At the time, John’s father, the Reverend Lester Myers, was the minister at the Orthodox Congregational Church in Mansfield. When Reverend Myers and his wife Elsie arrived home that evening after a harrowing drive from Seekonk—they had to drive through some residents’ backyards to avoid downed trees—and found that their son was okay, John says his mother grew concerned about the state of their church’s steeple. Likely unknown to Mrs. Myers at the time, the hurricane would knock down dozens of church steeples across New England that day, so her concern would prove justified.
John says his father tried to convince her otherwise, but his mom—who he described as ‘headstrong’—was undeterred, and set out in the storm to check on the steeple. “She walked about eight blocks in the middle of the hurricane,” John says. Both the steeple and Mrs. Myers survived, undamaged, John says, though his mother was reprimanded by a police officer. “[The steeple] didn’t have any damage at all,” John says. “But between that church and our house there were dozens of trees down.” Mrs. Myers’ adventure that night would become a running joke in the family for years to come.
On a sad note, Reverend Myers had to oversee a funeral service for a local mother and daughter who drowned in the storm. The pair had been staying at their summer home in Mattapoisett when the storm hit.
The hurricane caused one fatality on Martha’s Vineyard. Josephine Clark, a Jamaican cook working for the Thielen family, drowned while attempting to escape rising waves imperiling the family’s summer home. Benedict Thielen attempted to rescue her, to no avail.
A lifelong resident of the Vineyard, Jimmy Morgan, 89, was a teenager in 1938. In those years, he says most of the big storms—“they didn’t call them hurricanes back then”—would turn off shore, but that was not the case in 1938. “That one had a mind of its own,” he says.
Morgan recalls returning home from school that afternoon, and though the weather was not immediately alarming in Menemsha, it soon picked up. “I walked down to the harbor and the wind was increasing and the tide was coming up and things were starting to go adrift,” he says. “Some docks were coming up.”
Morgan’s family lived in a home overlooking the harbor, on what’s known today as Basin Road. During the height of the hurricane, Morgan says the storm surge came right up onto the edge of the lawn. “When you talk to an old-timer like me,” he adds, “you might want to get a second opinion. Maybe even a third opinion.”