The Coleslaw that Survived the 1937 Flood


Grandma’s Famous Coleslaw


Today, January 26,  marks the 80th anniversary of the day the 1937 Flood water crested at its highest point.  Thousands of people up and down the Ohio River were flooded out of their homes.   Some went to shelters, others were lucky enough to bunk with family.

 When my father and mother met at a Dance Under the Stars at Ault Park they soon learned they had relatives living within doors of each other.   They had probably even seen or bumped into each other as kids visiting those relatives.   My mother’s paternal grandparents and my Dad’s Aunt Emma and children lived two doors down from each other.    My grandpa had actually gone out on a date with my dad’s cousin Sylvia before he met my Grandma.

My great grandparents and my Aunt Emma were lucky enough to live up on the hill in Dayton, Kentucky, out of the wrath of the 1937 flood waters.  Both hosted family who lived closer to the river for several weeks, feeding them and clothing them.     Those that didn’t have relatives had to go to makeshift shelters in Church basements and school gymnasiums.      Both sets of relatives were good cooks.   Great Grandma and Grandpa had grown up on farms and Great Grandma Ling was used to cooking meals for men who spent 10 hours a day in the fields and tending livestock.

 Staying with Aunt Emma would have been a treat for her relatives too.    She loved to cook.    She cooked for Cincinnati Public schools cafeterias, and at Ft, Scott Boy Scout Summercamp.   Her last job before retirement was  a nanny for a  family of seven children in Price Hill whose mother was ill for many years.  She certainly cooked for them.    So, I wondered, what type of meals did they serve their displaced relatives during those cold and sorrowful days of the 1937 Flood? 


Here’s where the coleslaw comes in.   When my paternal grandparents married, my Grandfather learned his new wife, Emma’ sister, didn’t know much about cooking.  She had been the youngest of four sisters, and didn’t have to do much cooking growing up.  Her older sisters, Rose, Emma, and Mayme and her mother were all fantastic cooks.  Grandma said she learned how to cook from their first landlady at their apartment in Newport – a German lady named Mrs. Herzog.    She taught her hwo to make her first cherry pie.

 Grandma would learn and become a fantastic cook, getting recipes from her sisters.   Her father-in-law would brag to his Cumminsville neighbors about how good her barley soup was.    One of the recipes of Grandma’s that lasts is her cole slaw recipe.   It’s simple and one of those every day dishes, but its good.   My cousin Dave made it for our family reunion last year.    It found its way to my other grandmother’s recipes with the note “Mrs Woellert’s Recipe – Very good!”      As a teenager I would cut her grass and she would make fresh cole slaw to go with our lunchmeat sandwiches.   I was amazed at how she would turn a head of cabbage and some other ingredients into the most delicious cole slaw. 


Enjoying Grandma’s famous coleslaw at the family reunion. 

So I thought, this recipe, from Grandma’s family was one of the things Aunt Emma would have definitely served her displaced relatives staying in her house during the 1937 Flood –  the simple, but delicious coleslaw that survived the worst flood we’ve seen.



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