Researching the tornado of June 9, 1953

I am in the planning stages of a rather long book about the life of a house. The story takes place in the fictitious town of Quinsigamond, MA. Anyone who knows the area will easy recognize it as take on my hometown of Shrewsbury, MA. I am changing some of the topography and making the town smaller to serve the novel’s purposes. Shrewsbury is far too large and industrious for my uses.

Damage-at-Assumption-College-now-Quinsigamond-Community-College,-June-1953,-Worcester-MA.-From-the-Collections-of-Worcester-Historical-Museum.
Damage at Assumption College (now Quinsigamond Community College) Picture credit: Worcester Historical Museum

Right now, I am working on two fronts – planning out the plot and doing research on the four historical periods covered in the manuscript. One of the major events in the book will be the hurricane of June 9, 1953. My parents were kids at the time so I grew up being told stories of the destruction they witnessed in the area.  94 people were killed and over 1200 people were injured. It was a capricious storm. For instance, the detached garage of the house I grew up in was destroyed, but the house itself was unharmed.

I came across the picture shown here and realized that the building that was damaged is next to the building I took a class in when I was a senior in high school. Many beautiful building were destroyed or damaged. The house in my book will survive the storm, but will never be the same. The research has been fascinating and I frequently have to remind myself that I don’t need to know everything about that day, just enough to understand what people were feeling. Did anything happen in your hometown that you have researched? What did you learn?

If you’d like to know more about the events of June 9, 1953, Edgar B. Herwick III recently did a wonderful piece on the hurricane for WGBH. I encourage you to take a listen.

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3 thoughts on “Researching the tornado of June 9, 1953

  1. Oh, I love your new project already. Research is rewarding. However, in checking my time line for a new book, I have discovered that one event I have written about happened AFTER the scope of my story. A word to the wise…do what you are doing…plan ahead.

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  2. Oh Stepheny, you know me. I get a little obsessive about timelines. I have a whole spreadsheet set up that keeps track of how old all the characters are at the different important events. This project is a bit daunting with five different historical eras and multiple story lines. It is going to chart central around here for a while.
    At some point, I may need to pick your gardener’s brain for this project. Part of the story revolves around hybridizing flowers so I will need to learn a little bit about that.

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