Tales from Ocean City: Margaret Minichino

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Weathering the 1962 nor’easter are Rick Minichino, Margaret Minichino, Mario Minichino and Susan Minichino. Children not pictured are Robert Minichino, who was sick with the measles and Missy Minichino, who was not born yet, but alive in her mother’s belly. Also not in photo is dad, Sam, who was working for the city and busy trying to get people evacuated to safety. Weathering the 1962 nor’easter are Rick Minichino, Margaret Minichino, Mario Minichino and Susan Minichino. Children not pictured are Robert Minichino, who was sick with the measles and Missy Minichino, who was not born yet, but alive in her mother’s belly. Also not in photo is dad, Sam, who was working for the city and busy trying to get people evacuated to safety.

Sam and Margaret Minichino and their four children: Susan, Robert, Richard and Mario, lived at 936 Pleasure Ave., a stone’s throw from the Ninth Street bridge. Margaret Minichino was expecting the family’s fifth child when the water started rising on March 6, 1962.

“It was quite an ordeal,” Margaret said, of the storm that would define their lives and in the end, offer a new career for her husband. “Ocean City survived, but everything was ruined.

“I will remember that storm for the rest of my life,” she said. “It’s like it happened yesterday, I can’t believe it’s been 50 years!

“At first it seemed like an ordinary nor’easter,” she said. “The wind started picking up and the water was getting higher and higher. When I saw the debris start floating by, I got worried.”

Sam, who worked for the city, headed for duty.

“After a while, he called and said it seemed as though the storm was intensifying,” she said. “There was no call to evacuate yet, so he said to hang tight. The kids were looking out the window, fascinated. They were watching telephone poles float by, now that’s pretty unusual. They were looking out the window facing Ninth Street, and just about everything you can imagine was floating past. Everything was piling up by the fence in the parking lot at Hogate’s Restaurant.

“All of the sudden the kids shouted to me, ‘Mom, Mom! Look what’s coming!’ It was a bathtub, floating down the street. Honest to goodness, it was being pushed by a log. We laughed and laughed; it was a funny moment.”

The humor didn’t last, however, as the enormity of the situation enveloped her. She had four young children, was expecting the fifth and two of her children had the measles. Yes, the water was about to come into the house.

“My husband called, the gas was cut off, we had to get out,” she said. “He told me to pack a suitcase and get ready.”

Margaret dressed the children in heavy, warm pajamas and snowsuits. Help didn’t arrive for quite a while.

“We read books,” she said. “The wind was awful. I was scared, but I tried not to let them sense my fear. Here we are, at 1 a.m. eating ice cream. No one could sleep and they were having trouble getting to us, to rescue us.

“As the night wore on, there was a fire at 10th Street and West Avenue, we could see it,” she said. “The fire hydrants were all under water, the fire trucks couldn’t get to it. So it burned so brightly and really scared us. It lit the sky up. I closed the venetian blinds, but I got scared. Water and flooding I could deal with, but what could I do with a fire coming at us?

“I packed up the medicine and some snacks,” she said. “I thought we might never be able to come back to our home. They finally came to get us.”

The family’s pet Collie, Goldy, had to stay behind. “I felt awful about that. They wouldn’t allow pets.”

When Margaret tried to call for help, there was one big conversation on the line, like a party line.

“One woman was screaming, ‘Help me, help me,’ and it was so frightening,” she said. “I have no idea who she was or if she ever got help. I finally got through and got out.”

The National Guard arrived and transported the family to Ocean City High School.

“There was a nurse there,” she said. “My children were sick and so frightened. The people at the high school knew we had two with the measles, so we got our own room. Volunteers would come by and pick up the laundry for us; they would take it to the home-ec room and wash it and return it.  We had cots to sleep on; they really took wonderful care of us. They brought trays of food. We didn’t want for anything.”

Dr. Robert Cornwell, a local physician, came to visit the high school each day.

“He was wonderful,” she said. “There were quite a few children with the measles. It was reassuring to see him every day. He made sure all of those children were OK.”

When the storm subsided, Margaret returned home to find her house mostly intact.

“There was seaweed in the door, and it actually stopped the water from coming in,” she said. “There was so much seaweed and debris, it plugged it up. We had some water come up in the ash pit of the fireplace, but that was it.”

Sam Minichino found the dog on top of the refrigerator.

“He was so scared!” she said. “Sam got back in several times to check on him.”

Still, the county health department wouldn’t allow the family to live in their home when the storm subsided.

“Everything was contaminated, the sewers had spilled out,” she said. “We had to clean everything with creosote before we could get back in. It was hard to find food at first, we collected water. We spent days cleaning that house so we could live in it again.”

Sam’s mother had over a foot of water in her home.

“There was mud and debris everywhere,” she said. “In the car, the water was up over the seat. We helped get her house cleaned up, too. She lived over on 10th Street.”

Margaret said the devastation is etched in her mind. The boardwalk was chopped to bits; houses were overturned, roofs blown off. What wasn’t consumed by water in some areas was destroyed by fire.

Cleaning up after the storm opened up a new opportunity for Sam. Aside from cleaning, many of the houses had to be “shored up” and he became the go-to man.

“We had quite a business going,” she said. “He worked very hard and the kids helped, too. The houses had to be level, and Sam could do it. It really was, as sad as it was, quite an opportunity. He was then hired to build the Ocean City Municipal Golf Course.”

“Sam watched the boardwalk wash away, he was everywhere during the storm, working for the city,” she said. “We made it through, and I often say a prayer that it never happens again. The storm really took a life of its own.”

In October 1962 Margaret gave birth to her fifth child, a little girl named Margaret.


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