Thanksgiving 1950 – It Snowed and Snowed and Snowed

The following article appeared in The Duquesne Times on November 30, 1950. There was no Times published on November 23, 1950 due to the snowfall. Unfortunately, there were no photos in the Times published on November 30th, so a photojournalistic account of the snowfall does not exist.

I wasn’t witness to what eventually became known as “The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950” in the history books. I was born in 1951, and began to hear all of the local legends about the snowstorm at a very early age. The storm was an issue far beyond the boundaries of Duquesne and there are several recollections from people from the surrounding areas.

I have assembled some of those stories, some photos that I posted last year, plus a few new ones from other nearby communities. I hope you enjoy the recaps and that they conjure up some of your own memories. If they do, be sure to tell us about them in the comment section. If you are like me and were born after the event, tell us about stories your parents or relatives may have told you about the storm!

DUQUESNE DIGS OUT

The Duquesne Times – November 30, 1950.

Duquesne is gradually digging its way out of the greatest snowfall in local history.

Through the cooperation of the city, Carnegie-Illinois and the Rogan Trucking Co, all of the city’s main arteries were open for limited emergency travel within 24 hours.

By today, a large section of West Grant Avenue and the business district of First Street were free of snow.

With the exception of a few minor accidents Duquesne weathered the storm without a serious mishap.

Councilman Walter V. Babic who supervised “Operation Cleanup” is to be congratulated for coordinating the snow clearance program as are Mayor Frank Kopriver, Jr., his fellow councilmen and the other employees who worked around the clock to prevent any serious tragedy from occurring here.

Duquesne’s fire department spent a relatively quiet weekend, answering 5 calls none of which resulted in very much damage.

Duquesne’s schools closed since Friday will reopen for all classes on Monday.

We believe Mr. Babic used exceptionally good judgment in opening all arteries as a fire precautionary measure before attempting to remove the snow from any street. Had the occasion demanded, firemen would have been able to reach any point in the city on Monday.

City facilities were accorded persons stranded in Duquesne by the snow. Three college students spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the fire station leaving Monday morning to return to their classes at Penn State.

Two families, one from Norfolk and the other from Wilkinsburg were also given shelter at the Municipal building.

The greatest hazard today is that of overburdened roofs. Mayor Kopriver called on owners of flat roofed buildings to take every precaution by removing the snow at the earliest possible opportunity. The roof of a garage at the rear of 74 N First Street owned by Escovitz Furniture caved in causing extensive damage to a truck and several automobiles.

Duquesne Motor Coach Lines resumed operations on a limited schedule Wednesday afternoon after being idle for several days.

Postmaster Phillip McDermott reported that mail was being delivered as usual with exception of the department’s new mobile unit.

Streetcar traffic, disrupted Friday night bud not resumed operations at press time today.

Garbage collections on streets already cleared were resumed today. Officer William Raible requested that an effort be made to have all garbage in containers. Regular collection schedules will be resumed as soon as possible.

Taxi cabs are back in service offering transportation to any point where travel can be made.

___________________________________________________________________

They Still Talk About the Ferocious Snowstorm of 1950

By Debra Erdley, TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Headline writers called it “The Storm of the Century.”

On Nov. 23, 1950, Thanksgiving Day, the temperature dropped to a record five above. Then the snow began blowing.

By Friday morning, traffic was paralyzed by a coating of ice and 5 to 7 inches of snow.

The storm continued all day.

By Saturday morning, a dozen heart attack deaths were attributed to the storm.

By early Sunday morning, the city was buried under 2 feet of snow, with another 5 to 10 inches expected.

Thousands of workers were furloughed as mills and factories scaled back operations. Several buildings and countless porches collapsed under the weight of the snow.

By Monday, the local death toll had reached 27, and the Allegheny County Coroner cautioned “oldsters” — those 45 and older — against shoveling snow.

Some 25 miles east of the city, Irwin residents opened their homes to travelers. Motorists were stranded there when they exited the Pennsylvania Turnpike at what was then its western terminus and found Route 30 impassable.

Mayor David Lawrence called upon 200 National Guardsmen to enforce a city-ordered blockade of Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle.

By the time it was over, the death toll from the storm would reach 278 in the Ohio Valley. Even icicles were deadly. A North Braddock man died after one at U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works broke loose and struck him.

But it wasn’t all death and disaster. There were 225 births in 15 Pittsburgh area hospitals during the storm.

“Many of them arrived ‘special delivery,’ their Mama got to the hospital via police car,” the Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph reported.

