, and the path of the tornado was still not known.
Ken Dufresne - Report this comment
I thank everyone for letting me read what they seen and went through. My mother, who is no longer with us, use to tell me about that Tornado. From her going into a store in downtown Worcester that day, and coming out to a pitch black sky, to other members of her family seeing the funnel cloud from the town of Shrewsbury as it ripped up everything in its path. Thankfully nobody in the family was injured. She did tell me how her father drove her around the city the following day, and the major damage they seen. Hopefully we will never witness such a devastation again.
Will Marengo (Jr.) - Report this comment
I was not born during the time of the Tornado of '53, but I heard stories about it. My father use to hang around at a bookstore with a bunch of old guys who would talk - periodically - about the tornado (and anything else that came to mind). I remember seeing pictures of Great Brook Valley in a newspaper that was kept as a memory sake by one of the bookstore owners; this was around 1965. The most memorable story that I recall from them was about the baby that was torn from his/her parent's arms. Today, I am visiting this site because I am developing a lesson unit on weather (which will include tornadoes); I guess you can say that I selected the weather/tornado subject because the Tornado of '53 peeked my interest in the phenomenon and has stayed with me till this day. For all who experienced this trajedy, I pray that your lives have been filled with more joy than the sadness/terror it brought to you. Thank you all for sharing your personal experiences of this historical and memorable day. I am now living in Pensacola Florida where we are still feeling the affects of Hurricane Ivan that visited us in Sepetember of 2004. These disasters tend to stay with us for a long time - if not forever. God Bless.
Will Marengo (Jr.) - Report this comment
I came across a couple Web sites that have pictures of the '53 tornado's destruction. Assumption Prep http://www.assumption.us/tornado/tornado.htm City Clerk of Worcester http://www.ci.worcester.ma.us/cco/tornado/ NOAA PowerPoint Presentation online http://www.erh.noaa.gov/box/papers/WorcesterTornado53_files/WorcesterTornado53.html Channel 10 News â€“ Video and still pictures http://www.turnto10.com/news/2257615/detail.html
Marilyn Arvidson Hogan - Report this comment
I lived on Inwood Rd in Worcester, one block from where the Tornado of June 9th 1953 destroyed Assumption College. I was in the front yard when my dad spotted the funnel cloud. Minutes before I was at a meeting for Campfire/Bluebirds at St. Michaels Church at the corner of Fairhaven and Burncoat which was totally destroyed when the funnel cloud hit. Thanks to GOD for Mrs Dill who sent us running home because she sensed the storm was going to be bad. I have vivid memories of that day. Including my dad telling us to get into the cellar, the sound of it like a roaring train going right through the house, the black soot that covered everything after it was over, even in the bottoms of dresser drawers. If you are still actively supporting this page, send me an Email and I will write my story. I went back to Worcester for the dedication of the memorial at Assumption College, and finally got to meet the woman that lost her legs. As someone commented, she is an inspiration.
A. Keenan - Report this comment
I was almost 5 years old. We were visiting my uncle and aunt for my cousins high school graduation. We were outside and my uncle was tending to his garden when we saw it coming up from the back yard a distance away. I remember it was huge and black and sounded so loud. Everyone ran into the cellar of the house, but they all thought someone had me, but, I was left outside alone with the dog. I ran around trying to catch the dog and finally hauled him inside when they realized no one had me. I remember the giant hail stones that fell after and riding around seeing things stuck through trees, a house torn in half like a doll house and just messes everywhere.
David M. Fagerstrom - Report this comment
This past weekend, 8/28/05, I'd mentioned being in this tornado to some friend. The next day, out of curiousity, I wondered what a GOOGLE search might find. I found this site. In June 1953 I was 4 years old and living in Winthrup Oaks in Holden. My mother, Ruth Fagerstrom, wrote a story about our family's horrific experience in this tornado titled "Caught in a Tornado" in the serial UP COUNTRY: THE MAGAZINE OF NEW ENGLAND, June 1979, p11-16. My mother's story is too long to add here. I will be relatively brief. My mother was home with me and my sister Susan who was 1.5 years old then. Present also was our neighbor's son, Jimmie Szlyk, who was my age of 4 years old. The weather that day was "hot and heavy". By 4:15 PM the weather became dark and ominous sufficiently so that my mother decided Jimmie and all of us should go across the street to Jimmie's home just to be with other people. In the Szlyk home was Jimmie's mother Felicia, her two other young children and a baby sitter. These were early prefab homes with no basements; just a slab of concrete with a house on it. At 4:55 PM an "unbelievably powerful" diesel engine roar grew terribly loud and close. Looking across the street the baby sitter noted the trees in our yard were being pushed down on the ground; the rain was horrizonal. I remember to this day looking out the picture window and seeing a whirlwind of debris like a fuzzy black and white TV screen might look like with no real picture. This was the Cold War atomic bomb era which said you should go to the middle of your house and get on the floor. My mother, having just read these instructions for a bomb blast, ordered everybody to the little middle room of these modest homes. My mother pushed me on top of my baby sister and she through herself on top of us. Everybody else fell to the floor just as all hell broke loose. My mother wrote that the sound of that single powerful diesel engine seemed to become that of twelve. Amid the shattering of glass followed by the violent tearing apart of the house, the house miraculously lifted off its foundation, exploded with "roof panels taking of like airplanes" and left us "crouched beside...a pyramid of rubble on the concrete foundation at the center of where the house had been." While the tornado was passing right through us my mother said, "Please, God, take care of us." That prayer, however brief, was answered for we should have died that day. It is amazing that of the 70 homes that comprised Winthrup Oaks, only 2 or 3 homes were left standing and not one of the 200 people at home in the neighborhood lost their life that day. There were injuries for sure, but we all survived. Interestingly, our own home across the street had been completely destroyed and everything was gone. Had we been in our own home we would have died in 1953. What this 4 year old remembers is getting up from the rubble to a, believe it or not, fairly nice day. Reputedly, as I do not remember this, I said to my mother, "Look, mommy. Our house was blowed away! Now we'll have to a get a new one!. Seems I was an optimist even then. My father had been at work in Worcester and was sent home without an explanation. He thought he'd been fired! Upon getting closer to Holden and home he saw more and more destruction. Because of the rubble, he could not drive to our neighborhood. He had to exit the car and walk through a hay field and some woods. Upon seeing his house destroyed he remembered "he felt as if in a dream - his legs like lead and he found it difficult to take steps because the nearer to home he came the more certain he was that all of us were dead." When he spotted us there were no tears, not even any words, only relief. There is a lot more to this story and its aftermath. As my mother stated in her story, a lot of stories were made that day. On a personal level, I survived this tornado of 1953, kidney failure at age 16, dialysis for 5.5 years, a kidney transplant 33 years ago, and 5 heart attacks to date. I'm still alive and still the optomist. I must be around for some reason.
Dennis O'Brien - Report this comment
I was only one year old at the time, so I have no memories. However, my father was visiting Holy Cross that day for his fifteenth anniversary college reunion. He saw the black cloud passing by to the north of the school. He was an orthopedic surgeon, so he reported to the Worcester city hospital and spent about six hours working in the operating room on wounded persons who had terrible fractures. Then he drove home to Milton, where we lived, arriving after midnight. My mother had been out in the yard with me during the storm and she collected strange pieces of wood and paper that were falling out of the sky. She was naturally very upset when she heard the storm had hit Worcester, knowing that my father was there. During the summer of 2005, I asked the National Weather Service to consider upgrading the Worcester F4 Tornado to the level of F5. The weather bureau did conduct a brief study, but they decided to leave the storm rating at F4.
