By the grace of God or the whims of weather, Hurricane Irma gave Delray Beach little more than a sideways glance. But in the days following the storm, we watched harrowing images pour in from our southern neighbors. DBHS is so heartbroken, and profoundly humbled, to see the devastation. We send our love and prayers to all.
Irma’s fury was of course bookended by Hurricane Harvey’s and Hurricane Maria’s which tore apart Houston and Puerto Rico respectively. This hurricane season has given all of us in Delray great pause as we reflect on our town and wonder what could have been and what, someday, could still be.
As cultural historians, we at DBHS are keeping in touch with the work of cultural organizations in the affected regions. We are following their progress so we may both support them and learn from them. In particular, we are watching the excellent work of the following:
The Key West Art and Historical Society
The Dade Heritage Trust
Puerto Rico Historic Buildings Drawings Society
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Florida Division of Historical Resources
REMEMBERING THE 1928 OKEECHOBEE HURRICANE:
The memory of the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane still haunts Floridians, and in many ways it has become the reference point for natural disasters in the state.
It was apocalyptic. After shattering Puerto Rico in September 1928, it headed straight for West Palm Beach with 160 mph winds. No part of Palm Beach County was spared. But it was the inland areas around Okeechobee that suffered the most. An estimated 2,500 people died, many of their bodies swept into the Everglades and never recovered. A mass grave in Port Mayaca holds the bodies of 1,600 victims.
The September 28, 1928 Palm Beach Post describes the damage to Delray:
I confess feeling a macabre comfort in this reckoning because it reminds me that we, as a state, can recover from nature’s most violent rages. If history has a purpose, it may simply be to sit with us in our tragedies and patiently remind us that we don’t walk alone. Our road is well-trodden by those who have suffered before us, and they will quietly guide us through this forest of pain.
OKEECHOBEE THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD:
As I was working on this blog post, I had a surprise visit at the archive from one of my favorite Delray nonagenarians, Mr. Bob Miller. Born in 1921 in the building that now houses The Original Popcorn House, Bob remembers the hurricane through the eyes of a child. What a wonderful member of our community:
ON THE NAMING OF HURRICANES:
Mrs. Olive Chapman Lauther described the 1904 Hurricane in her beautiful memoir The Lonesome Road. The memoir is filled with her original poems, and this cheeky one shouldn’t be missed:
ARCHIVING WEATHER EVENTS:
Finally a note on our archive.
While DBHS has a superb record showing how Delray Beach weathered past storms, nothing can quite predict how the city will fare in these new superstorms. But like our ancestors, we ought to leave a record of how we are experiencing this meteorological chapter.
Here are some ideas for things we always love receiving from the public:
- photos, hard or digital copies
- diaries, letters, stories, or other prose
- song lyrics, scores
- audio recordings, analog or digital
- video recordings, analog or digital
- original artwork, comics
- iconic or striking advertisements
Some of the best items in our archive are those that are unrefined. An impromptu song recorded on the deck of your fishing boat is just as appealing to us as an original score written in your studio.
We also encourage you to tag images on social media with #delrayarchive.
May you and your loved ones stay safe throughout our hurricane season,