___________________________________________________________________

Storytelling: 1950 Snowstorm Paralyzed the City But Not This Dad

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

By Ed Borrebach

Skiers make their way along a Squirrel Hill street following the great Thanksgiving weekend snowfall of 1950.

The day after Thanksgiving 1950, on Nov. 24, I was at work as an electrical engineer in Building L of the East Pittsburgh plant of Westinghouse Electric Corp.

Five months before I had accepted a job there after graduating from Tufts College in Massachusetts and had migrated in our new Plymouth, with our even newer, 6-week-old baby boy.

There had been some snow on the ground that morning, but who’s afraid of a little snow? So like one of the seven dwarfs (not naming which one), off to work I went, only thinking that it was the thing to do.

Really, though, not one of us knew that a major storm was on the way. We had only radio. No TV, no cell phones, no BlackBerrys. So there we were at work while the snow kept a-falling.

Finally, around noon, we were told by management that we could leave. I took the trolley car up Ardmore Boulevard, close to Rebecca Avenue in Wilkinsburg, where I’d parked my car. The snow was building up, with lots of big flat white snowflakes that had no thought of melting.

I cleaned off the car and drove off to Squirrel Hill, where we had a small basement apartment (the only type of residence we could afford on $315 a month salary) on Woodmont Street. I was not alone on the road; there were other drivers trying to get home before the storm worsened. It was a long, slow trip, but there wasn’t a Squirrel Hill Tunnel at the time, so it could have been worse!

I made it home, finally, and parked out front at the curb. The snowfall was intense. We soon found ourselves in a beautiful white world. The snow built up to more than 30 inches deep.

My car was just one of many cars completely hidden under snow. Each was just a lump in a world of white lumps. I put on overshoes, but the snow was too deep for them, so I shoveled my way to the street and scraped off the car top — I feared of a cave-in. Driving anywhere was out of the question.

Back in the basement we talked about our son and his diet of whole milk. Where could we buy some? It was necessary for me to venture out in search of some milk. I walked up to the corner of Murray and Forbes avenues looking for signs of life. I found no open stores.

You can see from the picture I took that the old Route 22-30 through Pittsburgh at the time was still completely impassable.

Finally, well down a road running parallel to Forbes, I found a milk truck (one that delivered pre-ordered quart bottles of milk daily to residences) and there I was able to plead for and buy a bottle. I still think of and give thanks to that dear man for daring to be out in such weather — even with chains on the wheels and the weight of the truck, it was no picnic — and for selling me a bottle of this life-giving nectar for my son.

I had just come from the Boston area, where people at that time seemed less friendly, to use a kind euphemism. I learned then and many times afterward that people in Pittsburgh are a friendly bunch. I loved it then and love it now

___________________________________________________________________

1950 Storm: Snowed-In and Happy

December 4, 2009

By BOB WHITED

On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, 1950, I was nine years old in my little hometown village of Bridgeburg, Pa. Again, Thanksgiving was a great day for me and my family, which included my mother, father and brother. It was a pleasant day with a fine feast and many reasons to give thanks. We had no television at the time, but I listened to “Dragnet” on the radio that evening. During the late evening or early morning snow started to fall.

It was Friday morning, and we didn’t have school, thank goodness, due to the holiday. My father worked night shift at the local brickyard, and on Fridays we all went to Kittanning for groceries. My brother and I were hoping to take in a matinee at the movies. Before we piled into our 1946 maroon Plymouth, I had an early snowball fight with one of the neighbor kids. I just loved to see the snow come down, and by then, snow started to accumulate. We rushed to Kittanning quickly, which was a five-mile trip, and my parents purchased their weekly supply of groceries and hurried back home due to the weather and no tire chains on our car. There was no time for a movie matinee.

The snow kept pelting down with no end in sight. We arrived home safely, and my dad walked to work, since the brickyard was close by. What weather news we received was from the radio in between “The Lone Ranger” and other favorite radio programs. It was not great, and the snow continued to tumble down. On awakening Saturday, Nov. 25, 1950, we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was still snowing, and snow blanketed everywhere we looked. My dad returned home from work and measured 23 inches of snow at that time. He was called out later to shovel the roofs over the brick ware due to fear of weight and collapse of those roofs. By Sunday, the snow stopped completely, but school was canceled on Monday and all the rest of the week. This was truly the best part of the snowstorm. Everything was shut down.