Greg Johnson - Report this comment
I was not even born then...5/68 here, however, I remember my mother who was maybe 12 at the the time and my grandparents remember that day well. My grandfather was building "our" house in Auburn. They said the sky was clear and sunny. They never heard of a tornadoe warning in the worcester area. My uncle Jimmy, Main and Henshaw street called and told of the storm, My grandfather was a Norton employee. He was worried right away, his sister was living in the great brook valley area, and another one in holden. My aunt, was lost when she was catching a bus on w.boylston st. and the bus was crushed agaist a wall. My aunt in holden was ok. Ironically in 1975 me and my mother moved to the lincoln village area, and I remember seeing movies about the "great" worcester tornadoe. A F5 I think...unheard of in NE. We had several tornadoe drills at school...and since have been scared of them. I live in Denver, CO. now and we have sirens to alert of tornadoes. I shake and shiver when I hear that siren. Thanks for the information and heart breaking stories, email if you have questions. Thanks---Greg
Greg - Report this comment
hi....my mom was very young and my grandfather was just finishing the cellar when a call came from my uncle JIM (grandmothers brother), he told them to get below ground right away. the phone cut out---and he lived at main and henshaw street. I have been told my great grandmother was killed in a bus that was thrown to a wall. I grew up in Auburn, and worcester---ironically main and henshaw and have never in my life seen people get so nervous when the sky turned "black". I was born may 21 1968 at Hannemin hospital so I did do not witness this myself, however I have heard the stories. To all that were lost----may god be with you all!
greg - Report this comment
I was born in Worcester, St. Joseph's to be exact. My mother is a graduate of Quinsig, My grandfather was building our house in Auburn, his brother's house was levelled in Holden, and his grandmother was killed when a bus was smashed against a wall. I remember my mother sayingiot was clear skies in Auburn.
Ian Wallace - Report this comment
I was 14 years old living with my aunt and uncle in Shrewsbury. I had left my friend, Bill Marston, and was on my bicycle going home. The winds began to increase dramatically, and hail the size of golf balls started coming down. I jumped a stone wall and took refuge under an apple tree. It was very, very dark and the hail really came down for a few minutes. The Marston's had (and still operate) greenhouses, which were very badly damaged by the hail. My uncle was a Army Reserve major, and when he got home he let me go with him up to the damaged area west of the Shrewsbury town square. I remember the huge trees that had been shredded, and homes that were flattened next to those that were almost untouched. It is still a vivid memory.
Joyce - Report this comment
I have pictures of Great Brook Valley after the tornado struck.It was just horrible. I was a baby at the time but I got the pictures from my mother. I will have to scan and down load them. Right now we are getting ready for Hurriciane Rita but will get back here next week with a link to the pictures I will add to my website. Glad I found this site. Joyce
Linda Fisher - Report this comment
I remember the Tornado of '53 very well. I was 3 years old, my sister was 2 years old. My mom was pregnant. We lived at the apartments at Great Brook Valley. The windows blew in and lacerated our faces. We went to the basement for safety. To this day I still remember the sounds of the wind. My sister and I were left on the sidewalk as my mother was rushed to the hospital in an national guard jeep and gave birth to a little boy in the elevator of the hospital. The baby was severaly brain damaged and died a few days later. My grandparents resided in Oakham, Ma. and that's where we lived until the City was rebuilt.
mandy - Report this comment
william collins: about the missing gas. I bet you that someone stole the gas to get out of the city. They probably figured that they wouldnt get caught with all that was going on, & I guess they didn't!
Maureen McCann Green - Report this comment
I was born in 1957, but I recall my father's story about helping in the tornado aftermath. He is gone now. His name was Matthew McCann of Chandler Street. He told my sisters and I that the call went out on the radio for all strong men to report to the area near the old Assumption College. I wish I could remember more details, however one image remains with me all these years. Dad said a man was pinned beneath a bathtub and was groaning so loudly, that my dad couldn't wait for other men to arrive to lift the tub. Because the victim's sounds were so painful to hear, dad said he found strength he didn't know he had, and lifted that old ceramic tub by himself. Dad was 34 at the time and his back was never the same. In fact, he died at age 79 of a rare cancer of the spine and I wonder to this day if his fate was sealed in asking so much of his back on that day.
Patti Lake - Report this comment
I have about 8-10 photos of the 1953 tornado that hit Worcester. They were taken by my great uncle Ed Swan who was a professional photographer. Some pictures depict the destruction done to my great grandfather's (Joe Swanski)home and business (Swannee Auto Body)on W. Boyleston St. Others show Assumption College and surrounding buildings. I would be happy to share them with you.
Sue Cannon - Report this comment
I remember I was ironing in my home on School Street in Athol. It was raining I think. I heard about the tornado on the radio. Later my father, Percy Hicks, took me to see the damage in Petersham near Connors Pond. My Aunt Beatrice Dufresne who lived on So Quinsigamond Avenue volunteered serving coffee and food to the victums and service people. From that day on I ran for the cellar in bad weather.
william schafer - Report this comment
I was 18 yrs old and living at 52 Dustin st worcester. worcester had an H in it back then. I got off the bus at frank st because traffic wasn't moving. I saw why, Icould see the tornado clearly. I was just visible above the tree line in Shrewsbury accross the lake.I'll never forget it
Barb (Siergie) Knox- June 19, 2007 - Report this comment
I was living on Oread Street in an apartment building that was 5 stories tall. I was 7 and remember being in the janitor's apartment on the 4th floor with a lot of the tenants and feeling the builidng sway. A tree fell on a house next door (18 Oread - lived there too) and damaged the roof. When the tree fell, my parents decided that we should probably head for lower ground. One of the tenants was a ham radio operator and a member of the Civil Defense - I can recall him putting on his hat and leaving to help.
Maureen- August 26, 2007 - Report this comment
This is just amazing as to how all of the details that we lived through all those years ago stay imbedded in our minds today. ps. I reported a post thinking I was leaving a message. It was addressing Nancy. Sorry bout that.
Bob K- September 03, 2007 - Report this comment
I was employed at Norton Co's Machine Division which had just been opened after moving from New Bond Street. I was working the 2nd shift in the new building when the tornado hit. Our section was supposed to go to lunch at 5:30 PM and luckily, the storm hit about 5:15. Had we been in the cafateria, I'm sure that there would have been some serious injuries or casualties, as the entire area was destroyed. I have since taken up residence in Texas, in an area known as "tornado alley" and after having lived here for 30 years, have yet to see a single tornado. Believe me, I will never forget the sound that accompanied that storm so many years ago.
Carolyn T- September 13, 2007 - Report this comment
Although I wasn't born until 1962, my mom told me how she was picked up by the NATIONAL GUARD and given tools to help clear the roads for the emergency vehicles. Her sister lived in NATICK and mail, clothing and other debris were landing in their back yard. My parents have slides of the damage the storm created, and it just boggles my mind what happened that horrible day.
Joyce- September 20, 2007 - Report this comment
On this date Sept 20,2007, I have just sent in 2 Tornado pictures of Great Brook Valley and the mess it left behind. After the tornado we never went back there. Hoping to see the pictures come up so you all can see.
