About a week ago I posted another of the occasional History Mystery series. It featured this image from the family vaults of a vintage automobile stuck in the sand. I've blown it up as large as is prudent so you can follow the clues that I believe may explain how it came to be there.
To start with, I told you that the picture was taken at Point Pleasant, NJ. The car is thought by commenters to be an early 1940's era Dodge or Oldsmobile. This is definitely not my area of expertise, but after staring at the grill and hood ornament and comparing them to images available on line, I believe it is Dodge Coupe of postwar vintage, perhaps 1947. The model year is the critical piece of data from which all else follows in explaining this predicament.
To start with, the driver cannot be my Great-grandfather Archibald Gracie Ogden who died in 1932, nor either of his two sons Archie or Dayton who looked far different in the 1940s than the white-haired gentleman at the wheel. But even more interesting than that is the fact that the car did not drive into the sand. The photograph contains evidence that strongly suggests the sand came to the car.
The front left fender had a dent in the chrome and steel beside the left headlamp, while there is some vegetation - perhaps a seaside goldenrod - wedged around the chrome that surrounds the right headlamp. The sand and vegetation is matted down around the car, and there is standing water in the yard of the house at upper right. All of this points to a storm surge that flooded the car and heaped sand around it. One wonders if it ever started. My Great Aunt Margie owned a late 1960's Dodge Dart that she drove until the early 1990s when a storm brought three feet of water into her Point Pleasant garage and ruined the car.
If the car is a post-war model, then we can rule out at least one possible storm - the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944. Hurricane's Carol or Edna in 1954 are possibilities, though a sepia-toned photograph would appear to predate those events. Given that there is no other apparent storm damage on the houses or trees in the image, I would suspect that it was a storm of less than hurricane strength that brought the sea over the dunes and around the car. One storm that would fit this time frame and intensity would be Hurricane Able, which was downgraded to a tropical depression when it crossed the northern portion of New Jersey on September 1, 1950.
More: (1/18/2008) An old friend of my Great Uncle Archie, Mr. Anthony Turner, writes to confirm that the Dodge is indeed a 1942 model. He also reminds me that there were inland waterways at Point Pleasant: "a couple of inland lakes and parts of the Manasquan River and the Manasquan-Bay Head Canal." You can see one of these in the detail at right between the two houses, but I believe there is also standing water that is not part of those waterbodies in the yard of the small house at right. You can see the reflection of a shrub at the corner of the building in the water. I'm still going with the storm surge theory, but now must consider whether the 1944 Hurricane could be the culprit.
Still more: Welcome, Carnival of Wheels readers!