Home Dalton Gang Hideout Meade County Museum About Us Links

Index of Stories Index of Photos    Cemeteries Maps

On March 27, 2009, we had a blizzard in Meade County... I was trapped in the house and it made me think of a pile of yellow newspapers that J.T. Powell had given to me last fall... newspapers his mother had saved about the blizzard of 1957. Imagine my surprise when I read the date... March 27th! Many of us still remember this "history" and will enjoy revisiting those times. I would love to have photos and personal accounts to go along with this story, so if anyone wants to share, please find contact information by clicking the "About Us" button above. These personal accounts will be posted at the bottom of the newspaper articles.   Nancy O

The Blizzard of '57

From the Meade Globe Press—Thursday, March 27, 1957 (copyright)

Spring Blizzard Piles Highway Snowdrifts 12 Feet Deep 

Train Marooned and Cattle Losses Heavy 

Following a rain Friday night which turned to snow with high winds Saturday, this area of Kansas was caught in one of the worst blizzards of record by five o’clock Saturday evening. 

With winds up to 60 miles per hour driving a heavy wet snow, which started to drift as darkness closed in, the blizzard howled through all of Saturday night and most of Sunday. It let up a little Sunday evening and began anew Sunday night. Monday ear noon the wind abated and thawing started some Monday afternoon. 

Crews of workmen were hampered by the cold and blowing now and visibility in the country was reduced to zero most of the time. 

Reports started coming in Saturday night of persons missing and thought to be stalled on the highways by the blizzard. Radio station KGNO broadcast warnings to all stalled motorists to remain in their cars and wait until help arrived. 

Sheriff Carmichael and Under Sheriff Phelps closed US 54-160 highway west out of Meade at about three Saturday afternoon. Many motorists and truck drivers were angry to find the road closed, but later realized that the move was made for their own good. 

Highway Department men started trying to reach their own workers caught out on the highways by the storm. They were aided by crews from both Michigan-Wisconsin Pipeline Co., and the Northern Natural Gas Co., along with manager Otis Allison and crew from the CMS Electric Cooperative which could not get out to work on their own lines during the blizzard. 

Highways out of Meade were closed in every direction by huge drifts of snow. Clarence Feldman and Chester Wasson in on state truck and bud Cochran and Ted Woltje in another state truck were out west of Meade on US 160. Walter Clay and Virgil Warren were north of Meade on K-23. These highway workers know Kansas blizzards and remain in their trucks when caught in such storms. 

About this time word came through that Rock Island Golden State Limited, No. 4, east bound was stuck in a drift between Meade and Liberal.  It was later learned that the train was stuck in the cut between Meade and Missler, about five miles northwest of Meade. Some of the passengers on the train were suffering from carbon monoxide fumes Efforts wee started to get these passengers from the train. 

Other reports were coming in. One was that Asa Davidson was missing in the storm. He started to the oil well on the Adams ranch southwest of Meade and had not been heard from. Sunday it was established that he had reached the well and was safe with the crew there. 

Sunday night a crew made its way north to find Walter Clay and Virgil Warren and brought them in to Meade. A Rock Island snow plow and engine was off the track about a mile this side of the stalled Golden State. Tracks were blocked by the derailment. 

Another snow plow and engine came through from Pratt bringing an M-7 Howitzer carrier tank and seven members of the Pratt National Guard Unit to man the tank. The tank was unloaded and with four school busses following took out west through the fairgrounds and thence to the Sneath road and south back to US 54-160, and west and north to where the train was stalled. 

The storm had intensified and visibility was zero in the country. The tank ran away from the trucks and cars and was last seen heading into the blowing snow. As the school busses and other vehicles could not follow the tank, drivers were loaded into one bus and brought back to town. Otis Allison with the CMS power wagon pulled several of the vehicles back to town again through the fairgrounds. The school bus quit and had to be dragged back. 

The tank made contact with the train and returned to Meade around four o’clock Monday morning. The crew was cold and stiff even after staying a while at the train to try and warm up.

Monday morning start was made to break out the highway west of Meade. The tank made some more trips to the train but could do nothing but report on conditions of the passengers. 

Meanwhile the Meade Civil Air Patrol started flying observation flights and set up radio communications with law officers and the State Highway force. Elsewhere we have a story on the CAP operation. They flew US 54-160 west, US 160 east and US 54 east. They reported cars and trucks stranded on these highways. Through their efforts two cars east of Meade on 1690 were brought out. One contained four colored men who were OK except hungry. The other family was in good shape. 

CAP also started making food drops. Bert Green of the Meade County Red Cross Chapter, chairman, prepared a food drop for the stalled train. Mission was accomplished by CAP. Eight food drops were made to the eight oil; well crews stranded at their respective rigs. CAP kept in the air all day to keep officers informed. They located the two highway trucks west of Meade on 160 at a farm house and reported that all four men were safe.  