Since then it has been called the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 and the 1950 Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm. Nearly 30 inches of snow covered Pittsburgh, and 2 feet or more blanketed Cleveland. West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio saw snowfall totals greater than 30 inches. Power was out to more than 1 million customers during this storm. It actually affected 22 states, killing 353 people and creating $66.7 million in damage. This, of course, was in 1950 dollars. U.S. insurance companies paid more money out to their policyholders for damage from this storm than for any other previous storm.

Steubenville’s snowfall exceeded 44 inches with snowdrifts up to 25 feet. The classic Ohio State-Michigan football game was scheduled on Saturday, Nov. 25, and was luckily played in Columbus where it was not quite as bad, but still is described as “The Blizzard Bowl.” The Big Ten Championship was on the line and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Michigan won 9-3 on 27 total yards gained without achieving one first down! Youngstown achieved 29 inches of snow. Many buildings collapsed under the weight of 2 to 3 feet of snow. The Ohio National Guard used Jeeps to transport people to hospitals and to deliver food to those in the rural areas. Ohio Gov. Frank Lausche declared a state of emergency in Cleveland, and the Youngstown-Warren area as drifts grew to 30 feet. Roads were closed; trains and buses canceled. People could not leave their homes for days. Milk and bread and other delivery trucks could not get through. School buses were halted, and it was a joyous occasions for all students. Snow clearing was much different in those days also, and, of course, they used no salt way back then.

So, here I sit on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, writing this piece some 59 years later with no snow but memories of the Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 1950.

_____________________________________________________

Post Thanksgiving Snowfall Left Mid-Mon Valley Paralyzed In 1950

By Ron Paglia, FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Read more: Post Thanksgiving snowfall left mid-Mon Valley paralyzed in 1950 – Pittsburgh Tribune-

Unless you owned a pack of Iditarod sled dogs, chances were you weren’t going too far in the mid-Monongahela Valley when one of the heaviest snowfalls on record brought the area to a virtual standstill two days after Thanksgiving on Nov. 23, 1950.

The subject brought a flurry of inquiries in the wake of the recent rash of bitter winter weather, which paled in comparison to Mother Nature’s knockout punch a little more than 59 years ago.

The Charleroi Mail and The Monessen Daily Independent reported on Nov. 25, 1950, that the district was “paralyzed” by the storm. The Mail said there was an official reading of 18 inches at 7 a.m. that day. The storm had a serious impact on businesses, mills and factories as transportation was, for the most part stopped.

“With no streetcar and only limited bus service, some employees made it to their businesses the hard way — by walking,” The Mail reported. “Some trudged into Charleroi through the deep snow from outlying districts in Belle Vernon, Dunlevy, Long Branch, Twilight, Fallowfield Township, Fisher Heights, North Charleroi, Mapleview and even Elco.”

Similar accounts of the aftermath appeared in The Daily Independent, which said the people in the Monongahela Valley area were “trying to dig out from under nearly two feet of snow … which began yesterday morning and was still falling at noon today.”

The newspaper noted that Blue Ridge Bus Lines, the Valley’s only public transportion link to the “outside world,” had stopped service as most district highways were almost entirely blocked. Other bus lines “threw their schedules away,” but Westside Motor Transit, which connected many Valley towns, and Hilltop Line, which served Monessen locally, “were sending occasional runs through,” The Independent reported.

The storm disrupted operations at the Allenport and Monessen plants of Pittsburgh Steel Company, but Page Steel and Wire Division, Monessen’s other large industry, continued to operate without a hitch, officials told the newspaper.

“Our biggest job right now is trying to keep coal moving for the steam plant,” Nick Polkabla, superintendent of industrial relations at Pittsburgh Steel in Monessen, said. “The coke works is only working 40 percent of capacity and shutting down this plant requires considerable work.”

At Allenport, General Works Manager Joseph Simonin said operations were near-normal, although some employees were unable to make it to the plant.

“We plan to adhere to the regular work week schedule,” Simonin told The Charleroi Mail. “If a department is unable to operate at full capacity, there will be other work for the men who are able to come to the plant. We do not plan to alter the work week schedule in any way.”

Polkabla said hundreds of men were unable to leave the mill Friday night and continued to work in their departments on overtime. Those who reported to work Saturday morning and whose departments were not working were put to work clearing ice and snow.

Municipal street crews throughout the Mon Valley were working extended schedules in an effort to clear the snow for vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Pictures on the front page of The Daily Independent showed snow cleared from Donner Avenue and sidewalks piled nearly to the top of the parking meters. The large parking lot at Pittsburgh Steel was closed and many vehicles there were completely covered, and virtually hidden, by snow.

