“The weather had been disagreeable… about noon that day, I had sniffed the air — hot, heavy, humid, with angry winds that fretted the trees along the driveway, and I had remarked ‘This feels like tornado weather…’ no one, including me, listened to my warning. The afternoon was harried by thunder, lightening, wind and rain, but toward nightfall, calm seemed to descend upon the city.”
This was the written recollection of Rosiland Schwab of an early point in what would become a harrowing evening for her and a great many other Cincinnatians – this date of August 9, in 1969. A tornado ripped through northern and eastern sections of the city that Saturday night causing 5 deaths, over 300 injured, and more than 14 million dollars in damage. This subject is of some interest to me personally, as it was one of two major tornadoes to pass through my native town of Cincinnati during my lifetime (the other being in April of 1974). I have a personal recollection of the event, and my father who was a Cincinnati Fireman at the time participated in some of the cleanup and rescue operations, so he happened to save a copy of the Cincinnati Enquirer from the next morning. Also, I managed with the help of the staff of the Main Library in downtown Cincinnati to unearth a hidden little gem in the fascinating and engaging account of Mrs. Rosiland Schwab. With these resources, I’ve been able to work out a rough narrative of events that evening.
The Tornado Touches Down Suddenly Near Reading & Galbraith Rd.
Rosiland, by then an 80 year old great-grandmother, had gone out to dinner with three friends of hers at MacIntosh’s, a Scottish themed restaurant near the Hyde Park section of (eastern) Cincinnati. At about 7:20 p.m. that evening a funnel cloud touched down near Reading and Galbraith Roads. This was the area which was the hardest hit by the storm. The storm then moved on an eastward path, beating down on Golf Manor, Deer Park, Madiera and Indian Hill. By 10:30 p.m., Madiera had been declared a disaster area by that suburb’s mayor, Dan McDonald. Rosiland had noticed nothing in her booth at MacIntosh’s except some flickering of the lights….
“When suddenly it struck; a crash of thunder, a roar, the screech of a roof torn away, walls collapsing, a giant hand pushing relentlessly against me, a blast of missiles, a brown darkness, crash and again crash. I remember the cry ‘Open the doors, open the doors!’… saw men struggling with the doors, saw the doors explode inward, brushing the men aside… felt my breath sucked from my lungs; I tried to think ‘What do you DO in a tornado? Lie down on the floor,’ so I gasped and threw myself on the welter of glass and broken shards. I felt the rain, pitiless, torrential, pelting my body like a rain of bullets.”
The Storm Cuts a Wide Path of Destruction
The destruction which struck at MacIntosh’s also struck at several other retaurants nearby, “The Upper Krust”, a restaurant at 172 Reading Rd. which had just recently re-opened from fire damage caught the full force of the funnel having it’s entire front section pulled off (pictured above). The yardmaster at the Penn Central Railroad said that at the Sharonville Yards the caboose was blown clear off of the tracks and into a nearby field. All of the mobile homes in the Arlington Trailer Park at
Elliot Ave. in Arlington Heights were toppled, and some 15 homes in that area were severely damaged. St. Gertrude Church at at Shawnee Run and Miami Rd.s in Madeira was having an outdoor festival when the tornado hit, collapsing the festival tent, causing numerous injuries. All of the residents of the “Lake Shore Estates” Apartment Complex on Galbraith Rd. were obliged to evacuate their homes due to extensive tornado damage. And grimmest of all, the bodies of three, a mother and her two children were recovered from an Apartment Complex in Hartwell. My father was among the firemen who made this sad discovery. Damage was done to property and trees also in the nearby village of Deer Park (pictured above). And I can remember my friend Stacey Woolleys’ grandmother, Sophia driving us through much of this area several days later, and seeing the large sign from a “Burger Chef” restaurant on Galbraith Rd. bent over and folded like a piece of paper.
Rosiland Makes it Home….
As for our Octogenarian heroine Rosiland, well she made it out of MacIntosh’s, and to a nearby shelter. From there, wearing a hospital smock and a leather jacket given to her by an anonymous “angel” (her description) she caught a ride home and after bathing to get all of the dust out of her hair, being treated by her doctor for minor cuts and bruises, and given a stiff drink, concluded her account as follows:
“About midnight… clean, fed, warmed by liquor, prettily (and modestly) nightgowned, I decided that I must try once more to report to my children. I dialed my son’s number and, making sure that my voice did not tremble, ‘Son’, I said ‘I guess I’m indestructible…'”
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The Cincinnati Enquirer, August 10, 1969
“The Cincinnati Tornado of Aug. 9, 1969: A Personal Narrative” by Rosiland Schwab