Blizzard of 1958 still one for the record books

Blizzard of 1958 still one for the record books

Twenty years ago, in the February 25, 1998 Times-Journal, Beulah Waid of Sharon shared some her memories of one of the worst snowstorms ever to hit Schoharie County on February 3, 1958. On the storm’s 40th anniversary, and with a couple of months more to go till spring, no matter what the groundhog claims, we thought her account was worth sharing again. By Beulah Waid The Storm of 1958, February 3 to be exact, we lived in the Town of Carlisle of VanDerwerken Road just about a mile off Route 20. We decided to head to Cobleskill to get some groceries as we heard we were headed for a big snowstorm. And needless to say, it was. With our five children, Cliff, 10; twins Dawn and Debbie, 7; Edward, 6; and Frances, 5, we headed out in our 1953 Pontiac. We thought it was like a bulldozer, but found out it wasn’t much more than a matchbox toy as it started snowing—and kept snowing. We got stuck in a big snow bank about a quarter-mile from home. We all started walking back home, where we contacted the highway department about pulling the old Pontiac to the side of the road. They said they would when they got up to it, but that was three weeks later. The temperature dropped and it snowed and blew for days. After about four days, my husband, Albert, decided he’d try to make it out to Route 20, through the fields on our saddle horse, Cactus, who was a Pinto. He tied the horse in Harry Pierce’s barn (long gone now) and he hitched a ride to Sharon Center, where he worked in the saw mill. He stopped at Mickle’s store in Carlisle on the way home and got what groceries he could put in a feed bag tied to the saddle horse. They started for home, unable to even find any trace of their trip out earlier in the day. It took him about two hours to return. We were all so glad to see him and for the groceries as well. He rode the horse for 3-4 days out to Route 20 until the snow got so deep in the fields that he just couldn’t make it anymore and we started making plans for a long winter. It was still snowing and blowing and the temperature kept dropping lower. No one could go outside any longer than 10-15 minutes at a time for fear of frostbite. Our old car was still buried under the snow and at this point, we couldn’t even see the antenna. The snow was so deep that we walked on top of the snow and could look over the telephone lines from the house to the barn. Thank God we still had our telephone to use through all of this. We had one wood stove and one oil burner for heat. Oil was getting short, so we moved into two rooms and shut off all of the bedrooms. We made beds for the children on the floor with their mattresses from their beds. We would take turns sleeping for fear of a chimney fire. It was February 14, the girls had their seventh birthday. We were still very much snowed in yet. I baked them a cake from what I could find to make one with. No presents though but our love. Debbie cried so hard, she wanted to go to school to celebrate Valentine’s day and their birthdays. Not Dawn. She was happy to stay home, but was soon bored to death. We watched a lot of TV, played card games with the kids…had lots of puzzles to do also. They did get to celebrate when they returned to school around March 1. Of course, there were no mail deliveries either. When we did get our mail it was delivered to us in a big cardboard box and took all day to go through. We had four cows, two calves, a pig, and some laying hens that kept us in lots of eggs. When Albert went to the barn, it would take him longer to get there than to do the chores. Had lots of milk also after the calves were fed first. We made the decision to butcher the pig as pig feed was getting low, and we were concerned that he would not have enough for the cow and chickens. So we butchered the pig. Couldn’t scald it like they do so had to skin it. We had lots of pork then and I made lots of dishes using milk and eggs. Albert made a tin bottom sled for the kids (like a toboggan), which they rode downhill. We had to keep our sanity somehow so we went out and rode with them. He walked to the neighbor’s on top of the snow banks, holding on to the telephone lines as a guide. Ethel Berg, who was 72, lived about one-half mile from us. She moved some food into her barn and slept there for fear that if she headed for her house, she’d get lost in the snow and not be found till spring. Albert also checked on Ted and Marilyn Schenegas, the Osterholm family and Lilly Van Derwerken as well. We would call these people every day to make sure everyone was safe and all okay. Our neighbors had hay and grain dropped by helicopter for their animals. After the first week they were dumping milk as it was impossible for the milk truck to pick it up. About 10 days into the storm the snow was easing up and the winds also so we decided to try to go and see our neighbors. Mrs. Schenegas had made some homemade cookies and boy did they smell good. We had hot chocolate and cookies there before we started out to see Ethel Berg. The County Civil Defense provided a helicopter and they dropped oil and groceries after about the second week of being spellbound. We had to lay a dark colored blanket on the snow so they knew where to drop the supplies. They even brought Albert a carton of cigarettes; the kids were so disappointed there was no candy. The medical transport system had to take Lilly Van Derwerken in a large basket on a toboggan as she was very sick and needed medical attention. Albert had to take care of her animals as well. If we had an emergency, we had to call Schoharie County Civil Defense; in turn, they would call the closest store. They would get the stuff packed up for the helicopter to pick it up. They would drop if off where we left the blanket in the snow. The store manager would allow anyone to charge and pay for it when we were able to get out. After about three weeks, the town road crew attempted to get our roads open but failed as the equipment kept breaking down. They finally got the Army snowblower to start opening the road. The job was very slow and tedious; of course, the farmers had priority first. We watched them go by our corner knowing it wouldn’t be too many more days and they would be opening ours. One of our friends who lived on Route 20 had a big bulldozer and backhoe. He came to our rescue and helped open the road. Not knowing where the car was buried, he hooked under the trunk and out it came, a car now minus a trunk and a bumper. They finally got enough snow cleared away so the school bus could turn around and the kids were off to school again. They were so happy! The snow banks were so high that we couldn’t see the bus coming, so we just waited patiently every day hoping we didn’t miss it. Albert returned to work and by spring, everything returned to normal. What a storm! I hope and pray we never see another one like that. But if we do, I am well prepared for it.

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