"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Will we get another old-fashioned "blizzard?"

Armistice Day blizzard scene, 1940
Are we having another "Iowa" type of winter? An intense winter with layers of crisp white snow is supposed to be a trademark of our life here in Minnesota. This winter might be one where we'd cuss if purchasing an expensive snow-blower at the start.
Is there a part of us that enjoys that periodic intense blizzard? We don't want anyone to get hurt by such events. But I think a part of us enjoys the opportunity to put our lives on hold and "hunker down" as it were. We could then share stories about how we all got through.
I can remember being stranded three times in my life due to a sudden intense storm. I remember leaving Westport after the "all clear" was finally given for motorists. I remember exchanging a wave with someone as we both felt the "Minnesota relief" of being able to confidently proceed on the roads again. It was more than a wave. We smiled with that particular exhilaration of such experiences. "Hey, we're Minnesotans!"
I got stranded in Starbuck once, trying to come back from Quinco Press in Lowry with the Morris paper. I never should have started out for Lowry in the first place. Howard Moser would have normally made that trip but he was on vacation, probably in Florida! The Sun Tribune's manager should have excused me from making the trip at all.
And after all my dedication after so many years with the paper, the end came in totally humiliating fashion. Newspapers became highly scaled-down and yet they seem to have stabilized anyway. Strange. Is the Morris paper simply being sustained by all those Alexandria advertising circulars? And even if you shop a lot in Alex, do you really need all that stuff? Do you need to look at the Sears circular, or the Elden's circular?
I remember getting stranded due to a blizzard up in northern Minnesota - was it Warren? - when I played in a musical group called the Tempo Kings. We traveled a lot in that group, very often to Grand Forks ND. We'd joke about the "Grand Forks glow," the lights of that city in the distance as we got close. Our "gig" would go from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Our customers were older people, what you might call the "Lawrence Welk crowd" of that time.
I regret having been involved in an activity that forced me to keep such late hours so often. Late? Call it early-morning sometimes, as I might get back to Morris when the roosters were crowing. Ben Franklin was right when he said "early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." There's another saying about how "nothing good happens after (state the late-night time)."
My late father once told about his experience in the 1940 Armistice Day blizzard. I really, really wish I had had him write it down. He was 24 years old when it happened. The generation that experienced that blizzard has mostly left us. There was a time when all middle-aged people could recount that day in pretty fair detail. What an experience that must have been.
Betty Waage had her story appear in a book: "All Hell Broke Loose" by William H. Hull. Hull stated that he published only a portion of the stories he received, due to space limitations of the book. Today with the Internet, all the stories could be shared somewhere. A photo on the cover shows a number of stalled cars with the snow up to essentially the top.
Many photos of harrowing scenes are preserved online. A couple years ago I wrote an extensive blog post reviewing that great blizzard, and it's on my companion website, "Morris of Course." I invite you to click on the link:
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2014/01/armistice-day-blizzard-in-minnesota-in.html
 
Our Minnesota Historical Society has a YouTube post that nicely presents an historical account. Here's that link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QccI2GeLvk
 
Might the Armistice Day blizzard be inspiration for a song? A calamity can indeed be inspiration for a song, as we saw so magnificently with Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." OK, so I've written lyrics or poetry about that great blizzard. I did this within the last few days. I don't know if I'll have it recorded. The lyrics go with a "sea shanty" type of melody. Here we go with the lyrics:
 
"Snow Came a-Fallin' "
by Brian Williams
 
The year was 1940, with war still far away
Though we kept our distance, there would come a day
Here in Minnesota, for the Armistice
We had solemn feelings, then the blizzard hit
 
CHORUS:
Snow snow snow came a-fallin'
We had never seen the like
Cold cold cold cut right through us
We had never felt such fright
 
From the gates of Hades came wind so violent
We asked our creator, why the harsh treatment?
Weather sent a message, lest we had forgot
We were just mere mortals - please accept your lot
 
(repeat chorus)
 
FDR was leading, new in his third term
He beat Wendell Willkie with the votes he earned
He embodied spirit for that rising tide
As we fought the snowstorm, he was at our side
 
(repeat chorus)
 
Hunters sought their quarry in forests and the sloughs
On those river bottoms that the ducks would choose
Famously they struggled once the air was filled
With the snow and biting cold that the Lord had willed
 
(repeat chorus)
 
We looked across that landscape - something to behold
Drifts up to our shoulders, cars encased in snow
We renewed our spirit, just like our forebears
Life in Minnesota is for those who dare
 
(repeat chorus)
 
We mourned for those who suffered, for those who lost the fight
Then we rolled our sleeves up to get on with life
Then we're left with stories, countless to digest
Of those Minnesotans who survived that test
 
(repeat chorus)

Soon we'd see the morning light

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