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Southbridge History
AO and the Floods of 1938 and 1955

Click here for other Southbridge Flood info. Included are rare images of the devastation and an audio download of the WESO broadcast during the emergency!

AO and the Floods:

Two major floods associated with Hurricances caused significant destruction to the Southbridge, Mass. home of American Optical. These occured in 1938 and 1955. Below is the message that appeared in the Sept 1955 AO News from the President of AO.

As printed on Front Page of the AO NEWS - THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 1955 (Message from AO's President)

Flood Recovery Due to All AO People

To AO People:

Thank you.

I cannot open any message to you with any words but those.

Your wonderful response throughout the flood disaster has been the thing that has carried us through the crisis.

I think two things have been particularly significant. First is the way people have pitched in to do any job that has been necessary. Men -- and women, too -- have worked almost to the point of exhaustion on jobs no one could have ever hired them to do. Men who have spent their lives at desks and benches have turned in amazing jobs at hard labor.

The second is the spirit with which this has been done. There has been no complaining even under the most severe pressure. I have been heartened, and I know my associates have, too, by hearing laughter, joking, and even singing, from men sweating in the filth that was brought in by the flood waters.

We have always said that American Optical Company's greatest asset was its people. We have lost other assets. And the only thing that could make us face the future with increased confidence was the spirit and accomplishments of all of you. You have turned what might have been a death blow into an inspiration to do greater things.

E. W. Schumacher

Several Floods have occured at the AO Complex, the most recent and worst peaked on August 19, 1955. At that time,

the President of AO considered closing down the facility.

Various Recorded Flood Heights -Behind AO "Main Plant" in Southbridge before the Demolition
August 19, 1955 , September 21, 1938, March 19, 1936 & March 12, 1936
(Top height is 1955 Flood, Window Level is 1938 Flood)

Optical Heritage Museum link (includes 2009 photo recreation of 1955 Flood height at AO)

More Information on the Flood of 1955

Flood Control History After the 1955 Flood

Learn about the Flood of 1938

Learn about AO and the Floods

Fires of Southbridge

AO History Page

Southbridge History Page

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