East and north of Fort Collins, Colorado
1940s and 1950s
In Alaska, what someone called a blizzard does not hold a candle to the blizzard in northern Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska of Jan. 2, 1949. I actually have not been in a so-called blizzard on the Kenai Peninsula. Blowing snow and whiteouts, slick roads — but not an actual blizzard as I would define it.
The blizzard of Jan. 2-7 of 1949 will be forever etched in many of our minds. The continuous 60 mph wind drove snow through window frames, doorways and attics. Ranches and farms were cut off for weeks. Cattle, horses, sheep and farm animals froze standing up and were found in the springtime after the snow drifts melted.
John, Ginger and I remember snowdrifts so tall that we could walk on top of the garage roof just by climbing to the top of the drift. Telephone poles stuck out of the tall drifts like men with their arms out asking for help.
Our farm — as well as everyone else who had farm animals — had to feed and take care of the animals through this vicious storm. Dad strung a rope from the house to the chicken house to the barn, and during the worst days of the storm he used this rope to hold on to while feeding and tending to the animals. He had the barn full of most of his cattle and horses and they all had to be fed.
I can remember how worried we were when Dad — bundled up in every piece of warm clothing he could find, with several pairs of socks on his feet, his big boots on, and scarf around his mouth and nose — opened the kitchen door, quickly closed it, grabbed the rope line and headed for the chicken house and the barn.
We all stood by the kitchen window waiting and worrying about our Dad until we could see him coming back with one gloved hand on the rope and a pail full of milk. He would be totally exhausted and terribly worried about his animals. We all listened carefully as he described the awful conditions.
The first and second days of the storm did not cause too much worry as storms like that usually blew on through. This one stayed for five to seven days! During the night of the first day we lost electricity. To this day, I do not remember how we stayed warm or how Mom cooked for her family, except it must have been with a kerosene camp stove. To add to the worries, we ran out of water. Our water was delivered to us by the ”water-wagon man,” who delivered water every two weeks to a cemented cistern located in the garage.
Two days after Christmas, I had my big toe operated on, and half my big toe nail was missing. Dr. Hoftinan said it had to be soaked in hot water and a blue solution twice a day. That was hard to do without water. Dad would bring in a big dishpan full of snow and Mom would melt it, only to leave two or three cups of water, because the snow was so dry and it also was full of grit, sand and dirt. In those days we had a milk separator and Mom used the round white milk filters to filter out the dirt. Then Dad would go back out and get another dishpan full of snow, which was melted down again until Mom had enough water to wash dishes, dampen one washcloth to wash our faces and for me to soak my big toe. This ritual was every morning after Dad came in from milking.
At night we would light a “coal oil” lamp and we sat around the table or in the living room around the fireplace to stay warm. We all wore several layers of clothing to stay warm in the house. Mom’s canned fruit and vegetables and meat in the freezer kept us from being hungry.
After the storm was over all the roads were drifted shut. The animals were in dire need of hay, and some farmers were in need of food. The National Guard was called out to deliver livestock supplies and deliver food.
You were instructed to tramp a big cross or plus sign in the snow and the big cargo planes would fly over and push out hay for the animals and food supplies to the stranded farmers and ranchers. Whenever we heard the big planes fly over, we all would rush out and stand on the steps to watch the hay bales and food boxes fall out of the sky. Mom warned us to stay close to the house so we would not be hit by a flying hay bale.
The day after the storm subsided, Jan. 8, our neighbor lady said she was going to have her baby. Her husband walked to our farm and Dad started his John Deere front-end loader and dug through fields and around snowdrifts while they followed in a pickup to get her to the highway 2 miles away, which they hoped was open. They made it to the hospital in Fort Collins just in time!! That night Dad thought the baby’s name should be something like Snowdrift — if it was a girl — and if it was a boy —Blizzard. I do not have a clue what they named the baby.
Mary Becker Donnell says in her whole life she will never forget the blizzard of ‘49. They were at their grandparents home when the blizzard struck — no TV or radio warnings in those days! Her brother and her dad walked home, about 2 miles, during the blizzard, because they had to take care of the livestock. Mary, her sister Ruth and her mom walked home when the blizzard was over and she will never forget how happy her mom was to see smoke coming out of the chimney of the house. Only then did she know that they had gotten home safely in the storm — Mary and her sister had a job too! They had to walk over the drifts of snow in the field and whenever they saw a hole in the snow they called either her dad or brother and they would dig out a live sheep!