In the afternoon when the road blocks west of Meade could not be removed the tank went north to Perkins corner, thence west and south to the train followed by the school bus caravan. The east-west road was recently graded and was very soft but all made it through to the train. This caravan picked up 101 of the passengers and brought them back to Meade. 

On bus engine threw all rods, another ran out of gas and the one with rods out was towed back to Meade by the tank. The one out of gas was quickly serviced and brought in the load.  

In every operation the Michigan-Wisconsin Pipe Line crew and the Northern Natural Gas Co. crew were cooperating along with the CMS Electric Cooperative force. Mich.-Wisc. And Northern maintained contact with the caravans and through their radio equipped pickups and trucks kept things rolling. Northern and Mich.-Wisc. also used their office radios to keep in contact. Both pipeline companies used their tow trucks as did CMS. 

As the first caravan made Meade at dark the people were taken to the gym where beds were available and a crew under the direction of Mrs. Anna Wurdeman was busy in the cafeteria preparing a hot meal. In fact this work was started Sunday evening and some beds were also prepared Sunday evening.  

Many ladies of the community volunteered to help at the school. A broadcast over KGNO, Dodge City, only radio station in this are operating, brought in additional cots and bedding. By Sunday midnight enough bedding was on hand. Residents of Meade volunteered in a splendid effort to care for the passengers. 

Second caravan went through west and then followed a ridge across fields and pastures to the stalled train by following the tank. This caravan was back in Meade shortly after 11 Monday night and 253 persons from the train were registered in at the school gym. Two passengers refused to leave the train and the train crew also remained with the stalled train. 

Tuesday morning these were brought in and the train crew went back to the train. The two passengers remained with the group in Meade.  

Meanwhile, Wallace McCune, who lives about a mile southeast of were the train was stalled, had made his way to the train in a pickup and took four passengers to his home, one couple being elderly and suffering form the carbon monoxide fumes. Jim Hill near the McCune farm joined Wallace and the Hill family took seven or eight of the passengers. These were left at the farm homes when the train was evacuated.  

Meanwhile a plane from Liberal came out and made a landing on skis to find out condition of the passengers. There was a helicopter came from Topeka and brought out a doctor who boarded the train. Two passengers were removed by the copter to liberal, one lady who was suffering from diabetes passed away before she could be removed from the train. 

A Navy 4-engine plane made a food drop Monday morning as the sun was shining and clouds had lifted. Twenty pounds of bacon and a case of eggs were removed to the McCune farm where the bacon was cooked and the eggs boiled. These were taken back to the train to give the passengers hot food, as there was not way to prepare the food on the train. 9in some of the drops, small alcohol burners were also dropped to heat cans of beans, etc.  

Inside the train temperature had dropped to less than 40 degrees and heaters had been turned off to stop the fumes. Fumes were caused by snow packing into the vents of the heaters ordinarily used. 

Snow had drifted in and around the train so that six cars of the train were completely covered. Efforts were being made to get the derailed snow plow back on the track so work could start to free the train. 

Tuesday shortly before noon a Rock Island train from the east came in with cars to transport the passengers east to their destinations. They were placed on the train around four o’clock Tuesday afternoon after trucks had gone back to the stalled train and secure luggage of the passengers.  

A school bus driven by Kenneth Tacha made it to the McCune place Tuesday morning and brought out the passengers at the McCune place and also from the Jim Hill farm home. 

Bert Green of the Red Cross did a fine job in arranging for operation “Drift Lift” and care for the passengers. All names of the ladies assisting could not be named but there was no lack of help at the school. Too, there was no lack of help during the forming and tries of the caravans to reach the passengers.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

 Now for a look at the local scene as it pertains to home folks. The largest drift concerning Meade was that south of St. John’s Catholic Church, which piled across the highway to a depth of 12 feet and snow packed around the Sunset Tourist Court piling over the cars of travelers staying there. Doors to the cabins were held shut by the packed snow and some guests left their rooms by going out the west windows.

 At the Moon Mist Motel snow packed on the north side of the motel so that one could walk from the ground onto the roof of the Motel. Cars on the south of the motel in the parking area where covered by the drifting snow and they had to be shoveled out before the cars could be moved.

During the height of the storm only two secondary lines went down in the city’s power and light system. Two transformers blew fuses and these were repaired Monday. One transformer burned out near the state barn Monday afternoon and had to be replaced.

Meade was never out of electricity and street lights were on all the time until Monday night. Also there was always plenty of water. Telephone communication was maintained steadily with the lines going through Dodge City.

