Snow memories from a February long ago
February 20, 2003 
This page by Virginia Rutledge Gharky

Snow is beautiful to me. It covers the bleak and dead scenes of our sleeping earth in winter, while blanketing plants in protection from the cold. There is abounding beauty with snow layered on limbs of trees, fences, and anything else in its path ... like covers of cotton.

Growing up in Belsano and Twin Rocks was a gift of God. We had so much snow, sometimes beginning long before Thanksgiving, and often remaining well into April. As a child I learned from siblings the fun snow brought as we made forts, had snow ball battles, sculpted snowmen, washed faces of our favorite friends, and spent hours sledding. How we hated chains on car tires that chewed chunks of icy patches. Worse yet on roads were cinders and ashes spread that stopped sled runners on a dime with nine cents change.

Snow was part of the four seasons where we lived, and we accepted it. I don't recall anyone cursing or complaining about it. Oh, we did talk about it, but only to say how deep it was, and whether or not one should drive in it. Fewer had autos then; most of us walked our journeys. Perhaps that's when I learned to love the awesome blue atmosphere, the quietness snow brings, and the huge flakes in their intricate designs with no two alike that stayed briefly on my coat as I walked.

Living on the side of a hill in an old plank house without insulation, it was normal to awaken to snow on window sills and frosted panes that gave us opportunities to scratch our names and amateur drawings. At least three of us girls slept in one double bed weighted down with blankets and coats to keep us warm. In spite of my claustrophobia, I didn't mind putting my face under the covers; it was warmer for my nose. I do recall, though, that I hated to get out to go to the bathroom (it was at the end of a snowy path and contained a Sears, Roebuck catalog year around).

Other memories of winter were: Dad making us homemade ice cream, cranking the handle easily (so we thought) ... meals from jars of home canned foods from the cellar (not a basement) ... lines of Fels Naptha-scented laundry, always on Mondays, criss-crossing the kitchen ... icicles so long we could reach up to knock them off and save a choice specimen to eat ... coming in after hours of play or walks home from church or school to the wood and coal stove that comforted us quickly ... layers of clothing and snow pants ... artics and boots ... mittens matted with miniature icy snow balls that caused sizzles from the stove as they were drying ... scarves and babushkas ... family evenings of reading sessions ... playing Monopoly and listening to the radio ... jigsaw puzzles from Christmas gift exchanges ... setting up tents in the corner of the living room, using the davenport as our sturdiest base ... playing with paper doll cutouts or coloring ... making hats, boats, or planes with old newspapers or used tablet sheets ... singing songs, carols, and hymns in harmony with Mom's leadership on the old piano (with at least a score of missing ivories) and for Dad's enjoyment (who requested all his favorites) ... and working hobbies (embroidery, crochet, model airplanes, etc.). We never confessed that we had nothing to do, because if the aforementioned wasn't enough, Mom always had a floor to scrub or cupboards to clean.

Snow storms, slight or big, were what we had. Blizzards were something we heard about where people got lost in journeys and froze to death. Today on the news I watched a reporter run to the top of snow bank about three feet high and shout his story, as though he were on a mountain top. Comparisons of “devastating, horrific blizzards” in past years were refreshed for us. Snow storms were what they were, but snow storms are not as sensational to report, so they are tagged blizzards. Each person with a microphone almost in his mouth and a camera on him tells his plights, hardships, and opinions that are basically “poor me” stories.

I remember a February 1958 snow storm (not blizzard) in Blacklick Township where plows could not open roads. Snow blowers were used. Piles of snow were as high as the cross pieces of utility poles, and car drivers had tunnel vision with the mounds ploughed up on both sides of roads. I didn't see anyone leap to the tops to report. I did see pictures with storm articles in the Nanty Glo Journal the next week.

Local youth Jon Kennedy reported on a woman who was pregnant and in labor through it all. After receiving a call for help, the road crew labored, too, for nine long hours to clear side roads to reach Route 422 where the young mother could be taken to a hospital. She was transported by road grader, tractor, and ambulance. Working so long and hard, the road crew lined the path made to the ambulance and cheered and applauded in victory and success. One might have thought the youthful mother was part of their families. With tears, the mother thanked them for their efforts. She made it to the hospital, and in twenty-two minutes gave birth to twin boys, with six minutes between births. Even Dave Garroway told the tale on the Today Show. Every local newspaper reported the event. For some, it was a story to report regarding the storm. For Jon, it was an article about a friend and an upper classman from high school days. For the mother, it was the joy of the gift of her sons, gratitude and praise to God for controlling the entire situation, and thanks to the heroic road crew who cared about others.

The snow storm lingered for weeks; it takes a long time to melt in those huge piles! It was quickly forgotten because snow storms were normal winter occurrences. Today, the tale would be relived on the news for weeks, and then year after year every inch would be reported in statistics. But I still don't think a reporter could leap upon the pile and shout the news of the impending blizzard. It is winter ... it snows in winter. Don't like it? Southern Arizona is awesome!

Blacklick Township | Nanty Glo | Vintondale | Jackson Township