Richard Whiton- October 22, 2007 - Report this comment
I was a pre-schooler in 1953. My parents had purchased our large house in Westborough in 1950. It was just picture perfect. The house was two story, deep red, "L" shaped and contained about 14 rooms and a large garage on a big lot. The house sat on a hill overlooking the town at 60 Ruggles Street. The house was surrounded by huge old trees, fruit trees, beautiful lawns and every kind of flowering plant and framed by stone walls. (It might be interesting to note that that property cost $10,000 in 1950!) My mother's very first day of work was 6-9-53. She was a new clerk at the food store in the center of town ("First National" or something like that. The store later was destroyed by fire.) I remember that she was very nervous at having to leave her three young children with a babysitter. The day was very warm. The sky was bright blue with some puffy white clouds. Lovely, actually. My sister Wendy, a year older than myself, and Valerie, my younger sister by two years and I had made a nuisance of ourselves all morning as youngsters will. The sitter tired of us running in and out of the house and, of course, making a racket, decided to inflate a three ring plastic pool, fill it with the hose and let us do our "thing" out of doors in the yard. The first sign of the storm was a very dark gray color slowly moving over the top of the large hill across the street from the house. This hill was part of a farm with some dwellings on it. At the top (Now O'Neil Dr.) there was a ridge of trees. I watched as very dark green/yellow/grey clouds swirled slowly over the top of the hill. To me it appeared to be like a huge moving bruise. My sisters didn't notice anything right away and continued giggling and splashing each other as I stood beside them on the lawn transfixed by the sight of the swirling mass. Suddenly the tops of the big trees started to sway. A blast of chilly air hit. I could hear a peculiar noise in the distance - beyond the hill. It sounded like a constant rumbling. The clouds now seemed to be racing across the sky toward us. My sisters stopped playing. I noticed that all the normal spring noises had completely halted. No birds. No insects. Nothing but that far away rumble. Being so young I was completely clueless... and very curious. I ran to the stone wall at the edge of the lawn looking down at the road below and then toward the oncoming ever darkening clouds. The tops of the trees were really swaying by then and the noise was growing louder. The sitter was in the yard now. The wind was getting quite loud so she was practically screaming at Wendy to help her roll a huge rock into the pool. To save it, I suppose(?). Then the hail hit. The chunks seemed very large to me, especially when they hit my head. The sitter kept screaming for us to get into the house. She had gathered up the youngest in her arms and had Wendy by the hand. I was about thirty feet away and took advantage of the fact that she had her hands full. I wanted to watch. She raced inside with my sisters. While I was alone I witnessed the approach of the tornado. It appeared to be far in the distance way beyond the northern base of the hill across Ruggles Street. It was monstrous and it was coming - FAST! The sky was very dark now and I was having trouble standing up. Half the pool had flipped over the stone and the water was draining. I fell and when I stood back up the vortex was closer and much wider and very black. By the time the sitter scooped me up the trees and plants were lurching back and forth violently and leaves and sticks were blowing everywhere. The next thing I knew the babysitter had plopped me into Val's playpen in the dining room along with my sisters. I remember that sitter's face to this day. She was absolutely terrified. Horrified!! She threw a heavy wool blanket over the pen when we heard the sharp cracking of trees outdoors. The whole house began to groan. I could feel it tremble through the flooring of the playpen. Now the noise was so loud I could hardly hear Valerie's frightful screaming. The room was going nearly black. I heard glass breaking... shattering. Suddenly there was a tremendouse crash. It was like an explosion. I turned my head to find that a large triangular shard of window glass had pierced the center of the blanket by perhaps 18 inches, just missing us. The teenager ripped the blanket and glass shards off of us and grabbed up my little sister and yanked Wendy and I out by our wrists. Now I was upset. There was a tree in the dining room! The house was so dark! Dust was swirling everywhere and household articles and furniture had been tossed all willie nelson. For some reason the sitter had decided to take us to the other wing of the house. We scrambled to the small hallway between the two sections. I remeber the noise was now deafening. I was sure we would all be killed at any moment. The young girl opened the door to the unused part of the house. Then I saw something I will never forget. As the sitter's foot landed on the doorsill we watched in horror as there was a tremendous wrenching and groaning sound. Right before our eyes the entire wing we were about to enter lifted up and away! It seemed to simply dismantle itself in midair as it sort of floated upward. We turned back and I remeber the struggle. The wind was in the house now and we were being stung by fast flying debris. I then noticed that we were bleeding. We half stumbled, half fell into the kitchens pantry. The sitter litterally threw us kids under the sink and slammed the cabinet door shut. I guess that's when the tornado actually hit. There was a seies of gigantic crashes and loud creaking and moaning of the houses timbers. I snatched up my baby sister and held her close as the whole house began to move! Wendy grabbed me around my neck. It felt as though we were on a raft on white water. We all fell toward the back of the cabinet. Then it was over. Just like that. The rumble subsided and I heard the sitter sobbing. I tried to open the cabinet door but it was latched. I started to yell and pound on it. The sitter opened the door and I just gazed into her face. She looked very odd. Her eyes were wide and unblinking. She kept repeating, "We're alive. We're alive.", very softly over and over. She grabbed up my baby sister as I crawled over the broken debris in our home. It was like a dream. The sky was clearing and light was allowing me to see the total horror. Not a window was intact. The entire house leaned toward the back giving the floor a peculiar pitch. Wallpaper had been peeled from the walls and some walls had been severely damaged. The chimney had collapsed into the house. Chunks of glass, metal and wood protruded from the plaster. The kitchen door was missing. I felt as though I were in a trance. I stumbled out the doorway and stood in the side yard on a tiny clear spot and surveyed the property. Where the house had been totally shaded by very large trees now they were GONE. Everything had been stripped. Trees with trunks three or four feet thick had either been yanked out of the ground or twistered off in splinters close to the ground. Gardens? Gone! Shrubs? Gone! I felt a strange sensation from behind me. As though someone were looking at me. I turned to find that I now could see all the way across the open fields - about a quarter mile - to South Street. That view used to be blocked by large trees and the other half of the house and the garage. I remember crawling over things in the yard while the sitter tried to calm my sisters. The willow in the front yard lay crushed on it's side, totally uprooted. The side porch was missing. A large section of the roof was gone. Much of the wooden siding of the house had been ripped off. From the front I could see into the basement. The entire house had been lifted, torn from the foundation and twisted to one side. I don't remember a single shutter intact. The swimming pool - and the rock - were gone. Our street was completely cluttered - blocked with debris. There were downed trees and parts of buildings evrywhere. There was a car half on the street on it's side. It was mangled and wrapped so tightly in electric lines that the metal was pinched. It's paint was partly blown off. There were dead and injured cows across the street and a destroyed tractor. There was a wide trench snaking across the field. I assumed it was the tornado's path. It appeared to come straight for our house. I felt numb. Reality started to creep back. I heard sirens in the distance and car horns. I could now look down upon Westborough without obstruction. Destruction everywhere! Entire LARGE houses GONE! Only a cellar hole left. The entire roof of our small guest house had been blown away. My mother had to fight her way out of the store to get home. They wouldn't let her leave. She said that there was debris all over downtown. They told her it was too dangerous but she pulled away and started out on foot. She said she got lost several times ... in her own home town! She later told me that the destruction grew worse and worse as she crawled over downed trees and debris. She said she started to lose her mind. She was terrified that we were dead. When she got to the bottom of our hill she could see the remains of the house and lost it. A man had to slap her face before she came around. He told her not to give up hope. There was a chance that we were still alive. It must have been hard for her to believe. The insurance did not cover much. How could it have?! My family did most of the repairs. We only repaired seven rooms of the main house. We ended up having to sell a good chunk of our land. (Luckily it was to some very nice new neighbors, the Stones.) We spent a long time cutting up felled trees and replanting. It took months to repair the interior. Some of our neighbors had been killed and the mood was very sad for what seemed like ages. Our world had litterally been turned upside down. I wish I could remember the sitters name. It's on the tip of my mind. My mother told me that that young girl had nightmares for years, was terrified at the hint of stormy weather and would even break out in hives. I don't wonder why. I also had nightmares for years. Sometimes I STILL dream about that June day. It may seem ironic but I now live in the midwest.... smack in the middle of tornado alley! Except for the sitter, I am the only one left that experienced that hell at 60 Ruggles. Val died of cancer in Florida. Wendy died in a car crash in Oregon and my mother passed recently as well. What a life altering disaster. Thanks for allowing me to share this with you. I wish you all PEACE.
Jay- May 13, 2008 - Report this comment
Many thanks to Dick Bolt for listing the dead and injured of the 1953 tornado. We knew that members of our family had been killed in this tornado through doing family tree research, but it really brings it home to see their names in black and white!
