TWO WINTER STORMS

I grew up in a different era, which seems far away now, but some of my memories are very clear.

Juno brings two snow storms to my mind: one in about 1940 and the other in 1958.

I went to a one-room country school a little over a mile from my home. It was winter. There was probably some snow already on the ground. The day started normally. My dad took his milk to the Deposit creamery first thing in the morning. It was a nine-mile trip each way. I probably went with him.

Code and Leese, two senior adults, lived on the corner of the highway and the county road. Whenever one of them needed something from the grocery or the pharmacy, they would put a small flag on their mailbox. Dad stopped and got his instructions. I was always happy when we had to go to the pharmacy because that meant I could get a five-cent ice cream cone—winter or summer made no difference to me. I was most often the first customer of the day.

Dad dropped me off at school, stopped to deliver whatever Code or Leese needed, and went home to do his chores in the barn.

Weather forecasting in that time, was often inaccurate. Whether or not the storm that began late in the morning had been predicted, I don’t know. The snow and wind quickly became a blizzard piling snow. We watched it through the windows. I’m sure our teacher, Mrs. Parsons, began to worry about letting us leave for home, but it wasn’t safe to let us out the door.

Sometime in the early afternoon, we looked out to see my father with his team of horses pulling a large sled. We got our snow pants, jackets, hats, and mittens on. I was a small child. I remember fighting the short distance across the school yard to the wire fence. I struggled, pulling myself along the fence against the wind toward Dad holding the horses. I was scared. I thought if I let go the wind would blow me away. Then I felt Dad’s arms around me. He carried me to the sled, tucked me under a heavy warm horse blanket. All the children who lived on our road were snuggled under that blanket while Dad faced the wind to guide the horses safely up the road to our farm.

The storm in 1958 lasted the full month of February. It didn’t snow continuously, but it snowed some every day. I was teaching in Interlaken, New York, while my husband attended Cornell University. During that month, we had four full days of school, but with half or fewer of the children in attendance. Many roads were blocked so the buses couldn’t get through to pick up students.

Snowplow drivers worked valiantly to keep one of the two main north-south highways open with a least one lane. It made for interesting driving when you encountered a single lane on a two lane road.

The one state road which connected Interlaken with the village of Lodi to the west was blocked by a twenty-foot wall of hard packed snow. The normal V-shaped plow cracked when the driver rammed it. The town called for reinforcements—rotary plows. They couldn’t dent the white wall. Finally, the town called in dynamite experts to blow the road open so trucks could haul away the snow.

When the snow stopped coming and children could get to school buses, the wind had drifted snow within six inches of roof of our one-story building. I had no problem keeping the children’s attention inside my room for at least a month. The winds had piled snow over the bottom three-quarters of the wall of windows.

The forecasters may not have been able to say exactly who would get how much snow, but they surely nailed the ferocity of Juno.

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COUNTRY CHURCH SUPPERS 1940s

I grew up on a upstate New York dairy farm in the late 1930s and 40s. We attended a small country church which had no space for anything other than worship. Public suppers to make money were held in its members homes.
My mother was president of the women’s organization. We lived in a large rambling farmhouse so at least once or twice a year, our home was the setting for a public chicken and biscuit dinner.
It was a two day affair. The church women came to the house the day before the event. They peeled potatoes and gathered all the necessary pots, dishes and flatware. My father moved a second table from upstairs to the dining room so about 15 people could be seated at a time. He also beheaded a couple of chickens and stripped them of their feathers before they were prepared for cooking. Meanwhile, chickens were meeting a similar fate at other members’ homes.
Early on the big day the chickens were put on the back of the wood fired cookstove to simmer slowly. These chickens were usually old hens which had stopped laying eggs. They required long slow cooking, unlike the young ones that are in our markets today. The church women gathered bringing with them biscuits, pies and cakes prepared at home. The potatoes were put over to boil, jars of homemade pickles opened, cabbage shredded for salad, homemade bread sliced and vegetables, which varied with the season, were prepared.
By early afternoon the women’s faces were red from the heat in the kitchen which seemed to be the same temperature as the oven. If it were summer time, kids like myself ran in and out of the house and were shooed from the kitchen. There seven or eight women laughed and worked together.
The supper was advertised from 4:00 to 7:00, but by 3:30 cars began pulling into the yard from nearby villages. The smell of frying chicken permeated the house and yard. Dad was recruited to mash the potatoes which were liberally laced with homemade butter and cream. Gravy bubbled in a pot waiting to be poured over hot biscuits. Two or three women donned fresh aprons and serving began. When the dining room was full, the next guests waited their turn on the front porch in the summer or in the large living room in cool weather. And so it went until all comers had their fill. Finally, the tired women and their farmer husbands, who had finished milking their cows, sat down to eat whatever was left. At seventy-five cents a plate and fifty-five dinners later the church would be forty dollars richer–enough to help pay the pastor and meet other expenses.
For us, as young children, it was a wonderful time to play together in the dusk of the evening. As we matured into early teenagers, we were enlisted as servers and dishdryers.
The next day, the house would be restored to its former self. Mom would need the next several days to recover.

A NEW CHAPTER IN CHURCH LIFE

Last Sunday, I became an elder in the Reformed Church of Fishkill. This is a new chapter in my church life.

For all the years that Richard was an active minister, being part of the local consistory (governing body) was not open to me as a minister’s wife. My opinions were rarely sought by the deacons and elders of the church.

Of course, I knew how consistory meetings went from Richard’s perspective. Sometimes we discussed issues that were raised. I even had advice, but I never any say in the outcome.

Now I will get to express an opinion on matters, perhaps even have an influence on the outcome of the discussion. I am looking forward to being an active member of the consistory as an elder. It is an office I take on with some trepidation, but serious anticipation that I may help in the church’s life and mission.

THAT CERTAIN SCRATCHY FEELING: LARYNGITIS

I woke at three in the morning with a scratchy feeling in the bottom of my throat. Oh, oh. I know that feeling. It means laryngitis. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been afflicted with it, but I can’t forget the tickle in that certain spot in my throat.

Several years ago, I could almost count on having no voice around early December and then again in the spring, near Easter. These I managed to bring on myself because I would push my voice to teach, sing or to direct a choir. Many times I could not sing “Gloria” or “Alleluia” when the holy days arrived.

One year, I went to the doctor complaining I couldn’t seem to get over my voice problems.
Dr. B. said, “Go home and stay there for a week. Rest!”
“But I have a job. I have to go to work!”
“Suit yourself.” Dr. B. was clearly annoyed with me. “You’re not going to get better unless you take care of yourself.”
It was not easy for me, but I did stay home an entire week. I slept, read, and did very, very little. Dr. B. was right. I got better.

Hopefully, I’m being a little smarter today. I stayed home from a group meeting. I will not go to choir rehearsal this week or plan to sing on Sunday. Perhaps with rest, my voice will recover.

Why do we often feel our presence is so important that we put our health and that of others in jeopardy?