Fowler, 10 miles east of Meade, was out of power and lights and telephone communication was disrupted for a time. Plains, 14 miles west, was without power and lights from Saturday night until about 8 p.m. Monday evening. Telephone communication was also established over an emergency circuit Monday evening at about 8 p.m. Southwest Bell Telephone Company crews were busy all the time trying to restore service in all directions from Mead.  

On the local board, which was swamped with calls throughout the storm, Grace Masters and her crew were working over-time through the whole storm and after. At night four girls were still on the board and only emergency long distance calls were going out. Meade had four circuits from here to Dodge City and out to the east. These were swamped all the time.  

Passengers from the train made calls to report that they were safe. Others were calling into Meade to try and locate persons known to be in this area. Oil companies were calling their drillers and superintendents to find out what was needed.  

City force started on the streets as quickly as they could. Monday afternoon only shovels could be used in places to open gutters so the water would flow around the melting snow. The street maintainer made it up and down most of the heavily used streets and pushed the snow to one side and opened drifts so that traffic was moving providing the vehicle had on a good set of chains. 

Every tow car or wrecker crane in the city was being put to full capacity. Snow plow crews were working on US 54 east of Meade and by Monday night the highway was open from Meade to four miles east of Minneola. The snow plows coming from Pratt this way were held back by the drifts in the cuts east of Minneola. Crews west were still working on the drifts through the breaks west of Meade from the Elmer Fisher farm home west on US 54-160. 

Along Carthage Avenue snow was piled in drifts in front of business houses along the north side of Carthage. The heavy wet snow ripped the awning from Randy’s Market and half of the awning was removed Sunday to prevent further damage. Across the street  wind whipped down a sign at Cooper’s Gift Store and broke a small window above the plate glass. Snow was blowing into the store until the sign was removed and cardboard nailed over the broken window. 

Filling stations remained closed through Sunday and some opened Monday morning. It was a big job clearing he driveways of snow. 

Mail service was cut off from the east Saturday night along with incoming truck shipments of food stuffs, due in Meade Monday. Stores ran out of bread early Monday, and milk supplies were gone by the afternoon. Sales were brisk on biscuit mixes and cafes and restaurants were baking their own rolls and bread to keep going. Restaurants were also out of milk. 

At 3:40 Tuesday afternoon the passengers from the stalled train were loaded onto a Rock Island special and sent east to their destinations. The passengers wee happy to be on their way once more, but all of them will remember their stay in Meade. All were grateful for the assistance given here. 

Also about this time Clarence Feldman, Chester Wasson, Bud Cochran and Ted Woltje arrived back in Meade. They had been met west of the US 54 and 160 junction near plains by the highway crew from Meade. They were safe and sound. 

KGNO announced Tuesday evening that residents of Meade could pick up their bedding, beds and cots at the school gym.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

3.51 Inches Moisture In Rain, Snow at Plains 

Rain and snow since Wednesday morning, March 20, has brought 3.51 inches of moisture to Plains over the week-end. Rain began falling Wednesday at 9 a.m. and continued throughout the day, leaving us 1.26. rain again Friday evening and 12 inches of snow between Friday around midnight and until early Monday morning accounted fro another 2.25 inches of moisture.  

This brings the total moisture for the month of March to 4.21 inches, half the amount received during the entire year 1956. 

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-**-*- 

Snow Caves In Municipal Hanger; Planes Damaged 

Five planes housed in Plains Municipal airplane hanger located just east of Plains ere damaged badly when the roof, heaped with snow heavy with moisture, caved in on them. Bee Hinson, aerial sprayer, had two 135 horsepower Piper Cubs in the hangar. One of these he had ready to fly to Mississippi this week. One plane is a complete loss with exception possibly of the engine and prop and the other he was removing Tuesday by dismantling it, in hopes he could salvage at least part of it. 

Gene Short had a Piper Cub in the hangar. The landing gear of his plane was smashed but he thought other than that it may not be badly damaged.  

The club ship, a Culver Cadet, owned by club members, Leo Richardson, Wayne Streiff, Gene Short, Wendell Fox and Norman Angell, was smashed beyond repair. This plane was in the middle of the hangar and caught the brunt of the weight. 

The fifth plane was J3 Cub owned by Simpson and Whitney Aerial Spray company of Liberal and was the least damaged of all. 

None of the planes, except the Simpson and Whitney plane, carried any insurance for the damage done to them. 

Leo Richardson had a truck [parked in the hanger that was also damaged. Sideboards were broken down and the bed damaged. It was parked near the Simpson-Whitney plane and held some of the weight of the fallen roof off his plane. 

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* 

WORST BLIZZARD IN MANY YEARS HITS WESTERN KANSAS 

Some weathermen say the worst blizzard since 1031, other say the worst in 50 years, hit Western Kansas Saturday evening and continued until early Monday morning. 

