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Thompson, Oscar T. / Home town : some chapters in reminiscence
(May 1942)

Chapter 6,   pp. 11-12 PDF (602.3 KB)

Page 11

The Norwegian country boys
were very inept at throwing a
ball. They had never had the
practice of playing ball, such as
we American youngsters had had
almost from the cradle. I could
throw a ball twice as far as they
could, and they were astonished
that I could throw a stone from
one side of the river to the other
side. That was unheard of. But
their ten year olds could beat me
all hollow on skis.
The winter I was in Norway I
took an extensive and thorough
course in double-entry bookkeep-
ing and accounting. The course
was given by a professor of eco-
nomics and accounting from the
University of Christiania, and has
been of great value to me all
through my business career.
Chapter 6
I returned to Beloit in October,
1879, and secured a job as book-
keeper in the Citizens National
bank, where I remained for about
four months, until my father took
me in as a partner in the business
under the firm name of J. Thomp-
son & Sons. In this business I
have continued all my life and
never worked for anyone else.
1881 was the year of the big
flood when the dam went out. That
winter there had been a very
heavy fall ot snow all through
Wisconsin, and the snow remained
until way into April. I remember
there was considerable worry and
anxiety over what might happen
if the weather turned suddenly
And this is just what happen-
ed. About the middle of the
month, I think it was the 20th,
the headgates at the head of the
race gave way -nd the water
rushed down the race and broke
through the dikes and flooded
Third Street and the down town
area. It looked as though the
whole business district was going
to be wiped out. The water rush-
ed around the north end of our
factory building on its way to the
river and cut a deep channel, but
fortunately, our north wall did
not collapse. I was in a boat and
narrowly escaped being carried
down in the torrent.
That day was an anxious day.
The next night about 3 a.m. the
dam broke with a great rush of
water. Six men in a boat were
just crossing the river above the
dam, and were carried down in
the rush of water. All    were
drowned except one man who
clung to the boat and was car-
ried down to   Boney's   Island,
south of Beloit, where he manag-
ed to climb into a tree. The next
day he was rescued. John Cun-
ningham and some others went
down in a boat and brought him
to land. The dam was rebuilt and
made stronger and better and has
stood the strain ever since.
In 1883 we had the big cyclone.
The storm came on in the late
afternoon. We could see the black
clouds coming over from the west,
and all of a sudden about 5 p.m.
the blast came. It seemed to be
all over in a minute or two, but
the damage done was great. When
it struck we were in our office in
Third Street. Soon the water came
pouring down through the roof, as
the tin roofing was gone.
The storm c a m e up from
the southwest and followed the
path of the river and swept
through the main business district.
The old covered Northwestern R.
R. bridge was torn from its piers
and thrown into the river. Many
store fronts on the south side of
West Grand Avenue were blown
out and demolished. Plate glass
windows along the streets were
shattered. The roof of Bort Bailey
Dry Goods store was ripped off
and the streets were littered with
glass and roof materials.
Two churches lost their spires.
The steeple of the Presbyterian
church in Broad st. was blown
down, also the 200 foot steeple of
the First Congregational church.
The tall steeple of the Baptist
church was badly damaged but did
not fall. It was bent over to one
side, but seemed firm and remain-
ed standing till the church was
burned. The clock in the First
Congregational steeple was not in-
jured and continued to run.

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