Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Another Very Lucky '42 Tornado Survivor

-click to enlarge-

By Tom Shellnut

These are photos of the 1942 tornado. The top one is probably of my grandmother's house with two walls standing.

The interesting feature of this photo is in the lower left hand corner -- an imposing structure which I believe is the old school house which was on the square where the "new" Caldwell clinic/hospital was built in the 50's. The camera is pointed toward the southeast toward the old school.

My recollection of that day:

My Mother, my Grandmother, my brother and I were in the house that March afternoon. Mrs. James Nanney was paying a visit, and when the proverbial freight train sound came up, they all went into the dining room with me, a 17 month old, in tow. The storm came through from the southwest, lifted the house up some feet off the ground. The house exploded and rained everything back down on us. It later became apparent that the dining room floor was the only one the remained intact. God was watching out for us. The dining room floor is probably the floor you see in the picture.

Daddy was uptown at the store and came running down along with the other men of the town to see about us and get us out of the wreckage. Some began to dig into the debris, and when they uncovered one of us down to the waist, they started pulling to get us out. Daddy, with a cool head, stopped them and said to slow down and get more lumber away from us before pulling and injuring us.

The Caldwell clinic was there about a block away to the east of the First Baptist Church. We were taken there for a look-see. Mother was hysterical as I appeared covered in blood. She was sure I was a goner. Dr. R. B. after looking closely at me said, "all this child needs is soap and water." The red bricks of the chimney of the house which had been built in 1875 had disintegrated, and the red brick dust combined with my tears made me look like I was bleeding to death.

The James Mack Jones family took us in for a while until we bought the brick house at the corner of Water and South Second. Coincidentally, Dr. R.B. built that house the same year Dr. Mike Caldwell was born, in the early 20's. (Actually 1921, Tom. Source: info from the Baldwyn library.- Carl)

Most of us who can remember that awful day have a story to tell, I'll bet. I know Herb Spivey does, he was very lucky to come out of a debris-filled basement, also.

I remember that my Dad, Mom and I were coming home on West Main and got to the point where we had to seek shelter immediately. Dad pulled the car into the old Jett Ford driveway and next to the embankment at Mrs. Orr's home, under the still-standing-today pecan trees. Not a great place, but it turned out well. The trees bent and popped, but only lost a few limbs. We were there only a few minutes, but were safe and thankful. Mom shielded me (age 3) and I didn't see the tornado at all, but remember the noise it made even today. I heard that it picked up Tommy Ford's horse and put it down safely, still running... that was very close to where we were. - Carl Houston


  1. This must have been the first one. There were two tornadoes in the space of an hour????

  2. Wasn't Lanny Outlaw born that day?

  3. He was born that night, after the storms. No power at the clinic, so they used oil lamps and candles to attend him and others who were still coming in.