NOTE: The following description is based on interviews of Robert E. Thomas during November, 2005, by his son Steve Thomas. For a more detailed account based on the recollections of Grace Loomis and Hazel and Orville Thomas. visit The Terrible Flood in The Elsie Corwin Stories.

The Great Flood of 1938

March 2, 1938, was the wettest day ever recorded in Los Angeles. Almost six inches of rain fell in Los Angeles during that one day, while close to fifteen inches of rain was measured at Opid's Camp. Prior to this storm, the ground had already become saturated by the heavy rains of the previous two days.

"On that Wednesday ... a wall of water swept down Alder Creek ... All of the smaller cabins were washed away, the waters even sweeping through the main cabin whose door was crashed in by a log riding the flood. It was all over in a few minutes but the damage done was great, many of the buildings were gone, and the landscape was sadly changed."

My Dad graduated from high school in February, 1938, at the age of sixteen. With no job at the time, an abundance of energy and youthful enthusiasm, and perhaps a taste for adventure, he volunteered to help clean up flood damage at the Ranch. His dad (Walter L Thomas, brother of Orval Thomas) drove him up to the Ranch in his 1928 Star four door sedan and dropped him off.

This was Dad’s first visit to the Ranch. The devastation was widespread; there was mud everywhere. The cabins across the creek had been destroyed. The main cabin, with its rock foundation and log walls, had withstood the wall of water that had rushed over over its roof. Mud and debris left by the torrent reached to the eaves and over the roof on the north (back) side of the cabin, and there was a layer of mud on the inside. There were many trees down, although some survived. Alder Creek was full of downed wood and debris, and the banks were heavily eroded.

Dad and another man [Note: This man was probably a family friend in his forties
with dark hair and medium build; his name may have been Ernie.]
began cleaning up the mess. "Ernie" did most of the repair work, while my Dad spent his time on heavy labor.

The first order of business was to dig out the doors of the main cabin. The mud inside was removed with shovels and wheel barrows and dumped along the creek to repair the banks. The remaining mess was mopped down with water hauled in from a nearby spring. Later, after they had fixed the pipe to a spring farther up the canyon, they had running water. They cleaned the downed wood from Alder Creek, and rebuilt the outhouse that had been destroyed.

They cooked, ate, and slept in the main cabin. Ernie did the cooking, as he was a better cook than my Dad. They cooked on the wood stove in the main cabin. They had a limitless supply of downed wood from the flood; splitting wood was a regular chore.

They did not take many breaks, and had few visitors. Potential tourists knew of the flood damage and stayed away, and locals were too busy on their own flood repair projects. Grandpa (Walter) Thomas drove in with food occasionally, and the Loomis family (my great Uncle Orval Thomas) visited and brought supplies for Ernie. At night they read books and magazines for entertainment.

There were no animals at the Ranch at that time. Dad does not recall a barn at that time; presumably, it was destroyed in the flood. They did have an old collie dog that Dad thinks belonged to Orval and Hazel Thomas, although it may have been the famous
Loomis Ranch collie.

After spending several months on cleanup, my Dad returned to his home in Los Angeles. Ernie stayed at the Ranch and continued the repair work.

Orval and Hazel moved into the Ranch a few years later and lived there with Grace until the early 1950s. Uncle Orval later rebuilt the cabins, perhaps with the help of contractors, and my parents later spent a week of their honeymoon in one of them.