Nicole- May 23, 2008 - Report this comment
Strangely enough, I have been facinated with tornadoes for a good portion of my life. Being an Earth Science major, with my heart in the meteorology section of that science, I've done a few reports on the Worcester Tornado ( I live in Holden, the path was just south of where I currently live.) While researching, I found a name in a book that looked familiar: Fr. Brassard. That's my maternal grandparent's name. After searching around, I found out that my Grandfather's uncle, Fr. Brassard, was one of the heads of Assumption. He was sitting at his desk when the tornado hit and fell, with the desk, through two floors. Apparently he was badly injured, but recovered enough to be "one of the first Catholic Priests to Visit Russia in the early 1960's" - or so my great aunt tells me! My paternal grandfather, who lived in Newton at the time, was on the phone with someone in Worcester while the tornado was going on and was getting a play by play narration of the storm. Grandma still to this day calls it the 'hurricane'.
Kevin Kean- June 09, 2008 - Report this comment
June 9, 2008 ---- 55 years ago, yet it is still vivid in my mind. I guess those experiences never really go away. I was 10 at the time and we lived on Randall Street, the first house "up the hill". There was a large empty field below where our house was, and Assumption College behind us. My dad had cleaned the basement that day, and all the basemenet windows were open. I guess that is what saved teh house. The lower floor was intact, but all the windows etc. blown out. The roof and most of the wall were gone. Just before the storm hit, we were outside preparing to barbeque. Huge hail began to fall and we all got inside. The sky was really black, but the sun was shining below the clouds. As teh storm approached, my dad was trying to close the window that was facing down Randell street. He could not and he shouted to us to get in the cellar. I guess I was the only one that made it alll the way down, with my parents and sister on the stairs. It was really loud, but I hesitate to say it sounded like a train. I remember the sound of breaking glass and things banging and hitting. It was over pretty guick. We went out through a basement door and found most of the world had gone away. Dad said that must have been a twister! The house behind us was gone only a basement. The next house up was used by the priests or nuns form Assumption, and all that was left was a floor and a small table in one corner with a statue of the Sacred Heart on it. I remember that well. It smelled of wet and burning. I saw people dead and hurt and houses burning. I saw lightning going upwards in the sky. Not a fond memory. Kevin
Phyllis (Daughney) Hoy- June 09, 2008 - Report this comment
-June 9, 2008 I was reminded on our local newscast that today was the anniversary of the tornado in Worcester, MA. It brought back memories of that day. I had no idea of the massive destruction till now and of the tragedies that occurred that day. I lived in Fitchburg, 25 miles north of Worcester. That was a beautiful blue sunny day, not a cloud around as we had a picnic at Coggshall Park. At 5PM we looked up to see a huge pink cloud in the sky. Very strange at that time of day. We drove home to find out of the disaster in Worcester. Unbelievable that a tornado had landed in New England. That pink cloud hovered over the city of Leominster. We watched from the upstairs window. We were astounded at the violent lightning appearing thru it. Leominster suffered alot of damage but nothing compared to the people of Worcester. I now live in tornado alley in Arkansas. I look to the skies often only now it is the color green and black I watch for. The tornado of 1985 in November landed down the road from our house. I went to the patio door to leave the house to get to the crawl space but I remembered the baby that day in Worcester and did not open the door. Instead, I headed for the bathroom. We were lucky that day. A good friend of mine perished in that one. Oddly, I was in Ashby, MA. visiting Feb. 5, 2008 when a tornado roared thru over our house in Arkansas and landed down the road. It skipped the river and landed in Gassville, AR where it did alot of damage and one person died. Several communities in Arkansas were hit badly that day. My daughter was able to get thru to Ashby to let us know they were okay. The only communication working were the landlines. And the media was only concentrating on a few communities, although the small towns of Flippin and Gassville were also affected. As Richard Whiton said, "I wish you all PEACE" I second that motion. God bless you all.
Frank SanFilippo- July 16, 2008 - Report this comment
Hi, I find everyone's comments regarding the Worcester tornado fascinating! I was not alive back in 1953 (born in 1954), however I teach a non-credit weather course at various colleges and adult education facilities (mostly high schools) in the Boston area. Note that I am not a meteorologist, just a weather hobbyist who loves weather. I would welcome the opportunity to have someone who has posted to this blog to be a guest speaker in one of my courses or seminars that will be offering during the Fall 2008 semester at various locations in the Bsoton area. If anyone is interested, and would like to contact me regarding being a gues speaker, please email me at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you! Frank
Peggy Wilgus- October 16, 2008 - Report this comment
Hi, I had no idea this site existed. I stumbled on it as I was trying to find some information about this tornado for my son & grandson. I was 11 years old & lived in Great Brook Valley with my mother & brother when the tornado hit. We lived on the end of one of the rows of apartments right across the street from one of the parking lots. I remember there was a row of houses on a hill above us (I believe it was called St. Patrick's Place) & after the tornado was over there were no houses visible. My mother was coming home from work & just missed the bus that was entering the projects when the tornado hit. Thankfully we were not seriously injured but the memories of that day are still vivid. I have been through many hurricanes (lived in Corpus Christi many years) but nothing to compare to the 1953 Worcester tornado. I live in Texarkana, Tx now & have endured many tornado threats but hopefully will never see another one. I would love to hear from anyone who lived in Great Brook Valley that I may have even gone to school with. I was in the 5th grade. My email is email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
kirte- December 11, 2008 - Report this comment
i barly survied that tornato big thanks to my older sister
gladys murphy- January 06, 2009 - Report this comment
My husband, Paul, was in the tornado of 1953. He was at the "Pitch and Put " golf course in Shrewsbury where there is now a housing complex across from (I think it is) Wagner Motors car sales ... down in the gully there ... The tornado crossed Rte 9 and continued up South St ... The wind picked Paul up and threw him ... he slammed into the ground ... on his hands which were all broken up by the force. A friend brought me back to Worcester from Western Mass to the hospital (Memorial) and he was in a ward of people who had been injured ... there must have been 20 people in beds next to each other. His hands were all bandaged up .... I remember he said he heard the sound of the tornado coming ... from across Rte 9 ... it came so fast ... I drove down the street later from the direction the tornado had come and there was much damage to the houses along the way. ... He and his partner (they had built the "Pitch and Put") went back later and rebuilt the greens and the course.
Scott Nelson- January 07, 2009 - Report this comment
I have always been facinated by Tornados and Storm Chasers. In fact, I'm currently writing a middle reader children's book about this subject matter. Having been born in Worcester myself, I'd been thinking about mentioning this storm's damage path in the book. While doing research, I stumbled across this site and found many of the personal accounts to be heartfelt and very interesting. I subsequently told my father to look it up himself as he was a teen at the time. He then told me a story I was unaware of: Back in 1953 his name was listed as one of the dead in the newspaper following this storm. Either by accident or there actually was someone else who shared his name and passed in the storm, he is still unsure. You can imagine how he then took all his fellow students and teachers by surprise the day that he went back to School unhurt. As part of this research I also found it interesting to see that numerous funnel clouds touched down that day in Central MA that day. Most famous of course was the F4 and even F5 at time Worcester Tornado. Yet an F3 apparenly touched down in West Millbury and stayed on the ground until Foxborough. Ironically I spend many summer days at Lake Singeltary in West Millbury and had heard that a bad storm had torn down an Ice house on my wife's family property in the 50's. Got me wondering if this was that same Tornado. If anyone else recalls these sister Tornados surrounding the main Worcester one, I'd like to hear your memeories either on this site or at NelsonandSon@Juno.com
Lauren Stevens (now Thompson)- February 01, 2009 - Report this comment
I wasn't alive at the time of the tornado -- in fact we didn't move to Holden until the late 1960's. But lore about The Tornado was still active all through my childhood. We lived on Avery Heights Drive and we were told that the tornado had passed right up our hill, perhaps creating the pathway for what would become our street. (But that part may have only been the product of our young imaginations and childlike logic.) My mother had grown up in the midwest, and she went into high alert anytime she felt the air grow humid and still, or saw the sky take on a greenish tinge. We were sent down to the basement more than a few times out of her caution.
