Today’s guestpost was written by Charles Fletcher. He sent it to me after I wrote of this year’s cold spring.
1936 left to right: TJ, Ellen (Mother), Leveta, Charles, and Louise (Photo provided by Charles Fletcher)
The Late Spring Snow of March 17, 1936 written by Charles Fletcher
March 17, 1936–One of the worst snowstorms of the century swept across Asheville and Western North Carolina. Snowdrifts up to 8 feet high buried parked cars in the city and caused hazardous driving through the area.
I was thirteen years old, and my younger brother, T.J., was eleven at the time of the late spring snow of March 17th 1936. We went to the new school called Beaverdam Elementary School which was about one-half mile away from where we lived. Our house was located on a hill above a graveyard, and as might be expected, it was referred to as “Graveyard Hill”.
On March 15th at noon the snow was coming down very hard, so the school closed at noon and sent everyone home. The snow continued very hard from Friday until Sunday night.
My Dad was working in the paper mill at Canton, and the mill’s supervisors asked all the employees who were working to stay and not go home. They wanted to be sure that they would have someone to keep the mill running and not have to shut it down.
Like most of the people who lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina, my family were always prepared for the unexpected problems that come up every now and then. They always had plenty of food that they had preserved in the summer and plenty of firewood on hand to keep the house warm and cookstove hot so they could cook three meals evey day.
Although we didn’t have the things that children and adults have nowadays to keep themselves entertained, we managed very well with the things we had. We read, told stories, and played games, and Mom would read us Bible Stories.
On Monday morning we asked Mom if we could go back to school. We would have to walk the half-mile to school because we lived less than the two-mile distance from the school which would qualify us to ride the school bus. After Mom made sure we had enough clothes on so we wouldn’t freeze, she let us leave for school if we promised that if the snow was too deep we would come back home.
The snow was up higher than our heads on the route we normally took to school, so we walked the ridges where the wind had blown off the snow. When we came down off the ridges, we walked on the sides of the road where the snow had been blown back to the high side of the road.
Burt Robinson’s house was the closest house to the school, and he was the janitor and caretaker for the school. When we got near the school, we could see black smoke coming from the coal-fired furnace that heated the water that ciruclated through pipes to heat the school rooms. We knew that Burt was at the school.
When we reached the school, we headed straight to the boiler-room where Burt spent most of his time during the school day. He had his candy store in the boiler-room. Students could come in and buy an all-day sugar daddy for a penny.
When we entered the boiler-room, Burt asked what we were doing at school. He told us that there wouldn’t be any classes for the better part of a week and that we should go on back home before it started snowing again.
When we got back to our house, Dad was home. He had walked the ridges where the snow had blown off just like my younger brother and I had done.
This spring snow set back farming for the year and did lots of damage to trees. There was also at least one death that was known about when a man who was our neighbor lost his life from what was called “cold sleepiness”. In cold sleepiness the body temperature gets low, and the mind tells a person to go to sleep. Once asleep, the person freezes to death.
I am now 91 years old, and I have seen many big snow storms, but I will never forget the spring snow of March 17, 1936.
March 27, 2013
I hope you enjoyed the memories Charles shared as much as I did-although we’ve had a cold snowy March this year in western NC, it doesn’t compare with the snow storm from Charles’s youth.