*presented in co-operation with the New Carlisle Historical Society
Today, November 25, marks the 65th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1950, which blanketed Ohio with more than two feet of snow in some locations. The Dayton area, including New Carlisle, received between ten and fifteen inches that day, and the storm spawned many lasting memories as neighbors and shop owners worked to clear the streets while other residents attempted to make it home.
“It was like ‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with everybody trying to make it home,’” said David McWhorter of the New Carlisle Historical Society, who compiled personal and recorded accounts of the blizzard in preparation for this week’s anniversary.
McWhorter spoke to Bob Baker and Bill Berry about their recollections of the storm. McWhorter said that Baker, 91, who still lives in New Carlisle, stressed the significance of how enthusiastically residents banded together to help one another as the snow fell and the streets became impassable. Baker told McWhorter that private citizens as well as business owners came out in droves to clear the streets and ferry stranded motorists to warm shelters, but none of them asked for money or anything in return.
McWhorter said that Baker said the “Great Thanksgiving Storm,” as it was known by some, began when a severe cold snap swept the state on Friday, November 24 of 1950, when the temperatures hovered around zero.
“The worst of the storm occurred on Saturday November 25, when forty mile per hour winds and blizzard conditions prevailed,” McWhorter wrote. “By late Saturday night and early Sunday morning snow depths here in New Carlisle registered anywhere from 10 to 15 inches with drifts much higher.”
He said that those drifts, coupled with the rapid accumulation, caused havoc on the streets, which prompted Bob Baker to retrieve his tractor and begin clearing the main intersection of Main and Jefferson Streets. Baker and the downtown merchants created navigable lanes throughout downtown by Sunday morning, McWhorter said, noting that it was several days later when things were “somewhat back to normal.” He said that the volunteer road crew was joined by nearly 100 volunteers on Monday and Tuesday, and that some armed with shovels, and others with plows, removed nearly 500 truckloads of snow from the “business block” by Tuesday afternoon. The snow was carted out just south of town, past the bike path, and deposited along 235.
McWhorter said it was significant to mention Mr. Baker’s involvement in the annual Heritage of Flight Festival’s parade of planes—which, in 2003, gave him the opportunity to pull an airplane through the same intersection that he helped clear during the severe storm some 53 years earlier.
”According to Mr. Baker, the most amazing part of the blizzard of 1950 was how the town’s citizens and its business leaders came together to help each other and to remove the snow from the city’s streets,” McWhorter said.
He also shared the tale of the Dr. and Mrs. Jermanovich, of New Carlisle, who spent 20 hours attempting to make it home from Columbus. The Jermanoviches had been in Columbus to watch Ohio State take on Michigan. McWhorter said that temperatures before the game time hovered between zero and five degrees, and that forty mile per hour winds and snow made it nearly impossible to see the field from the stands.
“Michigan won the game 9-3 on 27 total yards gained and without achieving even one first down,” he said. “Ohio State’s loss cost Coach Wes Fesler his job and the subsequent hiring of Woody Hayes.”
On their way home from the game, the Jermanoviches’ car broke down due to a frozen gas line, and they hitched a ride to Columbus’ Union Station with a highway road clearance truck and a police cruiser to the Columbus Union Station, where they caught a train to Springfield. From there, they planned to take a cab to their home in New Carlisle, but arrived to find all traffic stalled. They tried to find lodging at two different Springfield hotels but found them both to be beyond capacity, with people sleeping in the lobbies. They then made the reluctant decision to walk thirteen miles to their New Carlisle home during the height of the blizzard, but made it just west of Springfield before realizing their idea had been mistaken. They waited another two hours for transportation before continuing their westward trek, stopping at a restaurant called Larry’s Little Kitchen along what was then known as New Carlisle-Springfield Road. There, Dr. Jermanovich decided to call Wilmer Funderburg shortly after 2 a.m. to come to pick them up with his tractor. McWhorter said that Funderburg picked up the couple just before daylight and drove them just past his house, where they encountered a 30-foot snow drift and were forced to turn around and return to Mr. Funderburg’s house. He said they then called another farmer, Gerald Studebaker of Studebaker’s Nursery, to pick them up on the other side of the massive snowdrift, and then eventually got them home after a grueling 20-hour journey on the frozen roads.
McWhorter said that the Springfield News reported over 500 people marooned on roads in Clark County and over one thousand cars stranded between Columbus and Dayton, many were returning form the big game.
“One of the most critical situations occurred about midnight Saturday night, when approximately 100 cars including a greyhound bus with 39 passengers, were stalled and blocked in almost inextricable mass at the intersection of Route 69 (now 235) and 40,” said McWhorter.
He added that Hall Pontiac Company and Bethel Township employees did a “remarkable rescue job throughout the night taking people from stalled vehicles shuttling them to nearby farmhouses, and to private homes, Masonic Temple and other public places here in New Carlisle, including some forty persons being sheltered and fed at the Regal Restaurant on Main Street, which became the social center as well as he restaurant and hotel on Saturday night.”
With temperatures expected to be nearly 60 degrees higher than the Great Thanksgiving Storm and the forecasts significantly less snowy, we note the stark contrast that 65 years have made.