Jennifer Lord- March 30, 2009 - Report this comment
I was not even born yet, but my grandmother would always remember this day. She was on her way to the center of Shrewsbury for her high school graduation ceremony. She was at the intersection of Rt.9 at White City when the tornado struck. She said people just stopped and stared. Her father was a rescue diver and had to leave right away to help remove the bodies from Lake Quinsigamond. Also my father worked for The Worcester Foundation for Expiramental Biology ( now UMass) on Maple Ave in Shrewsbury and I remember that in one of thier buildings they had giant pictures of the area after the tornado hit.
william- May 25, 2009 - Report this comment
I have the Actual Paper incert of June 9 53 and well if i find it it should still be in ok cond. I guess.
Brad Creamer- June 06, 2009 - Report this comment
I was nine years old in 1953. On June 9th I was watching a baseball game at what was then Holden High School. I don't remember who Holden was playing but I remember some of the players from that day. One of them was Ken Layman. His father was one of the Holden victims from the Chaffins area. A classmate of mine, Alan Hakala lost his father and sister as the tornado passed Salisbury Street. While I was watching the game it started to rain. I started running home, about a half mile away on Highland Street. I stopped at Rice School thinking it would pass but it kept raining hard so I ran the rest of the way home. Soon it started hailing. My brother and I went out and were collecting hail stones when my mother ordered us into the house. She said it was a tornado. How she knew I don't know as I don't believe she had any prior experience with one. The hail stones remained in our freezer for many years. My father worked in the Research and Development Department at Norton Company. They watched from an upper story window as the tornado went over Ararat Street claiming houses and victims and then destroyed Norton's new building on New Bond Street. My dad was also the Deputy Fire Chief in Holden at that time. He immediately left Norton's and headed to the Holden Fire Station. I did not see him for three days as the crews worked to look for victims and clear roadways. Several days later he took us through Chaffins to view the damage. I can still see one slab foundation void of everything except the refrigerator that was probably standing in what had been a kitchen. One of my vivid memories is how still everything was after the storm passed and the green tint in the sky. A neighbor was home and we listened to WTAG on his car radio as the first reports were aired. The WTAG transmitting towers are on Shrewsbury Street in Holden. At the start of the day there were five towers but by afternoon there were only four as one was toppled. The storm is usually called the Worcester tornado since the majority of death and damage occurred in the city but the starting point was in New Braintree and it finally fizzled out in the Fayville section of Southboro/Framingham. Debris in the form of mail fell from the sky in the Boston area. For those of us who lived in the area - even those of us not directly affected - it is something that will never be erased from our minds.
Roberta Davis- June 09, 2009 - Report this comment
I was a member of the Worcester Music Festival Chorus and was at rehearsel that evening when I first heard about the Tornado. Dr. Lee, the director of the chorus, told us we could leave because of the catastrophe. My then boyfriend, came to pick me up and we went to the site of the tornado. I really don't remember the street, but there were National Guardsmen there and we helped to transport some people to the Worcester City Hospital. It was sheer devastation there the memory of that sight will always be with me. I lived in the Vernon Hill section of the city, and we got a storm there with huge hail, so big, that my sister and I pulled furniture away from the windows because we were afraid the windows would shatter. It was a terrible time, but people all over the city came together to help where and how they could, and cooperated with each other in a way that was mind-boggling. Needless to say, this is still a very strong memory as it is with others who witnessed it, and will always remain that way.
Sandi- July 19, 2009 - Report this comment
I was only 5 years old when the tornado hit. I remember sitting in my parents car for hours while they helped the red cross. My Uncle Sonny, Aunt Jean, and their children Jeanmarie, Arthur & Stephen Mathews lived in Great Brook Valley at the time. Of course, like many, their house was destroyed. They all went to live with our grandparents who lived on Houghton St. My Dad had friends there who also lost their home. They came to live with us for a long time. I wish I could remember their names (it might have been Gowens). I still have a stuffed animal that one of their 3 children gave to me. They had 2 daughters and 1 son. If you remember George & Thelma Goodness, please e-mail me at email@example.com I also remember that they did have some injuries. My cousin Jeanmarie hurt her foot and I remember her having to crawl around my grandparents floor to get around. I pray that somehow God will soften the horrible memories of that dreadful day, especially for those who lost so much and suffered such pain. Until reading these accounts of what happened I never realized just how widespread the devastation was.
Ray Larson- October 13, 2009 - Report this comment
I lived on the opposite of Lake Quinsigamond. The Shewsbury side was a disaster, unbeliveable that it didn't hit our side at all. I can still remember all the debris in the lake. I have lived in Oklahoma for 10 years and seen many tornadoes, but nothing even close to the one that hit Worcester.
Rick Cormier- November 20, 2009 - Report this comment
I think that I can say I have some background on this page. When you look at the bottom photo with the brick building missing parts of the top floor. I was born in 1952 so I was just a baby at the time. I was in the apartment on the first floor on the front left. If it had not been for my mom moving me to and inner room I may not be typing this today. Shortly after she did that, a piece of a tree that was being swept by the winds came crashing through the window, spreading glass all over my crib. To this day my mom is still very fearful of strong storms and when you look at the photo you can see why.
Donna Rhodes Hickson- December 01, 2009 - Report this comment
I lived thru that devasting day, I was 9 years of age. My Father got thrown thru the upstairs/bedroom windows, my Mother got her foot spilt in half. We were a family of 8 then & all of us got hurt. I recall each moment. We could see that Tormando from our Parlor window as it roared right into and upon all 8 of us.
Tim Tashjian- December 17, 2009 - Report this comment
I was not born at that time, but my brother and grandmother were there on Randall Street. Christine, you are only a few houses up from my grandmother and aunt on Assumption ave. Well the story goes that our house also collapsed and my brother was in his crib. A metal beam collapsed on top on him and the mattress was on top on that. He was lucky, my grandmother was trying to pull the metal beam off my brother when a priest from Assumption was coming up the hill. At that time my grandmother was in her late 80's. Anyway, with the help of the priest and my grandmother's enourmous strength they lifted the metal beam off my brother, pulled him from under the mattress and made it outside to Randall Street. Thanks Christine for the memories. Tim Tashjian
David Long- January 07, 2010 - Report this comment
I was 9 and my brother Bruce was 6. We lived on Norback Ave off of Malden St. We heard all the sirens as we witness a terrific wind blowing debris through our yard, and heard the "sounds of a 1000 freight trains roaring by. After dinner Bruce and I made our way up to the Summit near Andy's Spa and saw fire at Jon's hardware across from Assumption College. we walked down to it through the downed power lines and couldn't believe our eyes, seeing the destruction to Vellumoid Corp, Jon's Hardware, and Assumption College. Sudenly, a hand grasped both Bruce and my shoulders. It was Dad. Shaking, he asked what we were doing there, and to come with him to see about Grandma on Randall St. The house was standing, but the roof and eastern side of the house were gone. My Uncle Dick lived upstairs, and Grandma lived downstairs. No one was there, and we were told that they were hurt but safe at Uncle Rudy's house over on Oneida Ave. Grandma's housed was on the corner of the street where Diane Defosse had the refrigerator come down on her legs. It was a deficult time for many residents of Worcester, Holden, Shrewsbury, etc. We were spared our neighborhood being destroyed, I believe by a hill we called Blueberry Hill off Brooks St.
Roberta Patterson- February 20, 2010 - Report this comment
I was surprised to find this site. I was almost 4, living on the 3rd floor at the Great Brook Valley apartments. My mother had just given us 3 children, a cool bath and let us plays in our underwear because it was very hot that day. She was making supper because my dad was coming home from school. We were playing and sitting by the window and I yelled to my mom that the sky was yellow and it was snowing out (papers flying). Then the wind picked up and there was a loud roar. My dad just got home and he grabbed all of us and threw us behind the living room couch. The windows were breaking and everything was flying around the room. Then the roof went up. My mom thought it was the end of the world and she was hysterical. The only thing left in the room was the couch and the wall it was against. God was protecting us. I remember my mother, a nurse, after it stopped, picking us up and trying to wash off all the blood and glass off our bodies, in what was left on the kitchen sink. She didnâ€™t stop crying. The National Guard took us down by a latter because the stairway was gone. My father pointed out the beautiful skyto us after the storm. My father's car was found the next day in a pond, a half mile away. Many of my poor neighbors were killed. To this day, I can still remember the smell of plaster and wood from all of the debris. I had nightmares for years. Someone from the church had us stay with them for a while, then we stayed with my grandparents.
