OF JUNE 28, 1924


By Emily Grace Doane

As told to daughter, Jane Meitzke MacDuff



Text Box:  
Clarmont Doane House  1910
Ronald, Clarmont, Emily Grace(2)
This is Mother’s story:


            It was about 5:15 p.m. in Lorain, Ohio, June 28th, 1924, a hot, sultry day, and my Grandfather, Clarmont Doane, was out in his garage doing his usual thing; tinkering with his 1918 Dodge automobile, and aware of a pretty bad-looking storm coming from the west.  There was hail and thunder and a pea-green sky.  In the house at 1329 5th Street, my Grandmother Hildegard was canning sweet cherries in the kitchen.  My mother, Emily Grace, age 16, didn’t like the sounds of the approaching storm while she was upstairs getting dressed for a party.  It sounded like a train to her.  So, she came down stairs and sat down with her mother at the kitchen table.  Grandpa Clarmont usually rode out thunderstorms in his workshop in the garage and didn’t bother to come in for a thunderstorm.  But, the electricity went out and he decided to come into the house this time.  Grandma had lit the gas lamps and Grandpa went out to the front porch to take the big swing, in front of the big glass window, off its hooks, which he always did for bad storms.  He had noted the winds were pretty strong in this one.  Emily Grace was in her slip as she had not finished getting dressed for the birthday party to be at her friend’s house.  She now went to the front room and looked out the big front window in time to see a telephone pole go sailing away, and then the large maple tree uprooted and sailed off over other trees.  Grandpa was forcing the front door closed.


In those days of early weather reporting no one in Ohio knew about such storms as tornadoes, but my Grandpa Clarmont had grown up in Indiana farmland and was familiar enough with bad windstorms that he knew they would all be better off in the basement.  Then the dining-room windows came in and my Grandmother wanted to do something about it but Grandpa said, “Get to the basement!”  Emily Grace was the first to the bottom of the basement stairs.  Her parents were close behind.  As the house rose up and crashed all around them with an indescribable, deafening crash, Grandpa said simply, “There goes the house.”  The foundation stones fell into the basement but they were standing on the only square yard where nothing fell.  Something hit Grandpa and Grandma on their left sides, probably the side of the stairs because they were black and blue the next day.  My mother had a cut on her right elbow where a piece of roofing slate hit her, the scar of which was still very visible and she could still show it to you up until her death at the age of 94.


Text Box:  
Clarmont Doane house; June 1924
            The rain continued to pour down for some time and they got drenched because there was no house above them now, it had tipped up and over and they were, fortunately, under the open corner.  The rain and thunder eventually stopped as they crouched there.  They crawled up and out using the large foundation sandstone building blocks as stepping-stones.  Mother didn’t know how or why they weren’t hit by some of the blocks.  Had they been anywhere else but that corner of the house, at the foot of the stairs, I would not be writing this narrative.


Text Box:  
            Williams house,              C.E. Doane house,      Bungalow
Text Box:  
Monty and Clarmont working with  his automobile-the day after
In the returning daylight they could see that the bungalow next door had only a broken front window, but looking over toward the banks of Lake Erie they could see that the bathhouse at Lakeview Park beach was gone!  More people were beginning to crawl out of their houses.  Houses including their own, looked like piles of toothpicks.  On top of the pile of rubble that had been their house was the piano and music cabinet.  At this point, Emily Grace had a silent fear that she would have to view lots of dead bodies.  She wondered “how many” as they looked over a street of devastation; all the houses behind them and across the street.  There was devastation every way they looked.  Grandpa’s car still sat in the backyard, however, without its top or the windshield, and had one flat tire, in the midst of toothpicks.  The garage and workshop, where Grandpa had been working shortly before, was gone.


            They could hear sirens, but help was having trouble getting through since trees and debris was on all the streets.  Fortunately someone at the city power company, with a view of the storm coming off the Lake, had turned the electric power and gas off, and there was not the destruction by fire that there could have been. 

