Friday, November 16, 2018


     A favorite Thanksgiving memory I still enjoying sharing after all these years of living in Ohio is "The Truth Behind the Great Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950."
     We who were children at the time might remember that storm with affection, but it was actually a dangerous event, historic in snowfall depth and duration. It pounded the entire state and held Ohio hostage for weeks, blowing down wires and poles; blocking roads and railroad beds; shutting down schools, churches, stores, commercial and public buildings ... Fuel supplies dwindled, and nothing moved for at least five days---except, perhaps, for certain avid football fans.
     The storm had not abated when Ohio State and Michigan football teams gathered in Columbus for what would thereafter be known as the Blizzard Bowl. More than 50,000 fervent fans watched (or tried to watch) from the bleachers as the teams fought each other and the elements. In raging winds, swirling snows and five-degree temperatures, Michigan won 9-3, with both teams gaining only 27 total yards, with no first downs and 45 punts between the teams.
     Before the storm was over, Lake County had lost much of its valuable nursery stock to the weight of the snow. Snow removal became serious business; some municipalities transported the plowed snow in rail cars to the south; there was simply no place here for the plows to leave it.
     When temperatures freakishly rose by Dec. 2 to the 50s and 60s, clean-up was far from over; the world of Ohio was still a sloppy mess. And we had not returned to school,
     AT THE TIME, I was 10 years old, an elder child in a large family. My siblings would forever after know the truth as to how that storm was really made. The simple ingredients were an unseasonably warm day, a disintegrating snowman and a family of determined children.
     In the week before Thanksgiving, we kids had built a special snowman from a heavy, wet November snow that had quickly come and just as quickly gone. Our snowman had a coal-button smile and coal-buttons down his front, and for arms he sported sturdy branches. We decked him out in hat and scarf, and his ample waist was circled with a shiny Santa-style belt.
     We had made our snowman very tall, and we stood on milk crates to complete his upper portions. We buffed his surface into ice and were convinced he'd last all winter.
     Then Thanksgiving morning dawned, and a sudden warmth raised temperatures into the 40s and left our snowman stranded on green grass. We kids looked out to see our snowman was in trouble. He was wilting into slush; his face was twisting and his coal-buttons were beginning to drop away. The onset of a steady drizzle further fueled our desperation. A cold front was predicted, but who could wait? Not our snowman, and certainly not us.
     I lined my siblings up along a hallway---out of sight of grown-ups who might think us sacrilegious---and ordered them to kneel down together and bow their heads to God and all our guardian angels, and pray for sudden cold and lots of snow. "Believe with all your might," I said, "and it will happen." They believed and so did I. We prayed as earnestly as any human children could.
     IN THE NIGHT, I stayed awake to watch. Against the city street lights I could see no snow, and I opened up the window by my bed and stretched my hand outside; it was still too warm for snow!
     As midnight approached, the rain began to thicken into snow. Soon I hurried from my bed to spread the news among my siblings, ''It's snowing!" I whispered with excitement. "The biggest flakes you ever saw!" History-making weather roared in swiftly, and by dawn it seemed to us that all the world was snow, and more was coming.
     The storm began the 23rd. By the 28th, some major roads were open, but all too many roads and side streets were still jammed, and schools remained closed. Because we city children walked to school and many wires were still down, we were at home for several weeks, as I recall. My father said HIS children weren't to be endangered in their mile-plus walk to school; they would remain at home until the city had repaired the wires. (Happily in those days, snow make-up days had not yet been invented).
     If anything remained of our poor snowman, we would not have known it then, for he was hopelessly buried. With the next snow-melt, we found his "arms" and his clothes and a handful of coal.
     Though it was a magical time for us, as snowstorms always seem to be for children, the storm presented work and worry for our parents. Would the storm outlast necessities of life, including coal for the furnace? Houses weren't as tightly wrapped against the cold as they are now, and our parents closed the shades and drapes, piled on the quilts and kept the furnace stoked day and night. With games, stories, songs and lamplight, they didn't let us sense a bit of danger.
     FROM TIME TO time in later years when I had children of my own, I shared with them the story of that blizzard and its suspicious beginnings. Laughingly they dubbed me "Weather Witch," a title that would later be proven once again, at least in their eyes.
But that's another story in itself.
(Rose About Town says she still thinks snow is beautiful because it makes her feel young again, and that's REAL magic! Comments can be directed to