Before my Aunt, Ruth Eicker, passed away, she shared her memoirs of her childhood with her family. If her mother (my Grandmother), Mary Endre, were to have boarded the Eastland on that fateful day, I would not be alive to share this story because my father, Charles Endre, would not have been born.
Among my Aunt's Memoirs was the following paragraph:
"Mom’s first-husband (Ralph), who was my father, who I really never knew, wasn’t much for work although he had a pretty good job and made pretty good money for those days. When I was almost a year old, lacking of three weeks, mom, dad and I were supposed to go on a picnic. His company had a picnic every year and this was the first one we ever were supposed to go to. So mom was a little excited, so she got me all dressed up and she was supposed to meet my dad on the Chicago Ave. bridge downtown. The only nice thing my dad (Ralph) ever did for us, was, he was late getting there. While mom was standing there with me in her arms, the ship that we were supposed to go on, to go to the picnic went down. Mom told me she was glad I didn’t understand because it was such a trauma. She said you couldn’t believe the shock to see this ship going down right before your eyes. She said people were screaming and children crying, it was terrible to hear all those people when they went down. They couldn’t save many of the passengers, and many whole families were lost. (About 800 people in all were drowned in the Chicago River just feet from the docks. It was July 24th, 1915 at 7:30 AM, the Eastland was leaving the Chicago Ave. bridge wharf, to take passengers to a picnic for the employees of Western Electric, when the ship slowly rolled over and sank to the bottom of the river.) If mom, my dad and I had been on the ship, I would not be writing this all now. I was three weeks shy of being one years old. Mom said, she was still sore at my dad for being late, but that he had a good excuse, so she was not sore at him anymore."
Our family has six individuals connected to AT&T and Western Electric that probably would not have existed had the Eastland Disaster turned out differently for us. Yet, it was a quiet story in our family history (survivor's remorse?). We knew more of the Titannic's rich and famous than our ancestor's saga. It is because of the Eastland Disaster Historical Society that the details of that day have made it clear that 58 individuals, 4 generations are alive and grateful.
Thanks to the EDHS for spreading the word of the Eastland. My Grandfather is a survivor of the disaster and my Great Grandfather died on the ship. We truly enjoy the stories and photos that many share. Thanks for all your work. We would also love to travel to Chicago for the 100th anniversary. Thanks again.
My Mother-in-Law survived the Disaster. Her almost-16-year-old brother did not survive. Through the Society we have been able to learn about the Disaster and have access to books, videos, etc. for our own use and for use in diseminating information locally here in ohio. Last year the Society was responsible for identifying the person who rescued Louise - literally pulled her from the water. If it were not for the Society we would never have known of this hero - nor would HIS descendants have known of his heroism.
As the descendant of both family members who perished and survived, it is important to me that the story of the Eastland not be lost. For almost a century it was the largest loss of life in a disaster in the U.S., but certainly not recognized for its historical significance. As a family, we are anxious to learn the details of the Eastland and Western Electric's role in Chicago industry and culture. The Eastland Disaster Historical Society has provided us with the opportunity to not only share our family's story and recognize our ancestors but also to become more informed. We are also able to participate in opportunities provided by the Society to honor the memory of all those who were lost.
Having a Society dedicated to compiling accurate records of those lost and those who survived provides those of us affected by the disaster and those interested in keeping history alive with a primary resource of information and a repository for more records.