Radio station KGNO, Dodge City, began issuing storm warnings for cattlemen and motorists Friday. Warnings continued throughout the day and school in Plains was dismissed at 3 o’clock to allow drivers to get the students home and themselves back to town before a storm struck. 

Rain began falling Friday evening and by midnight had turned to snow. By Saturday morning Plains had received 5 inches of beautiful, wet snow, which had stacked up on fence posts, roof tops, tree limbs, etc., just like magazine pictures. The snow continued all day, then around 6 p.m. Saturday the predicted storm hit with all the intensity forecast.  

Winds to 60 m.p.h. whipped the snow into huge drifts, stranded trains and a few motorists, and left considerable damage to stock, smothered in the storm, barn and shed roofs caved in. there were no fatalities reported in this immediate vicinity. 

Sunshine Tuesday melted lost of the snow and highways ere beginning to open up to traffic.  

Lights went off in Plains at 6 P.M. Saturday and were not repaired until Monday evening about 8 p.m. REA lines were put back into use as lineman could make repairs and were still not all on up to noon today (Wednesday).  

Telephone lines were down and there was no long distance service Sunday morning and until Tuesday when emergency calls were being accepted. Local calls were put on batteries which held out until early Monday morning, then there were no local calls until the electricity was restored Monday evening.  

Rural mail carriers went out Saturday morning but were unable to get around their routes, and there has been no mail delivery on rural routes since then. Of course there have been no trains in or out, nor any mail trucks, so farmers who have been able to make it into town to pick up their Saturday mail are no farther behind with the mail than town folks. 

So, as you can see, Plains was cut off from the outside world for at least 48 hours, with exception of car radios, a few battery radios, Woodie with his ham radio, and High Miller and Haskell Holmes with their two-way police radios.  

*-*-*-*-**-*-*-*-*-*- 

CANADIANS AND IOWANS SEE KANSAS BLIZZARD 

Nineteen persons were housed at the Star-Crest Motel, owned and operated by Mr. And Mrs. W.W. Langhofer, during the big blizzard. There were two carloads of folks from Canada, and one carload from Iowa, one from Wichita and the rest were oilfield workers from Meade and Liberal.  

The Canadians said they had seen a lot of snow but never had experienced a storm such as the one they were in here. The Iowans decided they had had storms almost as severe but they did not seem quite so bad because they were home when they happened.  

Mrs. Langhofer stretched her provisions to cook meals for the 19 people from Saturday until Monday evening when the care opened again for business. They were all happy to be inside and warm and made no complaints during the storm but by Tuesday were beginning to be a little anxious to be on their way. Mr. and Mrs. George Morrison and Kathie had stayed with the Langohofers Friday evening and were caught in town by the storm, so spent several days as the guests of the Langhofers, and were included in the count of 19. 

RAINES’ DEEP FREEZE THAWING 

Coach and Mrs. Gerald Raines’ house at the north edge of Plains, facing north and unprotected from the fierce storm of last week-end, was banked in with drifted snow until it looked more like an igloo than a new modern home when the storm was over.

When the Raines’ awoke Sunday they couldn’t see out, but did not at first realize how buried they were. Upon discovering their two east bedroom windows seemed light they investigated and found they could see out them so the others must be covered with snow, which they definitely were! Raines answered the telephone Sunday, “Raines Deep Freeze.” Like many others with electricity off, they were without heat and cooking facilities, and being buried in the snow as they were the “deep freeze”: was not fiction. 

Neighbor Lewis Wells came to the rescue and dug an escape tunnel into their garage door and they spent remainder of the day with the Wells family. By night the tunnel had filled in again but was easier to dig out the second time. With a lot of shoveling and some help from mother nature with the sun on Monday they have uncovered most of the windows and opened a walk-in entrance to the front of their garage.  

BLIZZARD DAMAGE IN PLAINS VICINITY       

After a severe storm such as we experienced last week-end comes the digging out, and then is when people begin to realize the destruction caused in such storms. This recent March blizzard was not exception and we will bring to you some accounts of the damage we have learned in talking with people along the way. 

We have already told n another article the damage to airplanes when the hangar roof caved in. There was lots of loss in stock herds also, and probably will be more reports from stockmen as the snow thaws and herds can be rounded up or found under the snow.  

Denn Bromwell began digging out his sheep and lambs Monday. From his 200 ewes and 160 lambs, he could see only about 20 head when he went to see about them. Then with help, he began digging into the snow and uncovered many more. He figures his loss at about 60 head altogether.  

At the D. F. Bromwell farm his barn roof caved in and killed 12 head of cattle.  

A shed which housed Verele Knott’s 220 head of sheep banked with snow and the roof caved in. Whit help Verle dug out on Monday, expecting the worst. However, he found only one sheep dead. 

Clarence Ballard reports the loss of three head of hogs just ready for market. They died from suffocation as did most of the stock killed in the storm. 

