The Courier News from Blytheville, Arkansas on December 29, 1952 · Page 3
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The Courier News from Blytheville, Arkansas · Page 3

Blytheville, Arkansas
Issue Date:
Monday, December 29, 1952
Page 3
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MOITOAY, DEC'29, 1952 Storm-Ravaged Judsonia Near Normal Again Town Is ftebuiding , With Little Help From 'Outsiders' 'Rny Stephens Is Ihe Little Rock AP slaffcr who covered the devastation of tiny Judsonia, Ark. after the March tornadoes that killed more than 100 Ai-kansnns He re cently re-visited Judsonia to sec how the town's re-building program Is progressing.) 6 • By RAV STEPHENS JUDSONIA tB-Thc village of Judsonia, slill counting by the ?f° ss . *«" '*« by a tornado that M .« Is rebuilding rapidly despite lack or an organized community program and little outside financial assistance. There was some talk aflcr the »h I ,f pread lta destruction hrough this White County s | r ««berry marketing center of makinir no effort to rebuild from the rubble But most of the defeatist altitude was erased quickly when the Bank _ or Judsonia re-opened for business omy uvo days after the disaster. The bank, building was only n pile of brick, bill the vnultin which the money was stored was untouched by the twister. The day following: the slorm, the banks directors instructed Cashier Cnrl Stevens to transfer bankfn" operations to the Security Bank 'o° H? 1 ,?'' TW ° d!lys '""• the institution was doing business ns usual. "When the people fcund out that their money was safe, and that Ihe bank wasn't going to close they started thinking Rbout rebuilding their own property," he said. Many people showed up at''the bank within n few hours after the tornado (,{,. and j VKn - t able ^ tell them whether or not we would rebuild, "But, the next day, 1 told them thai their money was safe and that we would be open for business Monday. You should have seen the difference in the way they walked away from me." The.torrmdo, which killed more than 100 persons In Arkansas first struck at Dierks, a hamlet in extreme Southwest Arkansas. It roared northeast across the state battering England, Cotton Plant, Bald Knob and Judsonia. This town was nit harder than any other commun- Tiie violent twister arrived about 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 21 Destruction was centered In the business district, where only a few buildings were left standing. Not a single structure escaped severe damage. Many of those who were killed were employes, shoppers or residents of the business area. Today, about 80 per cent of the buildings have been repaired or rebuilt. There still are gaping holes In each block where a buildin"- once stood. Lonely Sentinels On the corner across from the ne«", brick bank buildmg, stands the concrete foundation of what once was a grocery store. An old fashioned safe and a meat display box stand alone on the foundation. Directly across the street, In a bare space between the new.Joe's Cafe and the/new Masonic lodge an entire family once lived in an apartment. All of them were killed No new building has been erected to replace the one destroyed. ' "Actually, the town started hearing hammers Ihe dny after the storm," said Stevens, "but many people are just now getting started with their construction." Most of the homes in Judsonin have been rebuilt. There Is little evidence of the storm in the residential areas, except for a shattered house here and there. A feXv trees still are .holding pieces of jagged metal, lodged tn their blanches by the raging wind. Stevens said the Red Cross spent «500,000 in rebuilding wrecked homes on "a basis of need" In Judsonia. The rest of the capital needed was obtained from private sources and the federal Reconstruction Fianance Corporation, he said. The bank cashier, whom local residents credit with leading Judsonia's fight for new life, said he bad no idea of. the total capital invested in the v rebuilding Each victim of the tornado spent most of his efforts in rebuilding bis own n-recknge, said Stevens. There was no organized program In which the citizenry Joined hands with their neighbors to pool resources and labor. While there was no program to bring in new business or help old business rebuild, Stevens said he was swamped soon after Ihe tornado with inquiries about business prospects In Judsonia. He said most of those who considered establishing a business In the town were discouraged because no buildings were left, standing. Stevens said the population of Judsonia. as a result, has not i grown much, if any. Most of the business houses are operated by those who had them prior to the storm. Stevens credits this to a spontaneous decision by the populace to glvo priority for any new business to those who lost them. For Instance, no one would open R drug store until the former druggist announced whether or not he planned to rebuild, Strawberry Sole Support The strawberry crop from neighboring farms Is the sole support of Judsonia. There are only two Industries in the town—n strawberry processing plant and a box factory specializing in the manufacture of strawberry crates. They were the only two here before the tornado. Stevens says this results tn Jitd- sonla's biggest problem, mass unemployment. It Is a slluation that h« been with th« town lor wvtrai BUrniEVILLE (ARK.)' COURIER NEWS years. There are periods each year when as iiiiiny os 500 of Judsonlu's 1,122 residents are unemployed, bringing temporary business recessions which keep the town on a virtual "boom and bust" economic cycle year in and year out. And, said Stevens, Its no help lo Judsonia's rebuilding efforts. < Many at JudEonla's residents follow the crop harvests In other areas, returning to Judsonia only a few months each year. In an effort to stabilize the city's income, population and business Stevens has led in the recent or- ganization of a Chamber of Commerce. As soon as the new organization Is completed, a drive will get underway to attract some sort of industry to Judsonia. They doii't much care what kind of industry conies In. Any old factory lhat will gi ve year nround employment is more than welcome, John Henson, one of Judsonia's largest property owners and a director ot the bank, esllm'ated that one or two small factories could recruit their labor supply from Judsonia's current population. The churches of Judsonia also took a beating in the storm. Two of (hem, the Baptist and the Assembly of Ood, were demolished, and Ihe big Methodist Clmrch was damaged severely. The Melhodist and Assembly of God are back In service, and the Baptists hope (o start using their new stone structure soon. ' The Rev. Clifford Lyon, who look over as pastor of the Baptist Church just six weeks after the storm hit, was greeted with a pile of debris for a building. Seven members of the congregation were killed bv the tornado. "The thing thai has Impressed me most.about Judsonia," he said, 'Is the spirit of the people " ,i. T ,'' e ^? U " B '"''lister explained hat while (he people could have taken on easy way out by moving only seven miles f o the city of Searcy, they chose Instead to rebuild their town against, overwhelming odds. "For a short while. It seemed like most of ll.e people still were In state of shock," he said, '"men they started moving, and the. Job Is almost finished." Jobless Benefits Up WASHINGTON tfft _ High employment and a rise in the number of workers covered by state unemployment insurance laws boosted funds available for Jobless benefits a half-billion dollars to a record total of W.400,000.000 in 1852, the Labor Department reported yesterday. PAGE THREE Mexico Is named alter Mexitllll, national war god of Ihe Aztecs. The European Mugho pine tree produces cones from less than one Bui. Phon* 8061 FOR SALE Res. 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