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Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project

The Blizzard of 1959

It was the last day of school before Christmas break, 1959. I was in the 2nd grade and my sister was in the 1st grade. Of course this was during pre-dopplar days when we didn't have much warning when a major storm system was headed our way.

Classes were dismissed early but instead of leaving the schoolhouse, we were directed to go to the gym. What we didn't know was that a major blizzard was quickly embracing the town of Grand River and the surrounding countryside.

At the time we lived near the outer region of Decatur County, south of the town of Hopeville. Down the road from us lived the Roy FOLAND family, their sons Harold and Glen being a few years older than me. The bus driver didn't think he could get through since we lived so far from Grand River. I began to get worried as other students left the gym, boarded their buses and headed out for home. Before too long, my sister, the FOLAND brothers, and I were the only students left behind.

Mr. HOFFMAN, a teacher who lived out our way, volunteered to drive us home. We gathered our belongings and piled into his car. The first mile wasn't too bad but as we proceeded further out into the countryside, we were surrounded by nothing but white. How Mr. HOFFMAN was able to tell if we were still on the road was beyond me. All I could see was white and more white. Mr. HOFFMAN's windshield wipers started to fail him, getting hung up on ice and slowed down by heavy wet snow. Before too long, we were creeping along at a snail's pace, inching our way through a shield of white.

Then the car's heater began to fail, blowing wet cold snow at our feet. Still, Mr. HOFFMAN urged the car forward as best he could.

By the time we got to Leonard and Deana FOLAND's farm, located appoximately 8 miles northwest of Grand River, it became obvious that Mr. HOFFMAN'S car was going to shut down, choked by snow and ice. He pulled into the driveway and honked his horn. Leonard rushed to the car and told us to wait a minute. He came back a few minutes later with a couple of quilts to protect us from the frigid sharp wind as we strugged through hip-high snowbanks, stumbling toward the house. Deana had put a kettle of water on to boil and helped us out of our soggy coats and boots. She ushered us into several bedrooms and then brought us some towels to dry ourselves. Then she bundled us up in several layers of Leonard's longjohns and sat us down by the wood stove in the parlor. To make sure we didn't get chilled, she wrapped us up in quilts and brought us cups of hot tea.

Meanwhile the blizzard howled and wailed, threatening to break into the old farm house.

I was beginning to catch a cold so Deana made a poultice and placed it on my chest and throat. I'm not sure exactly what was in the poultice but its fumes helped me breathe a little better and its heat felt good on my burning chest.

We spent the evening huddled around the wood stove. I sang a few songs from our recent Christmas program which Deana and Leonard seemed to enjoy.

The night was very dark and chilly but my sister and I felt safe and warm tucked under several layers of quilts. It was a night like most children endure, seeming to last forever as the wind howled and tree branches creaked and groaned around the farmhouse.

The dawn came with a faint promise of sunshine. By mid-morning, the blizzard had subsided. The sun broke out in full glory, making everything outside blinding from the light and all the snow. But we were warm, safe, and happy to be with Leonard and Deana.

By noon Glen and Harold's father along with my father arrived at the farm house with a team of Clydesdales pulling a corn wagon. Deana was reluctant to let us go, afraid that we would suffer from the cold during our ride home, another four miles away. After much discussion with Leonard, Deana agreed to let us go but only if we bundled up with some of her quilts. It was too cold to look out of the wagon so we huddled down, covering our entire bodies and heads with the quilts. We listened to the snow crunching under the weight of the wagon and the horses' hooves as the harness jingled like tiny little bells.

We arrived home about twenty-four hours after we had left the school gym, a little cold but glad to see our mother. Home never looked so good as it did that winter afternoon.

Leonard and Deana FOLAND's Farmhouse, May of 2009

Contribution and photograph by Sharon R. Becker, April of 2009

To contribute to "Tales from the Front Porch: Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project"
contact Sharon R. Becker at
Please include the word "Ringgold - Front Porch" in the subject line. Thank you.

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