Events that shaped us 

Michael Warner, Attorney
1600 4th Ave, Suite 410
Rock Island, IL 61201

Kansas City Life
5019 34 Ave B
Moline, IL 61265

Dr. Romeo
1705 2nd Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Morton Building
Highway 6
Atkinson, IL

Pathway Hospice
500 42
Rock Island, IL 61201

QC Carbide
1510 17 St
East Moline, IL 61244

Lyss Chiropractic
5500 30 Ave
Moline, IL 61201

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Litton Life Support
2734 Hickory Grove Rd
PO Box 4508
Davenport, IA 52808

Spencer Bros. Disposal
New Windsor, IL

Mane Designs
Viola, IL

Quad-Cities Graduate Studies Center
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Taylor Freezers 1885 Earhart Dr
Sandwich IL 60548

Milan Surplus
I-280 Exit 15
Milan, IL 61264

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home Inc.
614 Main St
Davenport, 52803

Ward Chiropractic
1802 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

Cannon Precision Manufacturing
PO Box 289
4th and Washington St
Keithsburg, IL 61442

Associated Environmental Management Services Inc
PO Box 586
1701 13 St
Viola, IL 61486

Edward Jones
1632 5th Avenue
Moline, IL 61265

Downtown Davenport Association
102 S. Harrison St.
Davenport, IA 52801

Donald J. McNeil, D.D.S.
1030 41st Street
Moline, IL 61265

Valley Dental Center
Dr. Margarida R. Laub
Route 6, Coal Valley, IL

Sylvan Learning Center
1035 Lincoln Road
Bettendorf, IA

Marycrest International University
1607 W 12 St
Davenport, IA 52804

St. Ambrose University
518 W Locust
Davenport, IA 52804

Palmer College of Chiropractic
1000 Brady St
Davenport, IA 52803

Augustana College
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

H & R Block
1715 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

E & J
200 24 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

American Institute of Commerce
1801 E Kimberly Rd
Davenport, IA 52807

Students beat Mississippi Flood of 1965

By Kate Woodburn, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Click here for larger view.
Photo courtesy of Special Collections, Augustana College Library.
Augustana College faculty and staff grab a quick rest after pulling sandbag duty on Rock Island's Mississippi riverfront during the 1965 flood.
For many Quad-Citians the Mississippi River is one of the best parts of life here. It provides beautiful scenery, a fascinating history and wonderful recreational activities.

However, anyone who has been in the area for at least one of the record- setting floods this century knows that the Mississippi has just as much power to make life difficult as it does to make it enjoyable.

In April 1965 the river had one of these changes of temperament.

According to the ``Great Flood of 1965,'' a special section published by The Argus on May 18, 1965, fast-melting, heavy snows in Minnesota and Wisconsin combined with heavy rains on the crest its entire trip down the river -- brought the river's crest to 22.48 feet, 7.48 feet above flood stage, on April 28. This easily drowned the previous record of 19.4 feet set in 1892.

During the 28 days the water level stayed above flood stage, 11,064 people in Rock Island and Scott counties were evacuated from their homes.

Many of these people went to shelters set up by local organizations. According to the special section, the Red Cross offered a night's lodging to 14,299 people in Rock Island County alone and served 45,072 meals.

While many volunteers and emergency workers were helping the people who had already been hit by the flood, many others were hard at work constructing sandbag walls in an attempt to prevent the high water from doing any more damage.

Click here for larger view.
Photo courtesy Special Collections, Augustana College Library.
Keeping the flooding Mississippi and Rock Rivers at bay during the flood of April 1965 was a huge volunteer effort. Here volunteers try to stop the waters in Rock Island.
The city of Rock Island alone used about 350,000 sandbags. Many of these were filled and put in place by local students. Almost every high school and college in the Quad-Cities area gave students the chance to help during the flood of 1965. Most high schools excused students to sandbag, and Augustana dismissed classes.

Ed Bauersfeld of Rock Island, a 1965 graduate of Rock Island High School, said that he and ``a bunch of kids did it at Rock Island and out in Milan, sometimes until late in the evening.''