W.F. (Red) Wilson had 75 head of cattle housed in the barn at the Joyce Hamm farm and upon investigating their condition Monday also found the roof caved in. They were able to account for all the cattle by Tuesday except two baby calves.  

Gordon Dierking, north of town has been unable to estimate his loss in sheep and lambs. The 100 head of ewes and 50 lambs were water soaked from rains before the snow and then wet snow packed into the wool. They found five on their backs that they got up; they can account for a least two lost and expect to find more dead under the snow when it thaws.  

Louis Chappel, H.E. Chappell and Elmer Vogt, who have been feeding about 300 head of cattle for Jarbo, commission cattle man from Texas, made the follow report. They had 200 head at the Voght place and lost 75 head of these sheltered inside a barn. They did not die from suffocation as most of the stock had but snow shipping into the building had melted with the animals’ body heat. The animals had got down in the water and were trampled and drowned. Another 107 head were kept at the Louis Chappel place. Out of these they can account for only 60 head. There were 60 known dead and the rest are either strayed or under the snow.  

Several cattle and calves wandered into the Alvin Dierking farm and are being fed ensilage.  

Richardson-Cobb lost an estimated 75 to 100 head of Black Angus cows and out of 50 calves they can only account for nine. They found dead cattle from their shed, which like so many, caved in with weight of heavy snow drifted on top of the building, to the railroad track a mile or so south. They cannot be sure of the loss until snow thaws and they know if some may have strayed, and will be found later. 

Cecil Feldman lost a cow and calf in his pasture, probably suffocated from snow packed in their nostrils. 

Haskell Holmes had found one of his herd of 32 cattle on his farm east of Plains near the Carl Singley place, and is short two or three more head. 

Buck Adams, rancher south of Plains lost 34 head of cattle from suffocation near the Michigan-Wisconsin station. 

There were only a few of the farmers around Plains contacted since the storm. We hope the reports we may get from others next week will not tell of so much loss. 

OTHER BLIZZARD INCIDENTS 

Bill Winfrey tells about finding his horses walking off the roof of their shed. Snow banked into the shed until the horses wee bumping the roof. Finally with so much force they broke through and came out on the top when walked down the snow banked along the shed. 

Red Wilson also has a good one to tell about the drifts at his place in the blizzard of ’57. When he went out to milk old bossy Monday morning he could hardly found the barn. When he did he walked up a huge drift and went down through the barn loft to the cows. He found the door later and cut his way through the snow and, it is reported, he is now going into the barn the conventional way. 

Bob Sheldon has horses in a barn at the north edge of Plains. When he went to care for them Sunday evening he also found now drifted into the barn and built up until the horses were bumping their heads on the barn loft.  

SNOW TO SECOND STORY 

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Hale were other “north enders” covered up with snow when the big blizzard came to an end in Plains Monday. Both their front and back doors were blocked shut with huge 12 to 14 foot drifts. Their back screen had blown open and snow packed between it and the inside door which gave Mr. Hale a place to cut through to the outside world.  

HARROWING EXPERIENCE IN SNOWDRIFT 

Clifford Sutton and Alan Lubbers left Kismet for Plains at 5:10 Saturday evening in the Plains Gas truck and Sutton’s pickup truck. Both trucks slid into the ditch about 4 miles west of Plains and were there until around 1 a.m. Monday morning when Charley Smith, with the West Plains Township plow, and a search party picked them up. 

The search party including Dr. W.W. Orrison, Jack Elliott, Warren Peterson, Donald DePriest and Hugh Miller followed the snow plow when they went looking for the men know lost on Highway 54. Before reaching Sutton and Lubbers they picked up a couple of REA linemen from Liberal, stuck in a drift three miles west of Plains. 

The party kept in contact with Plains via two-way police radios from Miller’s car in the party and Haskell Holmes stationed in town. 

 

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES WITH THE BLIZZARD OF '57!

-------------------------------------------

CARL SANDER'S STORY:

Phone lines went to Dodge but not anywhere else.  Our phone line to Meade was OK and they used my Dad's ham radio to contact the Pratt National Guard for there two "weazels" to rescue the train passengers.

One of the issues of "Life Magazine" had pictures in it of the train and people trying to get them out, as well as a picture of the Meade High School Gym, where many were bedded down.

A drilling rig on our Ranch was in operation at the time and the crew were stuck on it for 3 days, without relief.  On the Fourth day a relieve crew got out to the ranch and I spent over an hour going 2 miles to exchange the crews.  My dad had bought one of the first 4 wheel drive pickups in the area in 1956 and it sure paid off with this storm.