The bungalow house next door, for some strange reason, was not much damaged except for the front window.  Grandma Hildegard and Emily Grace were taken into the bungalow along with others who came wandering in, in dazed states, from the bathhouse across the way.  The lady of the house put a fur cape around Emily Grace who was shivering, clad only in her slip.  The lady of the house later went and found her a dress to wear.


            That lady of the bungalow was a couple blocks away visiting at her sister’s house with her baby at the time of the storm.  The sister’s house was blown away but the women and the child were spared by crouching in the chimney corner and miraculously uninjured.  So, the sisters came to the bungalow and found it standing, but had not thought to hang onto a purse with the keys in it.  Grandpa Clarmont walked to the back of the bungalow to try and get in for the women.  Having just walked up that driveway between those two houses he had no sooner gotten to the back of the bungalow when the side fell off the other house into the driveway where he had just walked. 


The neighbors on the other side of Grandpa Clarmont’s house were on vacation, but were notified on their way out of town and came back to their house which was lying flat like a pancake, with the sides splayed out, split at the corners.  The next house on the other side still stood.  It was severely damaged, but repairable.  The houses across the street were all severely damaged.


            It had been a strange day from the beginning my mother recalls.  Earlier that morning, on the East Side of town, a train engine and several cars had run headlong into the river because the bridge was up.  Mother’s older brother, Clarmont P. Doane, (known as Monty), and a friend had gone off on motorcycles that afternoon to see the attraction of the engine that fell off the trestle into the river.  They were returning and decided the coming storm looked so bad that they would go to the buddy’s home where his younger sister and brothers were at home alone; the parents being out of town at the Mayo Clinic due to the father’s health.  When the storm had passed they heard that a lot of wires and trees were down all over town and thought it would be fun to go out and look around.  The two brothers and Monty started out along the Lake Road toward Monty’s house by car, but soon had to stop and walk due to so much stuff in the roads, and indeed things did look bad--worse than they thought.  They couldn’t see the bathhouse, and discovered its destruction and bodies being hauled out of it.  Monty, looked east toward where he should have been able to see his own home in the daylight that was returning, -- and it was not visible.  He wondered about his mother and father and sister?  The two brothers took off toward the house as best they could, but Monty stopped.  He didn’t go any farther until his two friends saw Grandpa Clarmont and other people who were milling around.  The two boys called back to where Monty had stopped announcing that his folks and sister were all right.  Then Monty ccme on. 


            Meanwhile, Emily Grace’s other brother, Ronald C. Doane, has gone to Cleveland that day.  He had started home on the streetcar about 5:00 PM. as the storm brewed.  The streetcar could only get part way to Lorain, so it stopped and went back toward Cleveland.  Then it came forward some miles again but again it was stopped short of Lorain.  Brother Ron decided to get off and walk.  He had to walk about 7 miles, so he didn’t get to his parents’ home until 11:00 PM, and he, too, was afraid of the worst as he arrived on foot.  National Guardsmen questioned him before he could get through to the house where he found his brother, Monty, and the two friends, camped out there.  All of the boys stayed around the remains of the house and the car that night to protect against looters. 

The National Guard arrived in the middle of that first night and their presence was obvious.  They camped in the closest undamaged schools for about 2 months afterwards. The National Guard produced tents for homeowners and stayed on patrol with guns.  People had to be off the streets by 6:00 PM for a month afterwards.  Several weeks later it was rumored that at least three poachers were shot by the Guard.  Mother remembers shots rang out every once in awhile around the city for the next two months, and a couple injuries were reported.  The National Guardsmen shot first and were NOT questioned.


