Much as we hate the cold weather we’re enduring now in Minnesota, I am old enough, but yet young enough, to remember some winters that “weren't so hot" in the past. If you feel this is an exaggeration or an "old wives' tale," I don't think so. Plenty of people still remember snowbanks that closed roads, covered telephone lines and the need for massive equipment plus human shovels to get through the roads and farmyards.
Often that caterpillar or the famous "Oshkosh" were thought to be able to go through anything, but they weren't completely successful. Modern equipment has played a big part in changing this, but there are still times Mother Nature stops everything "cold."
Or should. Such as too many cars cavorting in the ditches and medians because they couldn't see or keep things under control. Of course there is always that rush to get where one is going that seems to accelerate in times of danger.
Before I complain about "warming up the car," I try to remember what it was like in my grandfather’s day, or even in my parents' time. Now many people even have warmed front seats in their vehicles. Old-timers not only heated hot water for the car radiator but heated the oil as well. My mother remembers when her dad sometimes just "put the car up" for the winter or got it out only for special occasions.
Horse blankets weren't just used for horses back then. They were also used in the cars in an attempt to stay warm. Did you ever see any of the old horsehair car robes? Bricks were warmed in cook stove ovens and used to keep feet from freezing, even though footgear then was "designed for winter" and was way beyond the athletic models kids wear today.
A recent news story reminded me of the fact that babies still arrive despite the weather. I heard of an incident where sleds were brought out to get the mother and child to the hospital. In one case the baby was even born on the way. It could have happened in our family, as my aunt Phyllis was stranded during a late winter snowstorm and had to "walk" up "Dr. Ertel Hill,” which was west and south of Ellendale. She was transported by makeshift sleigh to the county line where a neighbor, Orlando Thompson, was able to connect with snowplows working out from Ellendale, and she was able to get to the hospital. That was March 15, 1951, and not quite as cold as we have experienced recently.
My middle daughter, Kimberly, was born in a storm in the spring of 1973 that necessitated the assistance of a snowplow.
During the worst of the blizzard conditions this past weekend, it was still nothing compared to the year my nephew, Cameron, was born, 1975. The day started out warm and rainy and then changed into a "blast from the past" that would leave no ability to travel.
My mother said God was good the year when her grandson Cameron arrived into the world. The weather on that January 8 was "like spring,” but quickly changed back to a January snowstorm. The intensity of that storm caused zero visibility conditions. My mother still wonders what she would have done if they had not been able to get to the hospital, as Cam’s birth could have been very traumatic.
Snowmobile suits, quilts or blankets are standard equipment in our family vehicles during the winter season, on my mother’s orders. While my mother was working for Head Start she helped the kids make coffee-can survival kits for their parents. Placed in the old three-pound coffee can was a can of Sterno, candles, matches, flashlights, and hard candies. The survival kit was to be carried in the car along with a length of strong cord, to which one could tie some bright colored balloons and then put it out the window so their car could be seen.
Of course that was before cell phones. Cell phones do have their place in automobiles under such circumstances.
They say a lit candle is enough to keep you from freezing. My cousin Jim says that even in an Eskimo igloo, a whale-oil lamp (the equivalent of a candle), will keep it above freezing.
It doesn't take long to freeze something when the temperatures drop like they sometimes do. My mother found that out this past week when she went outside for a very short amount of time. She did have gloves on, but evidently not the best as she froze the tips of three fingers so badly they blistered like balloons.
Needless to say the ribbing that she has been getting - "Did you learn something?" or "If that had been one of us what would you have said?" just added to the pressure she was experiencing in her fingers.
Incidentally - DON'T put frozen digits in either hot or cold water to thaw. At best use mild temperature water with a little bit of white vinegar, which helps kill bacteria.
Be PREPARED. Being cold is no fun. The car may be ever so warm and toasty, but in an emergency things change quickly. And remember: stay in your car. Don't try to walk anywhere during a storm. I recall the year our family traveled to the Twin Cities area for a YMCA swim meet. We had lots of blankets in our car and used them. Unfortunately, when we got home the kids took them along with them into the house. We went on to Clarks Grove and got trapped on the off-ramp of the freeway and spent the night shivering in our car. Thank goodness, Daryl had his snowmobile suit in the car, and once daylight arrived he was able to safely walk for help. Things you don't count on happening, they do. Distance may be short in good weather, but ever so long in bad weather.
