Growing up south of Abilene, we didn’t have snow shovels or snow blowers. We had two snow removal devices, though. One was named J.D. and one was named Tim.
Whether school was cancelled or not, my brother and I spent the day using feed shovels to clear the snow from the lane.
Driving back then in the snow was a lot easier, however. We had cars that weighed about that of a Sherman tank and we had mud and snow tires we rotated with summer tires. Some used chains.
I had a ’67 Chevy that cut through snow better than an all-wheel-drive vehicle of today.
It was March 1979 that two major snowstorms hit Kansas.
Kathy and I graduated from college in December and were getting “out of Dodge” on a vacation to the Bahamas that Spring Break that was a graduation gift from her parents. Or at least, we hoped we were. And speaking of Hope. . .
First, there was a matter of covering St. Xavier’s and Hope’s basketball games. Joe Ross was coaching the Hope Lions at the time.
A friend of mine who lived in Manhattan had a sister who played for the Lady Lions. The two of us, plus a photographer, if you can believe that, left Junction City for the 6 p.m. game around 4 that afternoon.
As we headed down Highway 77, it started to snow. The road became so slick we rolled off Highway 4 into the Hope gymnasium at 9 p.m.
The girls’ game had yet to start.
Like the young kids we were (I doubt we were dedicated journalists), we stayed until the end of the games shortly before midnight. We called the wives in Junction City and lied that we were staying with my friend’s parents. Instead, we took off back to Junction City.
Like I said, that old Chevy plowed through the snow with ease. We would stop at each car in the ditch just to make sure there wasn’t someone stranded.
We made it home without issues. The St. X players? Not so lucky. They spent Friday night and Saturday night in the gym and didn’t get back to JC until Sunday.
Next problem was the tour group’s charter flight to Nassau set to leave Saturday night out of Kansas City. Interstate 70 was closed from Topeka to Salina.
We called the airline several times on Saturday and each time, we received the same message. “The flight was on time.”
Needless to say the flight was not on time and after heading east down Interstate 70 on Sunday, we made it to the vacation somehow, minus one day.
Two weeks later, another snowstorm blanketed the Midwest. This time our photographer and the assistant photographer were both on vacation.
“I can take same pictures,” I volunteered. Having not served in the armed forces, I had yet to learn: never volunteer.
Seven inches of snow fell and aided with 40 mph winds, power was out for 24 hours. Yes, it was wet and cold and the Associated Press was interested in some “snow photos”. We had no power so printing the pictures was impossible. I cut some strips, saved some negatives for our newspaper, and shipped the rest of the negatives to the Wichita Eagle via the Greyhound bus.
The next day the Wichita headlines read “Snowstorm slams Midwest” with my photo (pictured here). Of course the photo byline read “The Associated Press.”
Unfortunately, in 2013 with all of the advanced equipment, Doppler radar and satellite images, the weather forecasters still miss the boat from time to time.
They just make the forecasts sound so matter-of-fact.
“The Midwest will get a pounding Wednesday and Thursday with 9 to 12 inches of snow falling but by Thursday afternoon the sun will shine.”
On another station: “There’s an 80 percent chance of up to three inches of snow.”
Monday and Tuesday of this week, forecasters missed, not only the boat, but the whole ocean. Every school west of Junction City was closed and some missed a perfectly good day of learning/teaching.
Last week, some of us went to work on Wednesday night to prepare for Thursday’s newspaper and the snow. We got Thursday’s paper put to bed a day early; about the same time the fire bells rang. Then it was back to redo the front page with a photo of the Kirby House fire and story.
All in a day’s work.
Some of us apparently went to the grocery store later that same day.
I had plans for making chili.
And I learned that one CAN make a meal without onions, potatoes, hamburger, bread, or milk. (Those shelves were empty). You just have to be creative.