A cold wind whipped through the buttes and chilled the small town of Yuba City on a wet Christmas Eve. Residents prepared for the following morning, filled with the joy of the season, but also with a watchful eye on the Feather and Yuba Rivers, swollen with winter rain. At four minutes past midnight, the emergency announcement went out and visions of sugarplums were dashed, as parents snatched sleeping children from their beds and headed for higher ground. It had been a valiant effort to save the failing levees, seepage showing their weakness. Crews worked feverishly to shore up potential breaches, but efforts were in vain. Washed out from underneath, the levee just south of Yuba City gave way. A wall of water raced toward the tiny community. Residents scrambled for safety, but misfortune found 38 wrestling them from their sanctuary and sweeping them into the night. Over 450 homes were destroyed and nearly twelve thousand people were evacuated.
Recent events have given many a new appreciation for the potential danger presented by flooding, but history, so easily forgotten, poses the risk of our repeating the mistakes of the past. Not easily forgotten by victims of the 1955 Yuba City flood is the kindness and good will of those who helped them rebuild their lives, including the Christmas celebration washed away by the heavy rains of one of the wettest seasons California has seen.
Working closely with residents, the Red Cross provided disaster relief, helping families get back on their feet and, in February, the Lions Club sponsored a Christmas celebration for the community. Bringing fun and whimsy to the event, The Mousketeers were dispatched for their first “road trip” to perform at Yuba City High School.
Newsreels of the event show the troop of ear clad performers arriving and nearly being blown off the tarmac, but their performance warmed the crowd as they danced and sang in celebration of the season missed by the town residents. Walt Disney contributed to communities across the nation, sharing the Disney talents for the “greater good” without fanfare. His humble philanthropy has touched the lives of millions.
From his early days with the Red Cross and continuing today, Walt Disney is a true example of giving from the heart.