            After the storm had passed, at sunset time, 8:30 PM, Emily Grace had been taken to the home of friends of the family, the home of brother Monty’s two buddies he was with, in an unaffected area west of Lorain on the banks of Lake Erie.  Mother remembers hiking out there with her mother and dad to where the boys had parked the car, climbing over wood, trees, and dead electric wires at sunset time.  It was a sunset that was gorgeous over the Lake that evening, and then stars came out.  Emily Grace and her parents stayed at this home for a couple weeks, although Grandpa Clarmont took turns with the boys spending the nights in the tents at the remains of the house.  Grandma and Grandpa worked there every day sorting through things, salvaging what wasn’t broken or water damaged.  There wasn’t a lot salvageable.  Emily Grace ended up staying there with this family, whose daughter was a good friend of hers, for a good six weeks before following her parents to her Grandpa Clarence Ellsworth Doane and Grandma Katy’s home in town by the Lorain High School.  That house had been skipped over and had only windows out and some roof damage, which was repairable.  The high school’s roof was gone, and whole houses across the street from that home were gone, as were two churches beyond that. 


Damage Assessment:       The tornado had cut a swath through the business district of downtown Lorain, too.  Mom family’s church, the Congregational, and Dad’s family’s church, the Evangelical Reformed, were both destroyed along with the Methodist Church and the firehouse.  At The State Movie Theater, near the Woolworth Store, the roof collapsed and 15 people were killed there.  At the bathhouse, 7 people were killed, and more injured.  Seventy-eight lives were lost in Lorain that day, and the city has not forgotten.  Every year on this date, 84 years now, they make a special note of remembrance with news pictorials and articles.


            The day following the storm was Sunday and people were out and around.  My father’s mother, Anna, went across the street to Dr. Stack’s house to see if she could be of help to Mrs. Stack.  The injured were being brought there from the bathhouse, and there were a lot.  The High School was also being used as a hospital, it only suffered roof damage.  Nobody went to work in the damaged area for at least a week.  The lumber company came down the streets selling wood.  Loaded glass-trucks came along putting in windows where they were wanted as it went. 

Text Box:  In the days that followed, the Thew Shovel Company, where Emily Grace’s dad worked, allowed him to take off all the time he needed to salvage his house and meager belongings.  They also presented Clarmont with some sort of financial gift and sent out a shovel and crane to tear what was left of the house apart and help in finding anything that wasn’t soaked and ruined.  Emily Grace did not want to even see it again, so she even managed to avoid going past it when she was taken to the Red Cross station at the High School to have her cut elbow looked at a week later


Grandma and Grandpa and everyone else had no wind insurance at that time--tornadoes were unheard of in Ohio.  They were a phenomenon west of the Mississippi River.  Federal Funds helped home-owners who had mortgages on their lost homes, but Grandpa Clarmont and Grandma Hildegard had no mortgage--they owned their house.  They did not receive any financial help from the federal government.  In October, four months after the storm, Grandpa managed to finance a smaller house.  Finally he paid it off in 1963. 


Text Box:  
Parkview Avenue house  c:1926
Clarmont built a new garage at the new house.  When he set it on the new foundation Clarmont anchored it with steel rods set in the concrete floor and bolted to the roofline headerplate.  He was not going to lose another garage! 


Nine months later, at the new Parkview house address, a bank returned a check to Grandma Hildegard, that had been on the dining room desk before the tornado and had “flown” down to Middlefield, Ohio, near Akron, 80 miles away.  It had been found by someone who mailed it back to the bank who mailed it to Hildegard.


Clarmont kept the old 5th Street lot for many years, always hoping to finance re-building the house on it.  The plans to that original house were saved from a drawer after the tornado.  But he finally sold it and the buyer built two houses on it in the place of my Grandpa’s one foundation.  The plans to the old house are saved and still available in the hands of my cousin.

Text Box:  
1903 house

I look at the time-honored pictures of that big old 1903 house on 1329 5th Street, with a tower on one corner that was my Mother’s bedroom, and a porch across the front with a double swing on it.  I always wonder, “what would it have been like -- if I could have spent so much time, as I did at my Grandma and Grandpa Doane’s house, in that house; could have stayed in that room with the tower, and swung on that swing on that front porch with the Lake Erie view and with a view of the new bathhouse











Presented to Doane Family Assn. Meeting of July 1908

By Jane MacDuff.