As we zero in on March 16th, I vividly recall the 1942 Baldwyn tornado.
I was in the tenth grade, and it was around 4 o'clock in the afternoon. As was customary for boys my age, I had gone to the pool room to play a few games. It turned very dark for the time of day. Mr. Jack Enis yelled from the front of the building, "boys, it's coming a tornado"! We immediately crawled under the nearest pool table. The sound was similar to the roar made by a train coming through.
In a short time, after the noise ceased, we exited the building and started looking for damage. Tom Gentry and I walked East toward the railroad and didn't see any damage until we went up the railroad toward the Gentry home. We, first spotted the "Bud" McCarthy house on North Second Street. It was severely damaged, so we went West from there, over toward Fifth Street & Thomastown. All of that area had a 1/4 mile wide swath through it from Southwest to Northeast. Most of the houses, trees, etc. were destroyed. There was one car in a tree near Highway 45.
We found a Mrs. McBrayer who had been killed and placed her in a pick-up truck and carried her to the Caldwell clinic to be pronounced dead. The hospital had run out of beds, and they asked us to take the truck to M. Gorden's furniture store and pick up some beds. After parking at the store, we were directed to the South side of the building to get some cots. Mr. Jett Ford, "Brownie" Coggins, Olin Stanley, and I went to find and load the cots.
The time was now around 4:45 P.M. We noticed the wind blowing pretty hard again, so we barricaded the double doors. "Brownie" & Olin went down to the basement. Mr. Ford placed his arms around a linoleum rug, and I was looking for some piece of furniture to get under, but I didn't make it. The wind peaked, the roof left the building, the double brick wall came over, and covered me completely, fairly deep. I couldn't move, but was still conscious. I considered myself very fortunate to still be alive and not seriously injured. In about 20 minutes, I heard some movement on the brick somewhere in the area, so I knew I had to get their attention, if possible. My dad knew I was going to get the cots, so he was one of the first to get over the crumbled wall. I didn't feel that I could yell loud enough, so I began to give my loudest whistle. The search crew heard me, and began to toss the bricks off. After a few minutes, they had me uncovered, and I was in good shape except for a small knot on my head. I still praise the Lord for saving my life.
There were seven people killed in Baldwyn, by the first storm, and two in Wheeler.
Robert McWhorter, according to the story told to me by his brother, was taken by the wind from a poultry house on Water St. to the old High School Building, about 3/4 mile. He came walking in about an hour after the tornado.
Another tornado came in almost the same path about 50 years later, but did not touch ground.
Editor's note: Two tornadoes struck Baldwyn that day in '42, around an hour or less apart.