The one thing that stuck out in my mind, was on the ranch the draws were filled up with snow.  The ranch is pretty well broken up with draws and canyons, but looking across the pastures after the storm, they looked level.  If someone didn't know the location of where they were at, you would have driven off into 20+ feet of snow.  All of them were full. Snow in the shadows was still present almost up to May.

I could go on, but that's enough for now.       Carl Sanders.

 

 The Blizzard of March, 1957 by Roy and Vashti Seybert, as told to Alice Seybert Montemurro, with contributions by Glenn Seybert  (March 21 - 25?)

Roy' story:

            The blizzard began on Friday night.  On Saturday, I was in the CMS Rural Electric office in Meade, while the crews were out.  I had worked as a lineman, but was now an accountant and work-order clerk, who scheduled the crews.  Fred Stone, the crew foreman, came to get me to go with him to check the Liberal and Kismet substations. We needed to know how far west the storm went, so we drove into Liberal, and found that it covered a much bigger area than we had thought.  At all substations, the transformers had been damaged and overheated, and we thought they were all out, and couldn't be repaired in this weather, so we elected to return to Meade. The Highway Patrol stopped us in Liberal and informed us that only vehicles with 2-way radios were being allowed on the highways.  We had a 2-way radio.  However, at the time, we were unaware that trouble in the main station in Meade was such that we could receive messages, but we were not able to transmit messages.

            I was supposed to watch for the edge of the blacktop through the snow, as Fred drove.  The blinding, driving snow made it difficult to see.  We proceeded until we got to a spot on a hill just east of the Arkalan railroad bridge, where we ran off the blacktop.  Since we had passed a maintenance crew a ways back, Fred walked back to it and asked them to push us back on the road.

            Just west of where Southwestern Heights High School now is, we ran off the highway, again, and this time we could go no further.  It was 4:00 PM on Saturday.  The storm was at its peak.  I started to get out to relieve myself beside the south side of the truck but the wind literally took my breath away, so I got back in and used the floorboards, which made Fred very unhappy--until he had to go, and then it was a different story.

            Fred kept saying that if he had a cap with ear flaps he would walk to the nearby railroad tracks and follow them into Plains to get help.  "You stupid.....you wouldn't even make it to the tracks; you'd be dead before you got across the blacktop in this cold wet snow and wind."  I said.  But later, when he repeated himself, I removed my hat with flaps and handed it to him.  He put it on, buttoned up his coat around his neck, rolled down his window to check conditions.  The blast from the north swept into the truck cab with such ferocity, that without a word, Fred took off my cap and handed it back to me.

            Stone, being a tall, muscular man, became very uncomfortable after some time of sitting under the steering wheel.  Since I was much smaller, I suggested we change positions in the cab.  "I wish I knew where my mackinaw was.  I could sure use it now," he said.  He was only wearing a shirt and coveralls, with no undershirt, and a light jacket.  "There's something like that under the seat," I said.    Ducking down to search, Fred ended up practically standing on his head leaning over the seat, onto the greasy, dirty floor.  He dragged a piece of fabric out, and it was the coat, which he wasted no time in putting on.  It was ragged and dirty, frayed from battery acid, but it was warm.  As he shoved his hands down into the pockets, he stopped, felt around, then pulled out an old Snickers candy bar, mashed flat, with torn wrapping.  Without any hesitation, he tore it in half and handed one part to me.  We each pulled off the remaining paper and ate our share, dirt, grit and all.

            Our truck didn't have a full tank of gas, so to keep warm, we ran the motor for ten minutes every hour, until we ran completely out of fuel. 

            Saturday night passed.  Sunday.  Sunday night.  Monday passed, then Monday night. We could hear them calling for us over the two-way, but we couldn't get them to hear us.  No one knew where we were.

            About 1:00 AM Tuesday, while trying to sleep with my feet scrunched up in front of the steering wheel, I awoke to find the cab lit up.  Headlights of some big piece of machinery bored through the snow and wind. I pulled the light switch off and on, and Fred woke up, too.  A road maintainer mounted with a snowplow was bearing down, about to pass us. Finally making out the form of our truck, they stopped, backed up adjacent to our cab, and I rolled down the window a bit.  A little man came running around from the other side of the maintenance vehicle, carrying a black bag. 

            "Who are you?" Dr. Orrison asked.  They were from Plains, and looking for two men in a gasoline delivery truck from the Plains Co-op.  Turns out that that truck was about a half mile behind us, where they, too, had run off the highway. 

            Snow had drifted up the truck side, to the bottom of the window, and frozen solid.  I baled out by crawling through the driver's window and sliding down the snowdrift against the door on my stomach.  My much larger companion, however, had great difficulty fitting through that small space, and Fred hollered to me to come back to the pickup and help him get the door open.  Impossible.  He was worried about leaving the window open, as snow would drift in, but we decided it would dry out eventually, which, of course, it did.

