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The Hurricane of '38 | Article

Raymond A. Dennehy

A building is upended in Massachusetts. The Standard-Times

On September 21, 1938, the 1 pm tee-off at the Kittansett Golf Club in Marion, Massachusetts, was reserved for Charles Peirson, the club treasurer, John MacDonald, a member, and the golf pro, Raymond A. Dennehy.

Raymond A. Dennehy: It was only blowing and cloudy to begin with, but pretty soon, it got serious. We hit some of the longest damned shots with the wind.

Peirson had the drive of the day on the fourth hole with the wind at his back. A dogleg around a stand of 40 foot trees, the pin is 350 yards from the tee. All three men saw the ball head toward the green.

Raymond A. Dennehy: We never found the ball but there is no doubt that it carried the corner, went over the green and into the woods.

Golfers in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, hitting into the wind, watched some of their drives fly straight up into the air. The Kittansett golfers found similar problems, called the game off, and returned to the clubhouse. When they got to the building, they realized the ocean had risen over the point and they were cut off from the mainland. MacDonald was showering and did not think to move his new Chrysler from its parking spot on low ground. With the windows closed, the car was airtight and floated away with the rising tide. He saw it in time to respond, "Damn, there go my golf clubs." Dennehy went to protect his own car.

Raymond A. Dennehy: I got into my car on the 18th green and parked it there. That's the highest land on the point. MacDonald waded through shoulder-high water to the club. I thought I would be better off in the car because buildings were beginning to go. Also, I had a German shepherd with me and I didn't want to risk letting him get loose in the storm.

From his car, he watched buildings fall apart and float by.

Raymond A. Dennehy: My whole golf shop started to disintegrate.

Raymond A. Dennehy: The yacht club was a substantial two-story building, on cement posts. The water rose around it and bit by bit, it just caved in and broke up, and three of the club cottages, too. It wasn't too long after that before I saw the wreckage of the yacht club come by. The clubhouse was demolished in much less than an hour.

Raymond A. Dennehy: My car was sitting in four feet of water. It was over the floorboards. I was one scared guy. I don't like water much.

Raymond A. Dennehy: With all the buildings going down, I thought the clubhouse would be next. Its first floor was flooded and everybody in it went to the second floor, except that there were a couple of women and they grew so nervous, feeling the building wouldn't last, that they persuaded somebody to put them into an oak tree ...next to the building. They didn't know it, but the tree was covered with poison ivy; they got a terrible case of it.

The four people seeking sanctuary, the manager of the club dining room and three caddies, stayed in the oak tree for three hours until the water receded.

Raymond A. Dennehy: I think I was probably in the car about four hours. Finally, the tide went out, awfully fast, and the water was fully of wreckage. Everywhere, there were boulders, sand, and debris. There was a bathtub on the fairway; it came out of one of the cottages.

Raymond A. Dennehy: That was Wednesday. We were suppose to have our big four-ball tournament for 150 golfers on Friday. I called my boss in Andover and told him we couldn't have it because everything was ruined. They hadn't gotten much storm there and he didn't believe me. He said, 'Have you been drinking?' and I said, 'No, but I wish to hell I had.'

The tournament was called off.

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