Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Enter Snow, Stage Right

This is the beginning of December, the start of the season of snow. I grew up not too far north of Holland, Michigan and when I would think of the winters, I remember reveling in the idea of sledding and building snowmen. Sometimes it was wonderful simply to look out windows and watch our brown fall days turn almost magically into a world of white with ribbons of ice dangling from the roof’s edge. Winter can be fun, but it has in the past also proved memorable. Some of those winters created memorable pictures, and stories that made became a part of the history of this community.

If you look back at archival pictures from the early days of the 20th century you can find some amazing pictures of the fun created from the winter storms that blew through and seemed to stop life for the whole community. There are pictures of skating on the on Lake Macatawa from 1906, and of horse-drawn cutter races in the 20s. But the really memorable winter storms are marked simply by the years they occurred.

In 1918 the snow had created mountains that when plowed looked like canyon walls with telephone poles hovering at the top edges like buried giants. 1936 was another winter of record snowfall, but the winter of 1962-63 was a record maker for bitter cold temperatures and snowfall. Gale force winds created snow drifts that reached twelve feet. The Board of Public Works had placed 8 foot stakes by the hydrants for area plow truck drivers but after the incredible snow falls the stakes were barely visible. A total of 137.5 inches of snow fell that year.

Those of us who lived here in the winters of both 1977 and ‘78 remember five to 10 foot drifts, over 60 mile per hour winds and weekends in February that brought storms of such ferociousness that churches city-wide were closed Sunday mornings, and also closed roads county-wide.

Winter’s force over the years has given us many a snowy mess. But like in the early days of the 20th century, it also showed that young and old alike can enjoy a surprise snow day. Winters here can be unpredictable and sometimes over powering. But from sled races to building a snow fort, a great winter storm can create fond memories, and stories to remember for a whole lifetime.

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