            Dr. Bill Orrison had been riding in the front of the maintenance vehicle with the driver.  Completing the caravan, were a car and a pickup.  Dr. Orrison ordered us to get into the car, where we were given hot coffee, dry bread, and an apple.  Eat slowly, and sip the coffee, they said.

            After finding the two men in the other truck on down the highway, we returned to Plains.  One of the men had gotten out of that truck carrying a bucket, and took gas from the delivery gas tank to put into the truck to keep it running.  The driving wind and snow banged the bucket, splashed gasoline out onto his clothing, and soon soaked down to his skin.  The fellow would not have made it until Tuesday morning, he was so sick and in pain from the gasoline burns.

            In Plains, the convoy took us to Dr. Orrison's office, and I was ushered in first.  He asked me what I needed and I said nothing that a "brown bomber" wouldn't cure, but the man behind me was in terrible shape.  The deputy sheriff took us to his home, where his wife got out of bed and fed us bacon and eggs, hot off the griddle, and toast...all we could eat, and nothing ever tasted so good as that meal. 

            Mrs. Goldie Singley ran a restaurant in Plains, which she kept open during the entire blizzard, cooking for all the stranded travelers, as well as locals, and not charging anyone for their food.  Mrs. Singley smoked cigarettes as she fried eggs, the ashes hanging from the end of the cigarette.  Sitting at the counter, watching her work at the griddle, Fred and I hoped those ashes would not fall off into our eggs, but we decided that even if they did, we'd probably not know the difference, anyway.  It would just look like pepper.  We kept track of the food we ate there, and after the storm, the CMS office sent her a check for our meals.

            We stayed there until Thursday afternoon, when the National Guard and Kansas Highway Department were able to get the roads open, and we could go home.

 

 Vashti' story:

            Our family of six was living 3 miles south of town on the park road in a basement house.  The two small bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, kitchen, and laundry room were heated nicely by a propane space-heater-type stove situated pretty much in the center of the house, in a corner of the living room.   Glenn was 13, Alice was 10, Ross, 8, and Charlie, 7.  Roy was working for CMS Rural Electric in Meade, and I took care of the kids and did much of the work on the forty acre farm while he was at work there.  No one on our road had telephone service, because all farms had to be willing to pay an equal part of the cost of installing the lines, and  Mr. Ted Mertens was not interested.

            When the blizzard hit on Friday, the electricity went off,  which wasn't unusual during storms, and for such purpose, we had old kerosene lamps to use for light.  The propane stove worked well, too, for long, slow cooking, but we had no running water because our pump was electric.  Knowing that a storm was coming, I had filled some containers with water ahead of time.  I cooked stew and ham and beans on the living room stove.  For breakfasts, I cooked hot cereal on it.

            We had baby chicks under brooder lights in a shed beyond the barn, and no way to keep them warm without electricity, so I took Glenn, the oldest, out to help me put them in boxes and bring them into the house.

            I carried one box, and gave Glenn another, assuming he would follow me.  We stepped out of the shed into the blinding whiteness, and I pushed my  way toward the house.  Glenn took a step or two, saw nothing but white, and stopped in his tracks.  He just stood there, not knowing what to do, holding the box of chicks.  Having deposited the first box of poultry in the house, but not finding my oldest son behind me, I went up the cement steps, pushed open the door, and out into the snow again.  There was Glenn, where I had left him, just outside the chicken shed door.  "Follow me," I told him, and we carried the remaining boxes of chicks toward the house.

            The kids and I moved the living room couch away from the wall, spread layers of newspaper over the floor, and set the boxes there, the low sides of which provided walls to contain the chicks.  This was exciting for the kids, who alternately hung over the back of the couch watching the cheeping chicks,  or sat on the floor next to the cardboard barricades and held the little live yellow fluff balls in their hands.  It wasn't too long, however, before the incessant cheeping got to be a bit annoying, and the smell of baby chick poop permeated, first the living room, and then the entire house.  But we kept the chicks alive.

            There was enough light coming through the small, high, above-ground windows that we could see during the day, even with the snow drifted against them on the outside.  The kids and I played board games and read stories, in addition to playing with the chicks.  For the kids, this was all a wonderful adventure, a lot of fun, and not school!

            The shelter-belt north of the house protected us from some of the wind.  We kept the milk cow in the barn for the entire storm.  She had to be milked twice a day, of course, and it was really cold tramping through the blowing, wet snow to get to the barn each time.  Then I carried the bucket full of milk into the house.  I couldn't pour it through the cream separator, located  in the laundry room, because it didn't work without electricity, and I didn't have enough water to wash the separator parts, either, so we had plenty of warm, rich, un-separated milk to drink. 