Joanne Patterson- February 20, 2010 - Report this comment
I'm Roberta's sister. I was 1 1/2 .My mother was pregnant with our sister, Chris. I don't remember the tornado, but remember my Dad saying that after the roof came off, it settled down again and a laundy basket was stuck between the roof and the walls. He had his gradebook,and was happy his students would get their grades that semester. I also remember al the "cellar homes"-just huge holes left behind.
Dave Williams- March 30, 2010 - Report this comment
I was five years old and waiting for that magic moment when the test pattern would disappear and Howdie Doodie would fill the Crosly B&W screen. I sensed something different as the room was getting quite dark, much darker then it should be for just after five o'clock. My mother who had been cooking the evening meal in the kitchen went to the front of our five room bungalo near the corner of Purchase and Governor St. She went out on to the glassed in front porch and just as Buffalo Bob said "Hey kids, What time is it?" I heard my mother yell "Oh my God" as she ran through the house and grabbed me like a speeding freight train picks up the mail in the cartoons. In an instant we were through the kitchen and down in the back hall. Although I didn't know it then, the suction of the storm above us would not allow my mother and I to open the cellar door. My mother over me beseached me to push with her and finally after several attempts the door opened and she got me down in the cellar and under the the stairs. My mother has passed on now but to her final days she and I still, can hear the glass of the windows in the walls of the cellar hitting the plaster coverd stone foundation and tinkleing down to the cement floor like rain. In minutes it was over and and we walked up the stairs and through the back door jam which was tenuously in place held there by the one wall of the house that still was standing. Everything else, walls,roof,furniture, and belongings were either gone or strewn about the yard and neighborhood. Next we found ourselves in the street with our friends and neighbors; many of their homes had not received the direct hit from the storm as ours evidently had and theirs only had minor damage but all were still shaken by our experience and almost all were in tears. My next rememberence was of my Dad running up Purchase St. jumping over debris and sparking wires until he reached us and held us in the biggest bear hug I ever received. He worked in the south end of the city at M.J. Whitalls Rug Co. and had to drive across the city before the expressway was even thought of. He was stopped near the bottom of Burncoat St. near the Jr.High. and ran up Burncoat,down Clark St. and half-way up Purchase to us. The next vision etched in my mind is sitting in the back seat of a car next to a wicker clothes basket filled with linens and bedding and looking out at a gnarly old chestnut tree with no leaves silouted against the most vivid sunset I have ever seen. We spent that night at my father's sister house near Beaver Brook section of the city. Interestingly enough my grandparents lived on Quinapoxet Lane on the corner of Housatonic Ave. My mother's sister lived on Calumet Ave. on the Clark St. end both about a block from us in the center. Both of their homes were spared and we spent the summer of '53 at my grandparent's home with my parents and sometimes all three of us sleeping in my twin bed which had been saved from the pile of rubble covering the sidewalk of Purchase St. Remarkably our home was rebuilt and occupied by September. I spent my entire youth in ths home and my family stayed there until my mother passed in 2005.
Kelly Norelius- March 31, 2010 - Report this comment
My great great grandparents died in the 1953 Tornado. I heard something about the Tornado picked up their house (with them in it) and ended up in the Lake (they both died). DID ANYONE KNOW NORA & LAWRENCE DALY from Worcester, MASS? I would love to hear from you! Thank you. Anyone have any pics?
John H. Wilson- April 02, 2010 - Report this comment
The night of the tornado was our Shrewsbury H.S. graduation. It was my first date with now my wife of 55 years. Remember mud on a lot of cars we saw at the common in Worc. next to the Sheridan Hotel.
Gael Evans- November 01, 2010 - Report this comment
In 1953 we lived at 130 Burncoat Street at the foot of Burncoat Hill just across from where the Junior High is now. We had a big front window that faced the street and I used to climb on top of the tinderbox that was built in underneath the window and watch the traffic that went by. That day, June 9th, I was watching the storm gathering outside. I saw a big black cloud go across the top of the hill, as the window faced east. My mother yelled at me to come away from the window because of the ominous darkness outside. I remember an hour or so later the National Guard came to get my father, who was an RN and a former Chief Pharmacist Mate in the Navy, so that he could assist them in the recovery effort up the street, where there was utter devastation. I remember my Dad telling us kids about his friend's daughter who had a refrigerator fall on her legs. The same girl decades later worked at the same place as myself and we talked about that day.
Arlene Williams- December 19, 2010 - Report this comment
I remember nothing of the tornado in 1953 i was only 5 months old at the time. not sure where i was living. but i'm sure it was tragic, God Bless all.
Leanne (Orsi) Rossi- February 04, 2011 - Report this comment
On June 9, 1953 I was 4 1/2 years old. We were living on New Vista Lane in the Great Brook Valley project. My sister 3, who had scarlet fever at the time, had been upstairs in bed, but my mother had just brought her down, and my baby brother, 9 months old, was in a crib in the middle of the living room just opposite the large picture window, looking out the back. I remember the crib as looking very high up to me. My mother, Pat, had a sister, Shirley, who lived with her husband and children just across the lawn from our back door. That day, Shirley's children, my first cousins, Pam 3 1/2, and Regina 2, were visiting my sister and I. We began to hear a loud noise and my mother opened the back door to see. The sky was an ugly greenish color and the noise was tremendous. My Mom was very concerned about her sister and probably thought she had time to warn her and return, so she actually left us and ran across to her sister's house. She barely was able to get in the door in time. Being left alone, and being hit with objects (I still have a scar in my right leg from something that took a small chunk out), I knew we had to find a place to hide. I took my little sister and cousins with me into the closet under the stairs which we were standing to the right of, facing the back lawn. (My Mom used this as a laundry closet, and Dad's socks imparted an unwelcome aroma.) We waited there, and when it was quiet, I tried to open the door, but there was no handle on the inside. My mother finally came and when we emerged, we saw the destruction. My mother had nice white cotton shag rugs, and these were covered with black sticky tar. The glass was gone from our windows, most of the furniture was gone, and a large green wooden storm window was flat upon the top of my brother's crib, but he was uninjured. All the kitchen cupboards were open and empty. Then our skin began to feel very itchy and was turning red. A neighbor, Mrs. Englund or England, came in the front door with her children. Aunt Shirley had come with my mother. Everyone was dazed looking. I went upstairs to see what had happened up there, and the ceiling had crashed in the room my sister had been in shortly before. I remember us kids laughing because the contents of the medicine cabinet were now in the toilet along with shards of wood. Downstairs, we began to hear a moaning sound which seemed to be coming from the picture window. My aunt looked down outside the window and between the building and hedges there was a boy! She said a black boy. Somewhere she found an empty Maxwell House 1-lb. coffee can and an old mesh dishcloth, and went outside to mop his head. A piece of his ear came off in her hand; and she found that he was not black, but white and covered with fine mud! We later found out that he had been blown from a house, a 3-decker I think, on Burncoat St after not coming in when his mother told him to. Later, an ambulance took him away. We walked around on the sidewalk in front and waited to find out what to do. No one was talking very much. It seems I remember an upside down car nearby. Finally, an ambulance came for us, a black one with a white square on the side with a red cross in it, and we were brought to the old Belmont Hospital on upper Belmont St.(later the Belmont Home,)because my sister had scarlet fever and they didn't want it spreading, and because we had glass and fiberglass, etc embedded in our skin. We were all given painful shots (probably tetanus) in the gluteus maximus, which I strenuously tried to avoid, but finally an orderly was called, and the deed was done. My sister had to stay for a while, but we were released fairly soon. And we too heard the story of Diane DeFosse and the refrigerator. Our father, Ernie, was a tile setter and was working in a private home up on Maple Ave in Shrewsbury near St. John's. He happened to look out a window and saw the black funnel and dirt flying. He and his workmate left immediately and headed toward home. Along the way a tree had fallen and Dad could go no further in the car. He ran the rest of the way to the project, but when he arrived, we were all gone. I can't imagine what he felt. Somehow, he found out where we were. We had to stay with our grandparents for a while until we moved into a new apartment on Constitution Avenue. I remember my parents taking me to the Auditorium, where people had donated extra furniture for those who had lost theirs, so we could pick out new furniture. In the project, everyone had a caged area in the basement for storage. My parents had an extensive record collection, but there was looting after the tornado, and they lost a good deal of it. But fortunately, there was enough left for me to grow up listening to Frank Sinatra, Kay Kyser and "I got Spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle", Harry James playing The Flight of the Bumblebee, and many other great songs. My story isn't as harrowing as some I've read here, but the tornado has had no less of an impact. Like other survivors, it was always in the minds of our parents and us. If the sky looked slightly greenish or if it got dark and windy, down the cellar we went, sometimes with cans of food and containers of water in case of a disaster. My children grew up hearing the story of the tornado and they experienced going to the cellar at such times. My husband had lived in Westborough at the time, and knew the Aronson family who lost their lives on their farm. Several years ago, there was a tornado warning for Worcester County, and my husband called me from work to tell me. The sky had gotten very dark. so, the only one home, I went down cellar with a small mattress and a portable phone to wait it out. Just as I passed our furnace, there was a loud crack of lightning and a flash from our furnace to my portable phone. It flew out of my hand as I felt the shock. We later went outside and found where the lightning had struck one of the supports of our above-ground pool, and that the electric line to the pool pump had conducted the electricity into the cellar and to the furnace wiring. I guess it would have been better if I had stayed upstairs!
