XENIA — Jane Marshall, daughter of former Xenia mayor Walter Marshall, was away at college when her hometown was hit by an F5 tornado on April 3, 1974, and getting news about her family proved to be a challenge.
Marshall was attending what was then Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio. Tim Shaw, another Xenia High School graduate who ran track at Muskingum, called her that evening to let her know there had been a tornado in Xenia.
“Tim used a payphone to call me around 6 p.m. and I remember watching it on the 11 o’clock news in my dorm that evening,” Marshall said. “That’s where I saw the phone number to call for information. I remember trying to get through but the line was always busy. I tried between classes the next day.”
Her father was able to get a message to her aunt in Columbus who then called Marshall April 4. She learned that her father and their home on Ankeney-Mill Road were fine but her mother was not home from work yet.
“My mom was a Greene County branch librarian and happened to be at the Bellbrook branch that day,” said Marshall. “I didn’t know if Mom was okay for several days. It was very difficult to get any information when you were far away. It was so different than it is now.”
The following Wednesday when Marshall made it home, martial law was still in effect in Xenia.
“Law enforcement were still checking people coming in and you had to have a reason to be there,” Marshall said. “It was so bad. My dad said he watched the tornado go by from the large plate glass windows where he worked. I don’t think anyone understood how bad a tornado was then. There were no sirens in Xenia until after that tornado.”