Chapter 1

Devastation on the Delaware: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955

by Mary A. Shafer

Excerpt from Chapter 1:

Bill Coleman knows he’s lucky to be able to plunge into the Delaware’s cooling waters at Camp Pahaquarra almost any time he wants. A river kid all his life, he’d easily passed his swimming test last year, allowing him into the deeper water toward mid-channel. As in most spots on the lazy Delaware, there is a sluggish current there, but nothing even worth thinking about. This river is made for fun, not worry. He loves diving off the floating platform into it, clowning around and yelling with a bunch of his buddies, showing off with the big splash of a cannonball.

He also loves the serenity of the river when he takes a sunset canoe ride. The sky turns yellow, then orange, pink and finally, purple. The humidity concentrates into a haze that creeps over the surface of the water. That’s the magic time, when the camp settles down for stories and toasted marshmallows around the campfires. The smell of wood smoke mingles with the scent of pine and that certain, pleasantly earthy aroma every river person knows as “the river smell.”

As the first evening stars appear in the sky, it turns quiet out on the water. Now, you might be able to hear a whippoorwill beginning its nightly serenade or, if you’re lucky, the slap of a bass on the surface after it rises for the evening’s first flies. All the boys, even those who aren’t the best swimmers, enjoy their proximity to the gentle Delaware.