Letters to the Editor

Memories of the 1919 Starch Works explosion

My parents, John and Cecelia (Kelly) Griffin, had just moved to Cedar Rapids from Anamosa where my dad had been a guard at the reformatory. They were in search of a new job for my dad and a better future for themselves and their almost two-year-old son, Donald, and a baby due on May 1, 1919 (born April 30, 1919). He was lucky enough to find a job at the Starch Works plant.

Not owning a car, they were again lucky enough to find a house to rent at 118 2nd St NW (where 1st Ave meets I-380) so my dad could walk back and forth to work, and walk home to eat his supper mid shift — which he did on May 22, 1919. He walked home for his supper ... Thank God. While eating, they heard the big explosion. Not knowing what it was, my dad headed back to work to find the devastation. He spent that night and the next several days helping to recover bodies and remains from the scene. He told me it was something he would never forget.

We were grateful all our lives that he walked home for his supper.

Joanne Glynn

Cedar Rapids

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