Mark Rice- March 10, 2011 - Report this comment
I was three years old, Most people say you can't remember things that young, But even after 57 yrs, It seems like yesterday, We were sitting down for supper the sun was shining, I had just come in from my back yard, swinging on my swing on my apple tree,I lived at 11 airlie st,behind my grand parents three decker,My mother saw the sky getting dark, and called me in she was always afraid of thunder storms,as we started to eat supper it got really dark, like 10 oclock at nite by it was only 5:00, We lived accross the street from R&R track so when it started to sound like a train coming no one thought much, but when the hail started banging on the the windows my mother and mene' grabed my sister & me in to the cellar stair and the windows started breaking,mud was flying through the windows, smashing all over the kithen and it sounded like a fraight train going though the house and it was over in 5 min. We came out of the cellar to find no front porch on the house and my Apple and swing were gone!! the three car garrage of our nabors was gone, they said it was found on Burncoat St 1 mile away, and to this day I can still remember that smell that day of burning tar paper,wood and plastic in the air,Well that my story
J- May 26, 2011 - Report this comment
I was 10 yrs old, living in Shrewsbury, not in the path of the tornado but about a half mile away. I'm puzzled by what others report about pink clouds, green skies, etc. My memory, which is still quite vivid, is different. I recall that I was sitting quite contentedly leaning against a tree and reading a book. Suddenly, there was a surprising stillness to the air (almost like a vacuum) and when I put down my book and looked around I saw what I would describe as a yellowish cast to the sky...no pink or green. I also remember that my father was gone for several days to help the victims in whatever way he could. I lost classmates in this disaster and several were severely injured. I pay attention to tornado warnings with diligence.
Pat D.- May 27, 2011 - Report this comment
After rereading all the comments I realized how many of us kids (I was 4 yrs on that day in June 53) living in Great Brook Valley(Constitution Ave) have many of the same memories. I too was outside playing and catching up hailstones when I heard the "train noise" I looked west up the hill towards Chino Ave where my cousins lived and saw a black mass coming over the hill and down towards us, just then my mother came out and brought me inside.About that time I saw a car hurled over the steep hill across the street from us. We (me,my mother,my brother and my paternal grandmother)went into that little closet under the stairs, my mothers choice saved all our lives, of that I'm certain, our home was totally destroyed, the large windows back to front imploded, the resulting shrapnel would have shredded us, my cousins up the hill were not so lucky they had less time than we had being just below the crest of the hill my cousin had so many stitches from the flying glass the doctors weren't sure she would be able to walk again, (she did and does) small sidebar;I will never doubt what a 4 yr old can remember! after the tornado passed we came out to total devastation. some of the roofs were being tarred, the smell of fresh tar took me back there for decades. We lived I think a block away from the unfortunate DeFosse girl, my mother told me we sometimes played together being close in age. It was real nice to read that she was able to adapt with help and have a life. My mother started walking us out, we were just at the beginning of the Curtis Apts. that was were the bus had flipped into the wall there, my mother saw a pair of feet and recognized my fathers socks that his youngest brother had borrowed for a job interview, he was just 16... my mother said nothing wishing to spare his mother who was with us, I will always have the memories of walking out of the total devastation. We walked down to my other grandmothers home on N.Quinsigamound Ave. which was out of the path by not much. Aftermath; my parents went back to salvage what they could, subsequently found that looters had taken whatever remained of value they did recover a photo album which had tar speckles over all the pages. We still have it. I have been to war and have seen many horrific things. none worse than the concentrated devastation I saw that day and still remember after 58 years
Mary St.Hilaire ( Ricardi Family)- June 01, 2011 - Report this comment
Years of stories about the tornado since I was little. My grandparents were Dino & Mary Ricardi, Auntie Marian Dagostino, and cousins Anita, Barbara and Margie in the famous photo of the family walking up the street. My mom is Mary Morrill( Ricardi)and still has the Worcester newspaper about it. It was the main topic at almost all of our memorial day cookouts at Nona and Papa's new home in Boylston. My grandfather was very skilled and we often laughed about the fireplace he built that was the only thing standing when they lost the house on Pasadena Pkwy.
ron ballard- June 02, 2011 - Report this comment
my mom was returning from a trip to worcester to the movie theatre by train to dudley. when we got home, the sky turned black and it came....
Madeline Cassanelli Gallagher- June 09, 2011 - Report this comment
I was 4 years old when the tornado hit central Mass. We lived in Great Brook Valley. My mom just had finished giving us a bath, my sister at the time has no memory of this devestation.My mom had put my sister in her crib, I was in the large sink in the kitchen finishing my bath. My dad looked out the kitchen window and saw this hugh funnel cloud.I remember this so vividly, he said Ida I think this is a tornado. They both panic. My dad brought me in the closet and my mom took my sister to find another closet.The wind was so furious it blew the hinges the door went flying, the wall bubbled and then exploded. My mom was seriously injured,but my sister,dad and myself, thank God where OK. My mom was in the hospital for several weeks. We stayed with our grandparents in Shrewsbury.The red cross housed many of the victims in trailers for 6 months. We returned to Great brook valley to continue to live for another year then moved to Dutchess County, Poughkeepsie,New York, where I still live
Chris Mello- June 19, 2011 - Report this comment
I grew up in Worcester several years after the tornado on Andrews ave near Green Hill Park. I remember a story from a close family friend who lived in the area at the time of the storm. He is a respectable mature man who is not prone to exaggerate. They had bought a house directly in the path of the tornado. He talked about a large glacial bolder in his yard. They tried to hire some one to remove it. It was so large they could not find any who could move it because of the size. After the tornado went through, not only was the large boulder gone. They could not find any trace of any where. Just the way he told the story, with such amazement like it had just happened yesterday. Amazingly, My parents moved to Wilbraham mass in the early 70's, and recently were in the path of the ef3 tornado but where fortunate to only have tree damage.
Vixx- July 13, 2011 - Report this comment
I was born on May 9, 1953 and my family lived in Ashland which also saw some of the Tornado's destruction before it wound its path into the outskirts of Boston. My mother told me about seeing some neighbors' refrigerator flying past our kitchen window (we were on a 2nd floor!) and how black & green the sky was. I bought the book mentioned by someone above and felt lucky to have lived thru such a monster and feel such sadness for those in the Worcester area who died.