Telephone service was operating on an emergency basis as a result of many Bell Telephone Company employees being snowbound in their homes. J.L. Buchanan, manager of Bell operations in Charleroi, said some night employees were held over Saturday morning and operators were straggling in a few at a time. Bell officials in Monessen offered similar comments.

Other notes of interest, as reported in the newspapers, included:

• Richard Lawson, Donora funeral director who operates an ambulance service, spent Friday night and early Saturday morning driving his ambulance between Donora and Charleroi-Monessen Hospital. He made three trips during the night, carrying three mothers-to-be to the hospital. But on his third trip, Mr. Lawson had to ask for treatment for himself. His exertions in driving over the snow-covered roads had exhausted him and he had to be admitted for treatment at the hospital.

• The Pitt-Penn State football game scheduled for Saturday at Pitt Stadium was delayed until Monday.

• A banquet honoring the Monongahela American Legion Junior baseball team which won the 25th District and state championships earlier in the year went on as scheduled. Pennsylvania American Legion commander Joseph McCracken was the featured speaker.

• Radio Station WESA in Charleroi was praised by civic, government, industrial and religious leaders throughout the area for performing “an unprecedented public service” during the emergency. Granted permission by the FCC to continue operations around the clock, WESA operated on a 24-hour schedule throughout the crisis. The station broadcast bulletins and appeals from stricken residents at regular intervals, keeping listeners updated on developments.

• Milk trucks were making deliveries as rapidly as possible to all points — commercial and residential — where access was possible.

• Attendants at the Jones and McDonough Funeral Home in Bentleyville endured 13 hours of treacherous conditions on six miles of blocked highway in responding to a death at a home in Ginger Hill. The men left the funeral home at 11 a.m. Sunday and were preceded by a large bulldozer to fight mountainous snow drifts. The hearse finally got back to Bentleyville with the body at 2 a.m. Monday.

• An engine and caboose were placed in emergency use by Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad to convey a patient from Newell to Charleroi-Monessen Hospital. Arrangements were made for a Jeep to meet the rail cars at Belle Vernon station. Albert Manfield, who had been operating the Jeep to take doctors and nurses to and from the hospital, was called into service. A nurse also was waiting at Belle Vernon to assist the patient.

The storm, which dumped anywhere from two to three feet of snow in the area, had subsided by Nov. 27 and area residents were returning to “normal lives,” newspapers in the Mon Valley reported.

Public transportation remained curtailed in some areas and schools were to be closed Monday and Tuesday. Food supplies were “adequate” at district stores, milk and bread being the exceptions.

By Dec. 1, the Mon Valley was “almost dug out” of the record snowfall. Stores were operating on regular business hours, highways and streets were open, and public transportation was available. Schools were scheduled to open the following Monday.

The weather forecast called for some cloudiness and colder temperatures that night, followed by cloudy skies and rather cold conditions on Saturday, “probably followed by snow.”

_____________________________________________________________

Two additional articles from the Duquesne Times – 11-30-1950 -

This entry was posted in Christmas Memories, Historic Events, Holidays - Non-Christmas and New Years, Wintertime. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Thanksgiving 1950 – It Snowed and Snowed and Snowed

  1. Pingback: The Thanksgiving it snowed: The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950. | www.seanmunger.com

  2. Neil Rodgers says:

    We had a half day of school for Thanksgiving holiday. Since it was my day for shop class at the public school in downtown Greensburg I left my school at 10:00 am and it was starting to rain. When we were dismissed at noon the rain was snow and starting to stick but I was able to get home with my bike. The next morning when I got up we could not get out the front door without a shovel. It snowed till the afternoon. The snow plows started to open one lane of route 30 which was in front of my house and there were only people walking with sleds for two days. None of the cars were shoveled out yet. The police asked for people to come out to shovel flat roofs and I went with my father. I was 10 years old at that time.
    Neil

  3. Tom Phillips says:

    I was four years old in Mt. Oliver. I can still remember the pathways with the snow piled high on each side. Our house was three stories high with a roof that had a steep slope. When the snow began to melt, I got buried in an avalanche.

  4. Joseph J Kulha says:

    I remember the snow of 1950 I was sent to School Holy Trinty only to be told to go back home as school was cancelled there was also one girl that came from Duquesne Place I walked down the alley above savey street down aurrilles and fourth street then back home I would be 11 years old
    at that time
    JKulha@aol.com

  5. Gouveia says:

    Top photo is not from 1950, as it has a 1955 Ford thats first in line parked at the sidewalk . ????

