Great to be back, Anna.
I generally write historical novels. I enjoy the research that goes into bringing the reader into another time. But while digging through old memoirs and newspapers for one bit of information, it’s easy to stumble onto other intriguing pieces of history that would be great to incorporate into another story sometime.
While doing research for my novella, Another Waltz, which takes place in Boston, I came across a news story from 1919 that eventually inspired my new short story, After the Dark.
January 15, 1919 was an unseasonably warm day. World War I had ended in August. The Spanish Influenza Pandemic that had swept the nation, killing thousands was ending and this warm day on the North End of Boston lifted everyone’s spirits.
A common sight for residents was fifty foot molasses storage tank owned by the United States Industrial Alcohol. Molasses would drip from the seams and children would come with their pails to collect it. The company first painted the tank brown then shortly before Christmas a workman on scaffolding caulked the seams.
Temperatures were in the teens and on Sunday the 12th a ship unloaded 600,000 gallons of molasses on top of the molasses already in the tank.
On Wednesday the temperatures rose to forty degrees, drawing everyone outdoors and silently warming the molasses. Just after noon, the seams of the tank ruptured, spilling 2.3 million gallons of molasses in a 15 foot wave through Boston’s North End.
Traveling at thirty-five miles perhour, the wave of molasses slammed into people and buildings with 26,000,000 pounds of force. The supports of the elevated train were twisted, wooden homes flattened, the city livery and the North End paving yard were destroyed, and the brick fire station was knocked off its foundation as the second floor pancaked onto the first.
Twenty-one people were killed, and one hundred and fifty injured, some of which had lifelong disability as a result. Property damage was estimated to be more than a million dollars by today’s standard.
The tank’s owners claimed anarchists had dynamited the tank in protest of the United States government. After a ten-year court battle, United States Industrial Alcohol was found liable for the structural failure and ordered to pay compensation to the victims of the disaster, who were mostly poor Irish and Italian immigrants.
The warmth of Rosalie’s palm pressed against his free hand. Heat rushed to his cheeks, and between their palms, his skin dampened. He laced his fingers with hers. With the pad of his thumb, he traced the top of her hand. Her skin was so smooth. Were all women this soft, or had he just never noticed?
She tugged him forward, and loath to release his hold, he followed her up the steps.
He cast one quick glance over his shoulder toward the city livery and blacksmith shop. He should return to his beat, walk around the tank, and chase away the lads
and lasses who’d come with their pails to collect the constantly dripping molasses.
But when he looked back at Rosalie, a secretive smile teased the edges of her full lips, as though she were aware of her own seductive power over him. And like a green lad, fresh off the boat, he allowed her to lead him inside.
Kathy is the author of three historical novels and multiple novellas and short stories. She is a workshop presenter and teaches fiction writing at an area adult education center. The mother of three grown children and one grandchild, she lives in the open farm country of western NY with her husband of thirty-two years. She enjoys taking long walks with her German Shepherd, Max, through the fields and woods near her home. In the winter she likes to curl up with a good book and one or two of her four cats, while the snow blows outside. In between family, work, and animals, she can be found at her computer weaving stories of laughter, heartache, and love for the crazy cast of characters swirling around in her head.
You can contact Kathy