            About Tuesday afternoon, after the storm had abated, I loaded a five-gallon cream can and the kids, on sleds, and went to the neighbors' to get water.  Once, we went up the hill to the south, to Mrs. Florence Stalder's, and on a couple of other days, we went to Ted Merten's house, across the road a bit to the north.  Both of those farms had water because they had windmills instead of wells with electric pumps, like we did.  To get there, we pulled the sleds and walked, over the shiny, crusted surface of 10-or-more-foot high snowdrifts.  They lasted for some time after the storm.

            The blizzard lasted from Saturday through Tuesday, but even then the roads weren't passable.  Roy had been in town at work on Saturday, when the storm hit, and, with no telephone, we weren't able to be in contact with anyone in town, nor they with us.  I just assumed that while directing work crews, he had gotten stranded in the office.

            Finally, on Monday, Otis Allison, the manager of CMS, and one of his workers, driving a four-wheel-drive truck over some circuitous route, came to check on us.  He sat down at the kitchen table, and nervously admitted to me that they didn't know where Roy and Fred Stone were.  He was scared the two might have gotten out of their pickup, wherever they were, tried to walk during the blizzard, and frozen.  I told him I wasn't worried about that; that Roy would have enough sense to stay in his vehicle.  Without thinking, Otis suggested I really should get a heat lamp on those baby chicks, and I said that I sure would do that as soon as he turned our electricity back on!

            It was not until after Roy came home on Thursday, that we got our electricity hooked back up. 

             --------------------------------------------------------------

(from Jean Lampi)

I am transcribing the early newspapers in our town, The Atikokan Progress, Atikokan, Ontario.

This morning I came across an article that I felt Meade might enjoy reading. I had no idea who to send it to and could not find a newspaper on the township or the Chamber sites so I decided to send it along to each of you hoping you might know how to have it printed so the town folks might read it.

And so with our thanks one more time.......... :)

April 4 1957

Local Residents aboard Train Stranded by Kansas Storm

Aboard a train trapped for nearly two days by a Kansas blizzard, Mr and Mrs. John Reid and their daughter, Mary, returned home to Atikokan Friday, March 29, from a holiday in Arizona that turned out to be a little longer than they expected.

The Reids had been scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, March 26, but they were delayed by the blizzard described as probably the worst to hit Kansas in close to a half-century. Also on the trip was Mr. Reid's mother from Fort Frances.

Their train, the Golden State Limited, became stranded in the snow at a small town, named Meade, in Kansas, en route from Phoenix to Kansas City. Some passengers, including Mr. Reid were aboard the stranded train for close to 47 hours. Heating facilities were not working on the train and for the last part of the time only crackers and milk were available as food for the 260 passengers.

The passenger train, which had been preceded by a diesel-driven snowplow, eventually ground to a halt at a point about four or five miles from Meade, a community of about 4,000 population.

This was at approximately midnight Saturday. It was early Monday evening before school busses were able to get through from Meade to the train to take off women and children. The buses returned later to transport male passengers to town.

“They didn't have any snow removal equipment in Meade because there hasn't been any rain or snow in that area for the last five or six years,” said Mr. Reid. “To get through to the train, the road had to be cleared by 100 men using shovels. Some of the drifts were 20 feet high.”

Food stocks aboard the train became depleted Sunday. Some emergency rations were dropped near the train from a U.S. Air force plane.

“The cook on the train had run out of propane gas by that time and the air force had been advised of this,” said Mr. Reid. “they dropped six small Coleman stoves along with supplies of frozen eggs and bacon. No one else knew how to operate the stoves and I finally got three of them going but I couldn't do anything with the other three.”

In Meade, the 260 passengers were given emergency shelter in the auditorium of the high school there. All were made comfortable, said Mr. Reid. The Meade Chamber of Commerce and the Red Cross did everything possible to look after the stranded people.

Mr. Reid said that passengers aboard the train were so well pleased with the all-out effort of help by people in Meade that a fund was raised among passengers aboard the train which was turned over to the hospital in Meade.

“There was better than $650 raised aboard the train and some passengers, who didn't have too much money with them at the time, pledged that they would subscribe to the fund later. One man contributed a $100 bill to the fund.”

The marooned train was almost completely snowed in. Snow was piled so high that it covered the windows, cutting off the light during the daytime.

“The passengers were a bit annoyed at one stage when, while listening to a radio aboard the train, there was a newscast on which the announcer reported that all the passengers had been removed from the train, had been taken to Meade, put in the auditorium and fed a good hot meal,” said Mr. Reid. “All this while we were still stranded aboard the train.”

The passengers remained overnight in Meade.

I knew the Reid family so well,  this was a great read for me too. Imagine the 100 men shoveling the train passengers out with hand shovels. Amazing!

Yours in praise of Meade

Jean Lampi :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2012-2016 © Prairie Books, all rights reserved