Bob Pitcher doing a little iron work at his blacksmith and tool exhibit.
47 Clinton Avenue Westport, Connecticut 06880
A. Sega and Sons donated their time, and lowbed trailer to move in some of the heavier equipment and on Friday, June 4, members arrived at the Water Witch Hose Company firehouse to join the sponsoring firemen in picking up the fencing and delivering it to the lot. By the time school let out, all the equipment was waiting on the road to be brought into the lot.
Stakes were put up for the exhibit areas and the perimeter was ringed with snow fencing with openings for the new main gate (built by Fred Dahl, Walt Pitchard and Bob Pitcher), exhibitors entrance, and a quick escape provided in case the sponsors had a callup. Portable toilets arrived and the weatherman predicted showers for Saturday and clearing on Sunday. Some trailers arrived and some of the steam equipment came in. Jim Hine arrived with his shingle mill and several loads of wood were brought in for use in the various saws and splitters. The exhibitors gate was setup by Ralph and Wander Waters; the food stand was in place and several loads of engines came in. Response for the flea market space was good and all advertisement was out with a good crowd expected.
Many of our members slept with anxious dreams and awoke early Saturday to the sound of rain. Upon arriving early at the lot, boilers were checked and fired up, engines brought in line and started, machinery secured and aligned, and new exhibits rolled in. Dudley Diebold brought in his Rumely Oil Pull and prepared to belt it to the shingle mill, and Charlie and Fran Doty brought over our new concession stand for the sale of books and merchandise.
The rain continued and tarps were put over the steam roller canopy and held up at the ends with tent poles, making a large tent with a boiler in the middle and many people huddling under. Another group of people crowded into the food tent, drinking coffee and thinking about wet feet. The rain persisted all day and the forecast for Sunday changed from clearing to 'more rain-heavy at times.'
We were committed by this time and went home Saturday night to dry off and get some rest. Skies on Sunday morning were overcast and at times the sun came out. Flea marketeers arrived and set up; Starbolt Engine Suppliers and Lee Pederson set up and new exhibitors started arriving. Tarps were taken off and folded up, engines started, boilers fired up and by 12:30 it was raining again. It rained all afternoon and at times the downpour was tremendous. We began to hear stories of road washouts and of flooding, but were more concerned with our own wetness and the lack of the crowd we had hoped for. The Fire Department had prepared a good breakfast for us, but by mid-afternoon we knew the whole weekend was a washout.
We were fortunate that the whole field had a good packed gravel base under the grass and no one got stuck-not even the steam roller.
By now it was raining hard and the engine suppliers and the flea market people had packed up. Engines were loaded, boilers shut down and equipment packed away. Concession tents came down and the snow fence perimeter pulled up and returned. One of our members had a call from the State Police notifying him of the flooding of his apartment house in another part of the state, and on the way home many members learned that Connecticut had been hit with the hardest rain storm since the turn of the century. Many bridges and roads had washed out, and the railroad in the Naugatuck Valley and the shoreline had been washed out, with the tracks left hanging in many places after the fill had been washed away. Travellers advisories were out and in Milford, high water had washed many records out of the town hall. Along the shore many towns were hit by flooding and several dams burst, adding more water to the already swollen rivers. The Pratt and Reed Company of Ivoryton, suppliers of piano keyboards for many decades, lost two dams. In the state six dams collapsed and fourteen breached. Up to eleven inches of rain fell and it was described as the heaviest rainfall of the century not connected with a tropical storm. Dams were only part of the concern of government officials; the storm had already left twelve people dead or missing. At least thirteen state highway bridges and an untold number of spans on town-maintained roads were destroyed and many waste water treatment plants were affected by the high water in the rivers. The Valley Railroad in Essex had to suspend its steam train because of the undermining of a bridge pillar.
I guess we were lucky; we only got wet at our show, the rest of the state was flooded. All of the people who worked on our show can only be praised for standing by our cause and seeing our 5th annual meet through the weekend. They can all say 'I survived the great storm and flood of 1982.'
In 1983 our show will be held on June 4th and 5th, at the Pettibone School grounds, New Milford, Connecticut, from 10 to 5 each day. This year we have submitted a request for good weather and hope someone up there will listen to us and honor our wishes.
I'm sure many of the other clubs have gone through similar weekend dates, but it is always difficult to see it through. The only thing you can do is to hope for better weather next time. Perhaps we'll see you there!