According to Mr. Bauersfeld he divided his sandbagging time between the Rock Island City Garage, where they filled the bags with sand; and the riverfront where they made a line of people and passed the filled bags along until they reached their place on the sandbag wall.

According to Jim Braet, another 1965 Rock Island High School graduate, he and many other students started their sandbagging efforts near the Rock Island Boat Club.

After the dike broke there the sandbaggers moved back to the railroad tracks to start a new wall. Debbie Braet, a former Rock Island High School student, sandbagged there. ``While we were building the sandbag wall we could watch the river rising,'' she said. Mr. Braet remembers feeling a little pressure while sandbagging behind the broken dike, ``it was kind of a race with the rising water,'' he said.

Click here for larger view.
The high-water battle in Rock Island during the 1965 flood boiled down to this thin wall os sand bags around the old levee parking lot where the Casino Rock Island is now docked. If the wall had let go, the intersection in front of The Argus, three blocks down the street, would have been flooded 4 feet deep. The water whould have flowed unimpeded all the way to the foot of Longview Park.
Eventually the dike was finished, but even then many were still uneasy. A lot of people ``felt it might not hold the water, but it did,'' said Mr. Braet.

He had a more personal interest in this sandbag wall than many of the students working on it did. ``I lived on 2nd Street and my grandmother lived on 1st Street,'' Mr. Braet said. People told him at the time that if the dike had not held, ``a six-foot wall of water would have gone through my grandmother's back yard,'' he said.

In an attempt to save all the houses in this area the students and other volunteers did a lot of hard work. According ``The Great Flood of 1965,'' the sandbaggers worked through rainstorms, sometimes standing in water up to their hips. The sandbags that they passed down the line weighed between 30 and 70 pounds.

But the physical strain isn't what Mr. Bauersfeld remembers as being the hardest part of volunteering. Instead he said it was ``staying up. One night we stayed up all night and sandbagged, if we did that we got out of school the next day,'' he said.

Even though the work they did was difficult Mr. Braet remembers that it didn't seem that bad. ``Actually at that time I enjoyed doing things like that,'' he said.

Mrs. Braet does not remember sandbagging as being much of a strain. The hardest part for her was ``convincing our parents to let us go out and do it, I was a senior and my sister was a junior, and they weren't sure if that was something we should do. ... The actual work wasn't hard, really it was quite an adventure for us,'' she said.

When she did get her parent's permission to volunteer she went with several precautions that her mother advised. ``I remember she made us put plastic bags under our boots,'' she said laughing.

Mrs. Braet worked to convince her parents to let her sandbag, even though she didn't have the advantage of missing school to volunteer. She said she did most of her sandbagging at night because female students were not excused from classes at Rock Island.

Even though Mrs. Braet did not get to miss school to sandbag she can easily think of a few highlights of the experience. ``The best part was the way there were so many different kinds of people there doing the same thing. ... Everyone was very nice to each other, everyone was working together,'' she said.

Mr. Braet probably spoke for many of the student volunteers when he talked about his reasons for sandbagging. ``I'm a teacher now, but I suppose missing a day of school was the best part,'' he said. Although missing school was his reason for volunteering, a few moments while he was working helped keep morale up. On one these moments stands out in his memory. ``Mr. Botch was the city manager, he was down there kind of supervising us, and we saw him step in a hole that covered his boot. We thought that was kind of funny, to see one of the people in charge get his foot wet too.''

Dennis Mesick of Rock Island, who was a sophomore in high school during the flood, agreed that getting out of school was a major reason for his volunteering, but it was not his only one. He said it was nice ``knowing that we were doing our part and helping out,'' he said. Although, ``toward the end of the day the sandbags just seemed to get heavier,'' he added.

The flood of 1965 must have had quite an impact on Mrs. Braet and the rest of the Rock Island High School class of 1965 because some of them later set these experiences to music. At the end of the school year ``we wrote a song about the flood and sang it'' at the school's annual senior night she said laughing.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.