As the 61st anniversary of the 1962 snow gets close, I decided to write what I recall. I have a friend who said I should write about the big snow I remember. I remember a lot of big snows as I’m sure most of the older readers do, but I’ll write what I remember.
I’ll start by describing the place where I spent all but six years of my life before leaving home at age 20. The house is six-tenths of a mile from the state road, on a slight hill, and the wind blows all the time. The fields for miles to the south and the north are wide open space. The water from the south side of the house flows all the way to the James River while the water from the north side flows down the Thorn Creek to the South Branch, then all the way to the Potomac River. That’s history in itself! One inch of snow is easily piled into a drift of several feet by the constant, blowing wind.
I often think back to how life was in the 1950s and 1960s and some of the big snows we received. I remember one time daddy was helping us get to the school bus. The snow was well above my knees and daddy was walking in front, breaking a path. He was carrying my brother, leading my sister, and I followed behind. We hadn’t gone very far until my sister slid under a snow drift. Daddy pulled her out, turned around, and we went back to the house.
I recall when I was a junior in high school that the snow was piled so high in front of the yard we couldn’t see out over it. A man by the name of Harlan Simmons would use his bulldozer to open the roads and had piled the snow that high. He would open roads all through the area and sometimes it would be a day or two before he got to us. It wasn’t uncommon for the end of the road to drift back shut while he was working up to the house. School was rarely canceled but during my last two years in school we missed so many days that we went on Saturdays after it warmed up in order to have the credits we needed to graduate.
The most snow I ever saw was in February and March of 1962. There have been snows that have come close since but haven’t topped those three snows. My daughter was born the second week in in February and was just two weeks old when the first snow fell, the second about a week later, and then the third. It wasn’t inches but feet with each one! The wind drifted the first snow so high that mom, daddy, and my husband walked over the top of the yard fence in order to get to the barn. The sheep were in a pen outside the barn and all you could see were their heads. The milk cows and the horses were in the barn and that is where they stayed that first day as the barn doors were drifted shut.
My daddy was in charge of seeing to the animals at three farms and with no way to get the tractor or jeep out, and the barn doors drifted shut, the only thing he and my husband could do was walk. Seeing to the animals at home first, they went south to the Hiner Farm. They stopped at the house for a sandwich and then headed east to the Sally Place. They had to carry axes along to break the ice so the animals could get water. It was nearing dark when they got back to the house. I don’t really know how many miles they walked pushing through the snow and drifts but would guess at least 10.
They shoveled out the doors to the horse stalls the next morning and took the horses on that trip. With a foot and half of snow already on the ground and drifted, the second snow of equal amount fell in less than a week and the digging out started again. The wind piled the snow even higher on the drifts. In less than a week, the third snow fell and more shoveling—mountains of snow where there were no mountains! I don’t really know the amount of snow that fell in that short period of time. I can say I know how hard it is to navigate six-to-eight inches of snow but pushing through feet and drifts makes me tired just thinking about that.
Getting through the snow and seeing to the animals was difficult but keeping the house warm added to the misery. There were wood stoves in three of the rooms and still it was cold. The wind would blow snow under the front door until there would be a mini drift on the floor. It wasn’t unusual to wake with snow on the comforters we were sleeping under or stepping in snow when getting out of bed.
The snows demanded a lot of strength and dedication to those in charge of seeing to the animals and outside chores. Taking care of things inside the house was just as demanding. While keeping fires and fixing something to eat, mom also had to brave the snow to get to the barn to milk.
Added to all this was taking care of a two-week-old baby whose formula didn’t agree with her. After two different commercial brands didn’t work, we started her on whole cow’s milk that we heated until it was considered bacteria free. We would add Karo syrup to each bottle after it had been heated. Then there was the colic! Does anyone remember a baby with colic? My mom, God rest her soul, would sit beside the stove and rock this child until three or four in the morning before she would sleep. February and March of 1962 were not an easy time for any of us and a time in my life I’ll always remember.
The farm, the house, the same open fields are still there. There is a different heating system in the house but they still have trouble getting the temperature above 60 degrees when it’s really cold outside. That inch or two of snow still blows into a drift several feet high—just ask my brother if you doubt.
I saw big snows before 1962 and big snows since, but I can honestly say the amount of snow from those three storms in that short time span is the most I ever saw on the ground at one time. That is the only time I can ever remember walking over the top of the yard fence!
Thank God for modern snow removal equipment and state road crews!
Violet R. Eye
Jan. 12, 2023