    • Jim says:

      I think that 1950 may have been the date written on the back of the photo, but that does necessarily make it right. Thanks for the correction. Gee, next you probably going to tell me there isn’t a Santa Claus!! LOL

  6. Pingback: November 23-27, 1950: The Real Great Thanksgiving Storm - Patrick E. Craig

  7. I have just finished a novel that will be coming out in January that is set in Apple Creek, Ohio during the Great Thanksgiving Day Storm of 1950. It is titled “A Quilt For Jenna” and will be coming out on Harvest House Publishers in January.

    • Jim says:

      Patrick,it will be interesting to read ofthe similarities between the setting for your novel and what the residents of Duquesne experienced! – Jim

      • Jim,
        I have been putting excerpts from the book on my blog and also have a post which I put on today about the history of the storm and a link to a video of the the Michigan – Ohio game that they played in the heart of the storm because the Rose Bowl was on the line. You can see it at http://www.patrickecraig.com on the Apple Creek Dreams Blog.

  8. John Levandowski says:

    There is a mid-1950’s Ford in the first photo. I live in Erie, PA and there was also a 1956 Thanksgiving Day blizzard that I remember, when I was 6 years old. I have a photo of me at 6 months old looking at an Erie newspaper with the headline of the Terrible Snowstorm and the city was shut-down.
    John Levandowski

  9. Shirley Lemak Dilla says:

    That was such a magical snow storm! We dug a tunnel in our backyard because the snow was up to the porch roof in back. The most surprising thing was seeing my Dad, Mom and Aunt sledriding down Locust Way where we lived. Grownups just didn’t do that sort of thing!

  10. Darlene Matesic says:

    My brother was born in Braddock hospital that Nov 23, 1950.

  11. DB Snyder says:

    I was born in that snow storm ( 11/25/1950 ). All my life I have heard about my father and uncle pushing the car most of the way from Donora to Monongahela to the hospital.

  12. Susan Ward says:

    My friend Anne Poland from Cleveland, Ohio who is 94 was telling me about this storm the day after Thanksgiving and told me she couldn’t get out for a week she wasn’t sure what year it was she said roads were closed because you couldn’t get through Thanks for sharing we enjoyed the articles and pictures

  13. Carl Rumble says:

    Don’t know for sure but the first picture looks like a 1955 Ford in the snow.

  14. Fred May says:

    I have some pictures that we took in Burns Heights. I’ll try to find them. I was 9 and all of that snow was quite a treat.

  15. Ray says:

    I was 14 at the time and remember making money with my friends by delivering bread, from a local bakery, and essential food from a local Polish grocery store that stayed open.

  16. Sam Pecora says:

    Left for work 5;00am from Mck.- picked up my buddy Micky Mann on way to Meadow Gold Dairy in East Liberty Pgh – roads pretty bad and snowing hard – big flakes – picked up truck and load of milk – headed for my route in Clairton -finished and returned to dairy — still snowing — remember sleeping at dairy on benches not being able to get home for 3 days..

  17. Michael Bashista says:

    I was 6 1/2 at the time of the snowfall. I remember making tunnels under the snow on Auriles St in front of my parents store and forts on lawns across the street. Everyone was worried that we would get run over by a snow plow when they got to our street. I’ll try to find my pictures of the snow & send them to you. My uncle ran the Grant Steel Scrap plant off 2nd St in Nickleyhollow and that was really buried. I remember some great sledding off Goldstrom Lane down to Catherine once we got the snow packed down. Great snowball fights also.

  18. Erma (Dismachek) Zapf says:

    My father was a mailman back in 1950. His name was Jim Dismachek. I wonder if anyone from that time remembers him. I was 11 years old at the time of the big snow fall when my dad and i and my brother tom went out in the snow it was past my waist. I had a hard time getting back out of the snow. On Sunday morning my dad couldn’t get the car out of the garage. But since he was used to walking and was a good catholic he walked from where we lived out in Duquesne Place to St. Joseph Church.

  19. Lou A. says:

    Jim, do you have a copy of the Duquesne Times for the last week of August, 1951? I was born in June of ’51 and you were born in November, but I wonder how many Blizzard Babies there were? Must have been quite a few, as I recall our 1st grade class at St. Joseph’s had over 70 pupils, taught by sweet young nun fresh from Divine Providence Mother House. She did not return after Christmas break in 1957; I don’t blame her. They ended up splitting the class in two…..

  20. tom lane says:

    I can remember that when I went out into the back yard on a small path my Dad had shoveled, the snow was over my head. All I could see was the trees and the neighbors roofs. I was only 6 at the time, but I can still see that giant whiteness!

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