It is important to remember to drive "on the top half of your gas tank." Experienced winter drivers keep at least half a tank of fuel in the vehicle in case they are stranded in a storm.
When the snow flies many people remember back to that famous 'Armistice Day Snowstorm" of November 11, 1940. Weather forecasting and weather warnings were not as efficient as they are now, and the un-forecast storm killed 145 people (including 49 in Minnesota) and stranded thousands.
My hat's off in admiration to those local Methodist volunteers in Ellendale who provide an emergency location in times of need. Eighty-eight people were able to spend a safe, food filled and friendly night recently because of the efforts of a few kind hearted souls who praised God with their willingness to be of assistance during the brunt of the storm. These valiant volunteers were able to turn a traumatic situation into one of triumph and were able to meet many grateful strangers.
Thinking about winter and snow … I have pictures of my Grandpa Schember standing on snow banks in New Richland that reached over the telephone lines. We also have one of Great Aunt Emily sitting on a snow bank in my grandparents’ farm that was high as the barn. I can also remember seeing the snowdrift that had formed on the road going east out of Geneva toward the freeway (before there was a freeway) that had to be "tunneled" through because it was so large.
My Grandma Hanson used to talk about ice-skating on the pond north of the old School House in Geneva, which is where Dale and Nadine Strenge now live. She also told about sailing across Geneva Lake in ice sailboats during their noon hour from school. Needless to say the kids were late in getting back to school after such an excursion. Evidently "noon hours" were a wee bit longer than they are now.
Our Minnesota weather affects who we are. It causes us to think ahead, and avoid risk if possible. If you live in Minnesota, you have had the opportunity to experience some pretty dramatic weather. Those of us who live here learn to deal with the weather – or when to simply take precautions to avoid it.
Birthdays and anniversaries:
• Thursday, Feb. 6: Jean Klocek, Carolyn Hanson, Dean Jensen, David Kelly, Martin Bartness, Colleen Borchert, Troy Haddy, Jean Clausen, Sonja Thompson, Megan Stephoni, Todd Nelson, Brooke Burns, Kay Swenson
• Friday, Feb. 7: Cheryl Cornelius, Ted Pelzl, Kelly Simon, Emma Lorraine Klemmensen, Karissa Dolan, Dorothy Katz, Joel Radjenovich, Steve & Holly Glynn
• Saturday, Feb. 8: Lainee Ann Krohn, Erin Thompson, Terry Wacek, Dennis & Cheryl Sauke
• Sunday, Feb. 9: Emily Eder, John Warnke, Donnavon Eaker, Laura (Edwards) Baudoin, Brad Lerum, Howard Goette, Kelly Lageson, Heidi Nelson, Karen Knudson, Tami Sorenson, Jay Wangsness
• Monday, Feb. 10: Brooklyn Jo Baudoin, Brett Mitchell Kubiatowicz, Greg Hagen, Abbey Jensen, Tom Wayne, Dean Reiter, Michael Glienke, Wayne Osmundson, Rachel Strand, Judy Thostenson, Peggy Talamantes, Greg Nelson, Madison Johnson, Dick & Mary Ann Ewing
• Tuesday, Feb. 11: Helyn Langlie, who will 94 this year, Megan Pence, Jet Wayne, Neil Douglas Schmidt, Donna Wilker, David Dunn, Julie Christensen, Rhonda Thompson Christensen, Steve Gallentine, Earl Cleven, Teresa Knudson Pratt, Nadine Berg
• Wednesday, Feb., 12: Gail Skroch, Joe Moon, Michael Hanson, April Van Riper, Rick Borchert, Eugene Kruckeberg, Travis Wayne, Jessie Olson, Greg Oswald, Taff & Jean Worrell, David & Carolyn Hanson
May all the good wishes that you receive on your special day bloom in your heart and bring you joy!