Hemingway's Hurricane

05:58
Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

Though devastating in its impact, Hurricane Katrina was not the most powerful storm to ever strike the US. Almost 70 years to the day before Katrina struck the most intense hurricane to ever make US landfall hit the middle of the Florida Keys on Labor Day 1935. Like Katrina, this killer storm struck at a spot where there were people ill equipped to protect themselves, get out of the way or deal with the immense power of the typhoon. And, like Katrina, those responsible for their safety and well being failed to act in time to save them. In 1935 approximately 600 WWI veterans (including some women and children) were camped in makeshift houses of plywood and metal working on the construction of the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys as part of the WPA during the New Deal era. Though the storm was monitored from positions of safety in Miami and Key West by supervisors of the project, work continued until the winds of the storm were actually being felt. A train was sent down to pull them out but it was far too late. The hurricane struck with sustained winds of over 200 mph and a 22 foot storm surge. 450 of the 600 stationed there were lost. Earnest Hemingway lived in Key West at that time and drank in the local saloons with many of his fellow WWI veterans. He took his fishing boat up to the area to lend aid to survivors, but found only bloated floating corpses. Outraged at the treatment of these brave men who had served their country so well he wrote scathing essays and was able to get a Congressional investigation of the matter commenced. However, also like Katrina, the public outrage sis not last long and the investigation accomplished little. As a consequence of his crusade on behalf of those lost to the storm it is referred to now as “Hemingway’s Hurricane.”

Lyrics

 

 

Hemingway lived down in old Key West, And he drank in the bars with Uncle Sam's best, And when he heard how they dies he flew off in a rage, His mighty pen roared at how they'd been betrayed, Oh his mighty pen roared at how they'd been betrayed. It was Labor Day, '35, Pressure falling on a rising tide, South by southeast, great wind with no name, Remembered as Hemingway's hurricane, Remembered now as Hemingway's hurricane. Now who left you there and who knows why, Old Papa demands with a firey eye, Careless or callous, no less blame, After three score and and ten relive the shame, And remember Hemingway's hurricane. Doughboys who fought World War I, Hard times upon them, Depression brung, New Deal jobs in the Florida Keys, Highway to build, the Overseas, Highway to build, the Overseas. C'mon send down that train, she's starting to blow, Too little too late no where to go, Just shacks and shanties of plywood and tin, Oh Lord watch over the souls of these men, Oh Lord watch over the souls of these men. Now who left you there, who knows why, Old Papa demands with a firey eye, Careless or callous, no less blame, After three score and and ten relive the shame, And remember Hemingway's hurricane. Then in 2005 another killer ‘cane blows, And the whole Gulf Coast drowns as the levies let go, Now was it careless or callous, more whitewash and blame, And after three score and ten we get more of the same, And remember Hemingway’s Hurricane. It was Labor Day, '35, Pressure falling on a rising tide.