Manchester, NH Flood, Mar 1936

Thousands of persons were out this morning watching the Merrimack and Piscataquog rivers. The police had no difficulty in keeping the crowds back. Hundreds obtained vantage points on the North Weare branch railroad overpass and had a good view of the flooded area south to the shoe factories. Granite bridge was crowded with pedestrians who watched the rise of the river. Hundreds more were on Amoskeag bridge until it was closed. A large crowd was at the South Main street bridge until it was closed.

In order to get an idea of the situation throughout the city, Mayor Caron left at 1 o’clock for a general tour of inspection in company with police and highway officials.

Manchester Leader and Evening Union, Manchester, NH 20 Mar 1936


Heroic Police, Volunteers Save 32 from Death in Piscataquog

Two Animal Trainers Trapped on Roof Snatched Just in Time and Groux Island Couple Has No Less Narrow Escape

One thrilling rescue after another, beginning last night and climaxed at noon today, took place along the banks of the raging Piscataquog river in West Manchester, until the lives of 32 men and women had been snatched from sure death by police and civilians.

Police at dawn enacted a movie thriller as they rescued Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Kemes of Cleveland street as they clung to the roof of their Groux’s island home in a last desperate effort to hang on.

Early this morning, two animal trainers, who handle the zoo family on Second street, became stranded on the zoo roof, and were rescued only after a desperate five hour battle with the currents by police and neighbors.

Shortly before noon, the two men, Capt. V. H. Walker, trainer, and his assistant, Boyd Arquette, both of 39 Winter street, jumped from their rooftop perch into a waiting boat and one at a time were landed on the “shore,” then located at Blaine and Second streets.

For close to five hours the men had been pacing back and forth on the roof, partly nervousness and partly to keep warm, as the branches of the raging Piscataquog continued to climb the sides of the building, and water, floating ice cakes and general debris battered the walls and kept the structure constantly a tremble.

Police Work Hours

Inspectors Walter C. Suosso and Joseph Pouliot had made a series of desperate efforts to reach the stranded men by the down current route, had come close and barely escaped with their lives, and were on another desperate dash, when two local men, battling the river from the lower route, suddenly smacked the boat against the tottering temporary zoo.

Jules Chapdelaine and Arthur Carreau of 50 Cleveland street were the boat’s pilots. Keeping cool and counting every move carefully they foresaw the danger of overloading the small craft and ordered the men to come down singly. Captain Walker was the first rescued, after he had jumped down two shed roofs and was shortly on “shore.” With the smile of victory on their faces Chapdelaine and Carreau, then sure of their route, heroically dashed back to the zoo and shortly had Arquette too, on land.


The rescued men were taken by police to the office of the Manchester Dairy System, Second street, where the office girls soon had hot coffee ready and made their guests comfortable otherwise. Captain Walker, interviewed by a Leader reporter, said he and his pal had worked all night in a desperate effort to save the lives of the animals and in doing so found themselves in turn imprisoned by the flood.

They helped each other to the rooftop at 7:30 this morning and for the next four and a half hours paced about the roof. As the water rose, other buildings in the area gave way, their own perch trembled and they figured it only a matter of time when they would go careening down the river atop the building, heading for sure death.