ZERSCHLING: Half-century of Sioux City floods captured in postcard collection

2013-01-16T22:00:00Z 2014-06-27T13:04:20Z ZERSCHLING: Half-century of Sioux City floods captured in postcard collectionLYNN ZERSCHLING lzerschling@siouxcityjournal.com Sioux City Journal

"The new elevated railroad became a life saving anchor when a devastating flood struck on May 18, 1892."

(Narrative under a picture postcard.)

That scene shows people standing on the railway above the flooding Floyd River. The city's elevated railway linked downtown with Morningside.

The card belongs to Dave Bishop, who has been collecting postcards for almost 50 years. More than two dozen are on display at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, at 900 Chris Larsen Park Road, and showcase more than half a century of flooding in Sioux City.

“It’s not so much just the pictures, but the stories they tell and what was written on the back,” said Bishop, a Sioux City police sergeant. “For only a couple of pennies, people could stay in contact.”

A century ago, postcards kept people in touch, much like emailing and texting do today.

Bishop, who grew up in Leeds, started collecting in grade school after his teacher gave postcards to her pupils following her honeymoon to Galveston, Texas, in 1963.

“She typed the message on the back of what the picture showed,” Bishop said. “I just got interested and have been collecting them ever since.”

His collection zoomed to around 5,000, and eventually he searched only for cards with a Sioux City historical connection. Bishop continued to collect postcards while a student at Morningside College, where he graduated in 1974, and after joining the police department the following year. 

Interpretive center Director Marcia Poole helped Bishop select the postcards to display. They feature photographs of the flooding along Perry Creek starting in 1892, the Floyd River and ending with the 1952 Missouri River flood.

“It was kind of like a jigsaw puzzle to put this together,” she said.

Poole researched information about the floods, businesses and people pictured and wrote the narrative. She had them professionally mounted and hung in “The Crossroads,” the hallway linking the interpretive center with the adjoining Betty Strong Encounter Center.

She enlarged an 1898 city map pinpointing the locations of the postcard scenes. Two photos are landscape-art size, including the photograph of the Municipal Auditorium surrounded by a berm to keep Missouri floodwaters at bay in 1952.

Bishop pointed to one card that pictures the back of a streetcar driving through 1908 floodwaters on West Seventh Street. On the back is a large advertisement for C.W. Parker’s carnival show in town that week. In the next postcard, Parker is shown walking through the floodwaters at West Ninth and Omaha streets.

On the back of that card, someone named Fred S. wrote, ”Parker brings rain wherever he goes.” He sent the card to Mrs. Edgar Buchanan in Salina, Kan.

Bishop will present a program about his postcard collection at 2 p.m. Feb. 10 at the interpretive center. The public is invited to attend at no charge.

“The postcards are a mini history book that shows how Sioux City looked and how it progressed,” he said. “You can't do this for almost 50 years and not enjoy history.”

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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