This is a little story of one of my childhood experiences that I wrote out to be published in an online newsletter that has gone out of existence. So I figured this is as good a place to publish it as any…
Most people “of a certain age” in southern Minnesota can remember what is often called “the St. Patrick’s Day Blizzard of 1965.” Indeed, the great snows from that late-winter storm were responsible for one of the greatest floods in Minnesota history. There are many stories out there concerning that storm; but I have in mind a lesser storm a few years earlier, but one which is strong in my own memory.
My family moved from Jackson to a rented farmhouse on a farm six miles south and one mile west of Redwood Falls back in the summer of 1961. Besides Mom and Dad, there were five brothers enjoying the adventure of country living out there. We only lived there one year before moving into Redwood. I was in third grade that fall, and my brothers and I rode the school bus to and from town every day; that is, my older brother who must have been a freshman that year, and my next-younger brother who was in second grade. Off-hand, I’m not sure if my third brother was starting school yet, and I know my baby brother was still too small to go to school.
I don’t recall if the storm came in December, or January. It does seem to me that it was around Christmas. We boys had ridden the bus to school in the morning, and the snow began to fall and continued all day. After school we climbed on the bus again and watched the other kids getting off the bus as we headed south on Highway 71. We got six miles out and the bus turned right off the highway onto our gravel road… and suddenly became stuck.Now I don’t remember how much snow there was. I know it wasn’t a foot or more, and I don’t think it was four or five inches either. I suspect it was probably eight inches or so; a pretty fair snowstorm. It was enough to stop the bus anyway.
The bus driver got out and “took a look”, then called the “big boys” in the back of the bus to come out and try and push the bus. (This was back before they ever thought of liability issues and stuff like that.) Well, there was no way we were going forward, but they did get us backed out onto the highway again. From there the driver took the rest of the kids home, those he could get home anyway. The rest of us, my brothers and I and three or four other kids from other farms down on our gravel road, he left at a farm house there next to the highway. This would have been a half mile or so north of the New Avon Methodist Church.
The idea was, this nice older couple would feed us all and put us up for the night, if necessary, and hopefully in the morning conditions would have improved enough for us to get home. Now my memory doesn’t include the idea of getting up and going to school again, so it must have been on a Friday, or possibly the last day before Christmas vacation.
Well, I think I remember having supper there, and then listening to the radio. I don’t think they had a TV. I remember a couple girls standing up in front of the radio, listening intently, and I asked them what they were doing. They said they were listening for them to announce our names. Announce our names? That didn’t make any sense to me, so I asked them again. “We’re listening for them to announce our names on the radio, and let people know we’re stranded out here.” Ohhhhh, now I understand. The bus driver had been in contact with the school, and someone had called KLGR and told them of our plight.
Well, sure enough, in a little while there came a knock at the door, and there was my dad. I thought that if the bus couldn’t get through the snow, surely my parents old Oldsmobile wasn’t going to make it either. But Dad insisted, and he bundled us kids into the car, including the neighbor kids as well, and we headed down the road. I believe he got all of us home that evening, even the neighbor kids. I think the bus driver just didn’t get lined up on the gravel road the right way in all that snow, and probably ran a wheel off the roadway and got stuck, because Dad didn’t seem to have any trouble driving through it.
There were bigger snowstorms back in the 60s, but there are a few farm kids south of Redwood who still remember this one snowstorm when the bus didn’t make it through.