Wayne Scott lived on a city street just outside of Fort Collins and the snow didn’t affect them very much, but he does remember -42 degrees. There was an article in the paper about a horse that was stranded in the mountains. It had made a path about 100-feet long in the snow, walking back and forth. The National Guard flew bales of hay to her and kept her alive for weeks until they could get her out.
We had several storms after that. They did not last very long. The drifts in everyone’s yard lasted until spring. The electric was restored and we had electricity after two weeks. Dad cleared out the yard with John Deere front-end loader and then went to neighbors and cleared their yards out, and checked to see if they needed anything. He would report to us every night on the conditions of our neighbors.
In Alaska, when we are without power for seven to eight hours and the wind blows and the snow drifts, I cannot help but be reminded of this storm of 1949. Farmers and ranchers lost an enormous amount of cattle. Everyone helped everyone around them recover. I feel like I can go through snowing in Alaska and enjoy the beauty of each and every day. Oh!
But wait — our winter has just begun! It’s the rain and ice we have to deal with now. I believe just maybe that is worse than 10 feet of snow.
Do not forget to thank God for our United States of America!
Southern Pecan Pie
This is my mom’s recipe.
1/3 cup butter — has to be butter
Dash of salt
1 cup pecans
1 cup dark Karo corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream butter and sugar and salt and stir in eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Turn into an unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Insert a knife in the middle to see if done, cool. Serve with whipped cream.
French Apple Pie
One unbaked pie shell
4 to 6 large tart apples such as Granny Smith
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
Mix and let set while you make the pie crust and mix up the topping.
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
Crumble and work butter into sugar and flour.
Put apples and sugar mixture into unbaked pie shell and top with the crumbled topping. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes then tum down oven and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until the apples are soft and top is browned and bubbly. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
Brussels sprouts with “bachus”
Bob and his kids when they were growing up called everything like ketchup, mustard, cheese sauce or gravy “bachus.” Bob still calls lots of things at the table “bachus.”
2 pounds of fresh Brussels sprouts — clean, cut in half
Bring water to boil and drop sprouts in.
In another saucepan melt:
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
Saute until tender and add:
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Stir until blended and add:
1 1/2 cup milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thick.
Take off stove and fold in:
1 cup sour cream.
Pour the ”bachus” over the sprouts and enjoy! I know this nice man that loves Brussels sprouts with ranch dressing. His nick name is the “dirt guy.”
Use this on Brussels sprouts, broccoli or cauliflower that has been steamed.
In a small saucepan melt:
2 tablespoons of butter
Blend in with a fork or a whisk:
2 tablespoons of flour, a shake of salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of milk, a small amount of their time, continuing to stir until thick and bubbly. Reduce heat.
1 3-ounce package cream cheese and a pinch of cayenne.
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Pour over steamed vegetables and bake 20 minutes until browned on top. Baking is not necessary, just pour over vegetables and serve.
Note: Grandson Joey explains that Bacchus was the Greek God of wine and celebration. Anything with cheese on it is a celebration for Bob.
A different green bean casserole
Make a white sauce of:
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Stir with a whisk, bring to a boil, cook constantly for 1 to 2 minutes until thickened.
3 to 4 teaspoons dry ranch-style salad dressing mix
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 teaspoons butter in a medium skillet over medium heat and add:
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves of garlic minced
Cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes until tender, remove half onion-garlic mixture and set aside.
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms to the onion mixture in the skillet and cook 5 minutes until mushrooms are tender.
Combine mushroom mixture with:
2 or 3 cans cut green beans — drained
Stir in the white sauce, and pour into a 1 1/2 or casserole dish.
Sprinkle with the reserved onion-garlic mixture.
Sprinkle with fine bread crumbs or the French fried onions.
Bake uncovered until heated through about 20 to 30 minutes.
• By ANN “GRANNIE ANNIE” BERG, Peninsula Clarion