Judy- August 24, 2011 - Report this comment
I was not born yet, but my mother remembered it well. She was living in the Green Island neighborhood at the time. She was about 16at the time and remembered the sky getting very dark and the rain and hail. She said that people in her area did not even know that a tornado had struck the "other side of the city" until hours later. She remembered the story of her cousin's wife's brother (whom she knew slightly). He was visiting his sister in the Cambridge Street area when he realized a storm was coming. He felt he should take the bus home to Great Brook Valley to be with his mom who was afraid of thunderstorms. His sister wanted him to stay with her until the storm passed, but he wouldn't. He got the bus to downtown, then got on the bus to GBV. This was the bus that crashed, and he was killed. My mom said that they did not know it was him until the next day because the hospitals said they did not have a teenage boy anywhere. From what my mother said, he was big for his age, and people in the hospitals did not realize he was a teenager. His family finally decided they needed to look at bodies that were unidentified and they finally found him. My mother always said that after the storm/tornado, the sun came out shining brightly as if to say "I am so sorry for all this devastation." We have always remembered the family of the boy killed on the bus (I believe it was Jimmy DeMarco) in our prayers. What would have been his nieces and nephews are now actually my cousins. I have many other stories (especially from my grandmother), but this would then become a book.
John Sadowsky- September 15, 2011 - Report this comment
I was not yet 4 but remember so much so vividly. We lived in a ground floor apartment in Great Brook Valley. My brother was 3 and was taking a long afternoon nap after our mother took us for a picnic earlier that day. For some reason, minutes before the tornado struck, our mother woke him and brought him into the living room. We all remember seeing from the large window in the front of the apartment a car being lifted and moved sideways toward the building, then lots of dirt and mud hitting the window, shattering the glass (it was years before I could again sleep in a room near a window.) Afterwards, we saw that the back wall of our bedroom was gone, as was the crib in which my brother had been taking his nap. I remember the Red Cross trailers, while the apartment was rebuilt. We never returned, though, but rather moved to Shrewsbury, and then to various other parts of New England before finally settling in Maryland.
Ruth Ann Cooper Springer- September 26, 2011 - Report this comment
I vividly remember, as a child of 7, standing in my grandmother's kitchen on Myrtle Street in Westborough watching the funnel cloud move over Roundtop, as it was called. We did not know until many hours later that the Aronson farm and family were wiped out at this location. The tenant in my parents' home was a fireman. I can recall him searching for bodies for days, and the National Guard patroling the streets. The images of homes on South Street where walls were stripped away, yet everything inside in its place, still come to mind. The terror of it all did not escape me as a child. For many days I refused to remove my clothes or shoes when I would go to bed and slept on the sofa bed, not in my room. When in later years as a young mom I lived for a time in Indiana, every tornado alert terrified me. Now I live in CT, but these watches/warnings still instantly return me to 1953.
Mary Jane Livermore Davis- February 13, 2012 - Report this comment
I was 11 years old in 1953, and remember June 9 very well. I was home alone on Woods Ave., just south of the Holden line in N. Worcester. My mother and aunt were at their sister's place in Sterling, and how they escaped this storm, I'll never know. They came pulling into our garage just as the storm was coming. I remember the driving rain and the black, black sky. The noise was exactly like a train passing. We just thought it was another hurricane and stood by the windows, watching with fascination. A huge tree in our front yard fell, just missing our house, and hung suspended on the telephone lines. When it got quiet we went outside to see downed power lines and foliage everywhere. Our street did not get hit badly, but Brattle street, just behind us, lost all the houses on one side of the street. Little slivers of woods pierced front doors like tiny arrows. One of my neighborhood pals was missing and we all went looking for him...luckily his dad located him. He had been riding his bike down by Norton's baseball field and suffered only a cut leg, but his mom was frantic, trying to find him. I later saved a piece of wood and woodburned "June 9, 1953" on it, and kept it well into my fifties! A weird coincidence about the tornado...fifty-six years after the tornado, I interviewed for a job at a private school in California. The principal turned out to be a Boston native and he told me he found a Latin textbook from Worcester in his front yard after the tornado! He liked to refer to Worcester as "the center of the universe"!!
Ellen Mahoney- April 27, 2012 - Report this comment
There are so many stories about the 1953 tornado. I could wrie a book. We had just moved into the apartment at 33 New Vista Lane.It was a brand new apartment.We lived next door to Diane Defosey. I will never forget the day and my children and younger siblings know the story!! I will never forget
Carolyn N Tainter- June 29, 2012 - Report this comment
I was born in 1962 and adopted by my parents, mom remembers how she and a friend were recruited by the National Guard to clear the roads for emergency vehicles. She climbed aboard a National Guard truck, was given an ax to cut the tree branches and a shovel to push other debris out of the way. I read the book about the storm, and our family has photo's of that storm.
nic- April 18, 2013 - Report this comment
Bob Surrette- June 07, 2013 - Report this comment
My Mom sent my Dad out on foot to search for my Grandmother. He didn't find her midst the debris. She came home hours later, having walked from the center of Worcester almost to the Holden line as bus service had been curtailed.
Hazel- January 28, 2014 - Report this comment
Wow! Must have been a lot of damage
David Karagosian- October 24, 2014 - Report this comment
M was 5 years old 10 days from my 6th birthday. We lived at 40 Randall Street in a 3 decker on the 2nd floor. On the 1st flooor was my aunt uncle grandparents and 2 cousins Maraly and Nancy Aslanian. On the 3rd floor was my other ant and uncle and my cousin Bobby Frankian. I remember my 2 cousins and my brother were called in when the skys got dark. Our kitchen window looked down Randall Street to West Boyalston Street. My mom was sitting to the right of me and my twin brother to the left of me.I was looking straight out the window saw ball lightning come through and then the entire house was gone. I wound up on the roof unhurt my brother with just a scratch outside. As I looked down I could see our kitchen and the fridge on top of my mom. I got to the kitchen trying to wake her up but she had died. I will never forget her eys wide open. I also lost my Cousin Nancy Aslanian. My dad was at work and my older brother in school so they were not hurt. 2 years ago I met a man from Worcester where I now live in Florida and he owned the Shell station down the road. We talked and he remembered me.My aunt Sarah Frankian had me and my twin brother on television and said the poor boys lost their mom. But the strange part was my wife who lived in Quinsig village saw me and my brother on tv and she told her mom "one of these days I am going to marry one of thiose boys. Funny how things work out. 45 years still married
Perry Tsiokas- December 07, 2014 - Report this comment
Gee, it must have been windy that day.
David Gaynor- January 06, 2016 - Report this comment
My mom was nine when the tornado hit she lived in Great Brook Valley one if the hardest hit. My aunt remember hearing the Windows shatter thinking how were they going to afford new Windows they were poor. Not realizing within five minutes Windows would be the least of their worries. My mom my aunt my two uncles and met grandparents huddled in a closet of their third floor apartment hi rise as the tornado sheared everything from the fourth floor up off. My mom says she never saw the funnel but with never forget the freight train. She is getting older now forget some things she says she will never forget that day in 1953. My mom and her sister still talk about every once and while. Growing both my sister and I as well as my cousins remember every time there was a storm we were made to go down cellar. Till this day whenever there is a thunderstorm u will find my mom in her cellar on the phone with my aunt reliving that horrible day on June 9, 1953 which coincidentally was also my uncles 5th birthday
Don Kemp- June 04, 2016 - Report this comment
I was 12 years old and lived at 41 Carpenter Ave which is on the hillside up from Great Brook Valley. IHad been delivering newspapers to home in that are just prior to when it struck. I truly believe the only reason I am alive is because my girlfriend , Barbara Maki who was delivering papers with me said the sky looked very bad and we should head home. Thankfully we did. My family's home was heavily damaged but no injuries. And Barbara, if you ever read this, THANKYOU
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