Remembering the flood of 1955
December 18, 2012
Dr. John Pasek got a phone call in his office above the Farmers’ Bank in Minden. It was mid-morning on Dec. 23, 1955. The caller was very distraught and almost impossible to understand. When the Lady said “Come quick…Fawn dead,” the doctor knew it was Fawn Yim’s wife, a resident who lived on Mono Avenue. A call was immediately made to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. He repeated what Mrs. Yim had said, with the dispatcher on duty saying “Fawn’s not dead. He’s holding onto a clump of willows out in the river (East Fork – Carson River).
The Record-Courier reported on this flood in a special edition on Dec. 29, 1955, as “Flood Worst in Valley History.” They then compared it to the flood of 1889-1890. “Glenn Barr, CalTrans Supervisor at Woodfords, Calif., reported the rainfall in inches, as follows: Monday – 2.45; Tuesday- .01; Wednesday – 3.71 and Thursday – 6.19. The total of those days was around 10.36. This “60 hours of rainfall was the heaviest sustained in the history of Western Nevada,” it was reported.
An early winter with heavy snow accumulations during the months of November and December was noted. The Carson River watershed starts at the top of Carson Pass, Ebbetts Pass and almost Sonora Pass. It was reported that with this warm weather, it was raining at 9,000 feet in these areas of the Sierra.
Dean Bernard (owner of the Pony Express Casino/Cafe in Minden), along with Fawn Yim, decided to drive out to see the flood. They had been warned of the danger by the Highway Department personnel, but did not see the danger until it was too late. They inadvertently drove the car into a deep wash-out around the first bridge on Highway 88. Fawn first saw the danger and jumped out of the car. The river swept him downstream. Dean stayed with the car that rolled twice before it stopped upright in the willows. He broke a window and was able to get onto the roof. Later, a long rope was thrown out into the current that carried the rope to the car where Dean was able to grab it and then swim to shore.
Volunteer help was mustered from the community with the Manager of California Interstate Telephone Co. providing long ropes for the rescues.
Fawn had been able to get to some willows downstream and was holding onto a bunch of them. Meanwhile, Bob Morris and his brother-in-law, Dick Nalder, heard of the problem. Dick and Bob fired up one of the Dangberg Ranch “cats” and drove through the flooded fields to the bridge. They tied a rope around Bob’s waist after he had stripped so he could swim to Fawn. Bob could see that Fawn was loosing his hold in the willows and had grabbed a log floating by at the time. Bob then jumped from the “cat” and was able to swim to Fawn going by. He put Fawn on his back and was able to swim to shore with men pulling on the rope. Bob saved Fawn’s life with his heroic action.
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Bob Morris was a prospector/miner and was one tough, stout, bull of a man. Even so, he said he was nearly expended when he got to Fawn, even before he swim back. Bob had four children and Dick had two children by then, and ending up with five. These men had so much to loose, yet they were willing to put themselves at risk to save another person from probable death. I will add that Dean had two children and Fawn had three children.
Dick and his wife Alice (first) Michael Nalder had five boys before she was stricken by cancer. Dick’s second wife, Alice (2nd) took over and finished what Alice (1st) had started.
There is a lady in Ruhenstroth named Diane. She adopted five young children. She didn’t start them, but she will also finish what has been stated.
Bob, Dick, Alice (2nd) and Diane are good examples of what the Lord was referring to when he was describing what a good Samaritan is and does.
Bob Morris left Carson Valley to continue his prospecting and mining business. About 10 years ago, I met with one of Bob’s sons (Jim) and we talked “old times”. He stated that his dad prospected Eastern Nevada. He sold many claims in the Carlin area, that is now part of the “Carlin Trend.” The State of Nevada and its citizens owe Bob a big “thanks” for the revenue it now enjoys because of this mining area. Prospectors like Bob don’t sleep in fancy houses or motels at night. They are in the elements of Nevada and alone mostly, doing their job. This industry throughout Nevada has benefited Nevada citizens.
Gene Pasek is a former Ruhenstroth resident.