The year was 1938 and many countries were still engulfed in the Great Depression. Rumblings of World War II were heard as Hitler and the Nazis grew in power. In Germany, laws were passed disenfranchising the Jewish population and in October an estimated 15,000 Jewish people, originally from Poland, were sent to the Polish border. Enraged by his parentsâ€™ deportation, a seventeen-year-old assassinated the Third Secretary of the German Embassy in Paris. This gave the Nazis the excuse they needed and on the night of 9 November, Nazis stormed through cities burning synagogues and breaking windows in Jewish homes and businesses. 30,000 Jewish men were imprisoned in concentration camps. The sounds of breaking glass gave the infamous night its name–Kristallnacht.
On 21 September, disaster struck New York and New England in the form of a category three hurricane nicknamed the Long Island Express. Only one weather forecaster saw it coming and he was overruled by others in the Weather Bureau who believed it would turn back out to sea before posing a threat. At 3:30 p.m. just before an astronomical high tide, the storm struck Long Island with fourteen to eighteen foot tides and moved across to New England, hitting Rhode Island particularly hard. In the end, it was estimated that the storm was responsible for 700 deaths and another more than 700 injured. It destroyed 4,500 homes and farms and damaged another 15,000. Cars, electrical and telephone lines, livestock, produce, boats, and shoreline commerce were also devastated.Â
On what is referred to as “Black Sunday” the seas also claimed five lives in Australia that year. It seemed to be just a day at the shore, three waves in quick succession flooded the beach. As the water receded beachgoers were pulled out to sea and three hundred people had to be rescued.
Another disaster that year was of the fictional variety, but it brought panic nonetheless, as mass hysteria gripped thousands of radio listeners when the Mercury Theater broadcasted its dramatization of the H.G. Wells science fiction work, War of the Worlds.Â
In other entertainment news that year, Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics, and a wily rabbit named Bugs Bunny debutedÂ in the cartoon “Porky’s Hare Hunt.”
A Depression-weary America embraced an unlikely hero in the form of a long-shot racing horse named Seabiscuit.Â His story and that of his owner, trainer, and the jockeys who rode him to victory has been immortalized in books and movies.
Movies from 1938 include The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn; Boys Town; and one of Juliana’s favorites, Bringing Up Baby, with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Favorite tunes of the year included A-Tisket, A Tasket, Jeepers Creepers, You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby, and Whistle While You Work, which had been introduced the previous year in the Disney classic, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
Image from the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry: New England hurricane. Chicken house between Worcester and Amherst, State/Province: Massachusetts, 1938.Â