Yesterday the internets were alive with jokes about the Great Storm Bust of 2015. For those who lived in NYC, especially, a huge gap emerged between the hyped predictions (“historic storm coming — two to three feet!) and the actual snowfall of between 1.5 and 10 inches in the greater NYC area.


The poor politicians and meteorologists had snowballs  — small ones — on their faces.

It could have been otherwise, of course.

The blizzard hit further north and east than predicted. It came. It just didn’t come to where the subways and media outlets connect nearly nine million people to the rest of the world.

Snowfall is like wine and fishing — the longer the distance in time, the greater the size and quality of the product.

I remember, for example, the Great Blizzard of 1958 — the year 42 inches of snow fell in Lancaster County and closed Fairland Elmentary School, where I was a student in fourth grade. You may remember reading about that school in Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World.

The snowstorms of that year never made it into the book. Nor did this picture of the Spahr Farm covered in two feet of snow.

Spahr Farm after the snow fell and wind died down, 1958

Spahr Farm after the snow fell and wind died down, 1958

My father and his neighbor Dan Martin worked together to create a path for the milk truck to use, since the road that connected our two farms had blown shut. They used tractors and trucks and saved the milk from having to be dumped, which would have been a calamity.

We children, however, loved the blizzards that year. We pressed our ears to the radio to hear “school closing” announcements. When the announcer finally said “Manheim Central Schools,” we shouted with joy and began to plan our adventures in the snow. Sleds, snowball battles, forts, snow angels, ice cream. We did it all.

Our soaked mittens, hats, snowsuits, and coats hung over the radiator to dry. Sometimes the smell of hot wool sizzling reminded us that they were dry enough to go outside and play again.

Now, when I look out my window and see snow, I just rejoice in the beauty.

January 2015 view from the deck

January 2015 view from the deck

It matters not to me whether blizzards come or not. Unless I am headed to an airport, which I am today. That’s the luxury of this stage of life.

Tell us your snow story, either recent or long ago. Have you survived real blizzards? Busts?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Saloma Furlong on January 28, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    I, for one, am really happy that the predictions didn’t materialize here in our area. We have maybe eight inches, but that is easy to take, compared to what Boston and Rhode Island got, which is only two hours from here.

    Love the photos of the lovely snow.

    • shirleyhs on January 28, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      I thought of you when I heard the true blizzard landed in the Boston area. Glad you escaped the worst, Saloma. Hope you can enjoy the snow and feel some little Amish girl happiness when you bundle up and go outside.

      It all seems surreal to me since I just arrived in Atlanta and am looking out the window at a Georgia pine forest full of sunlight.

      Thanks for starting the conversation today!

  2. Laurie Buchanan on January 28, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Shirley — My heart is glad, Glad, GLAD to be in a much more moderate geographic location. The “storm” we had here in Boise over a month ago was equivalent to a quarter of a day’s worth of snow in the greater Chicagoland area.

    Yes we get rain here. Rain is not snow.
    Yes we get fog here. Fog is not snow.
    Yippee, skipped, dooh-dah-day!

    When I was in 3rd grade in sunny southern California we got snow — a few inches of it. Schools closed. Streets closed. I think the shock-stricken adults thought it was a sign of Armageddon. Us kids? We thought it was the best thing since peanut butter!

    Godspeed in your current travel adventures.

    • shirleyhs on January 28, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      I know exactly how you feel, Laurie. You and I both moved out of the snow belt into more temperate climates. Our average high temperature in Harrisonburg never drops under 40 degrees nor exceeds 85 degrees, yet we enjoy all four seasons in all their splendor.

      All kids love snow. But California kids must love it in a special way. Peanut butter and marshmallow whip!

  3. Joan on January 28, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Having spent 20 years living in Vermont, this blizzard was nothing new. However, I’ve been gone from there for 27 years and am happy to be ensconced in central Virginia where we do have snow but rarely in the amounts we got in Vermont. Over the years here, my blood has thinned and I can’t understand why I lived up in Northern New England for so long.

    have a safe trip!

    • shirleyhs on January 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      Thin blood — a great reason to live south or west!

      I sometimes shiver just looking at the pictures of those blizzards. Like you, I left my excitement for them long ago.

      See you soon and hope for clear highways!

  4. Marian Beaman on January 28, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    I smiled in recognition at all the details of bygone blizzards experiencing them as you did in Lancaster County. Yes, I can still recall the “smell of hot wool sizzling” on the radiator.

    A later snow event – I remember sliding down the hill backwards in the blue Studebaker probably because I should have gunned the engine harder. After I landed cross-wise at the bottom of the hill I did have the presence of mind to tell my brother Mark to jump out of the car and race to the top of the hill so on-coming traffic wouldn’t hit us.

    Great memories, Shirley!

    • shirleyhs on January 28, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      I can only imagine how your heart pounded as that big, heavy, car started to go backward down the hill. One of the many adventures that could have turned out badly, but didn’t. Thank God.

      Was your Aunt Ruthie out taking movies during the blizzards? I hope you clicked on the link on the Blizzard of 1958 above, as filmed by WGAL. Just brings the cars and the landscape back so vividly!

    • Marian Beaman on January 28, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      Yes, I enjoyed the video with the parade of vintage cars. Here in Florida we don’t enter “into the treasures of the snow,” but I vividly remember sleds, snowball battles at school, forts, snow angels, ice cream. All of it!

  5. Roxanne Landis on January 28, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Tioga County is north central PA is no stranger to snow but the blizzard…”out of season hurricane” some called it….of 1993 was a doozy! In the fiercest part of it, Rick and our oldest son walked to the barn to do evening chores. It was so bad that he called the house and asked me to turn on ALL the lights in the house so they could find their way back even though you can normally see the barn from the house, less that a small city block away. We were snowed in on our farm for 3 days and I remember thinking at the time, “blizzards are nature’s way of telling us to slow down!” Those days were spent playing board and card games, drinking hot chocolate and popping REAL popcorn on the stove. We got a call at midnight of the third day that the snowplows had finally reached our road. We live a mile and a half back that road and we didn’t see the snowplows until 8:00 in the morning. Yes, it took 8 hours for them to go a mile and a half! Just below our farm, they hit a 20 foot wall of snow that had drifted and compacted from the wind. They had to call in HUGE snow blowers from Buffalo, NY to chew through it. It was a sight to see and a memory that our children will never forget!

    • shirleyhs on January 28, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      Roxanne, that story is just plain amazing! I hope Rick wasn’t going to the barn to milk cows, or surely you would have lost a lot of milk.

      I remember hearing tales of people using ropes between the house and the barn to have something to hang on to as the snow howled and drifted all around them.

      Your depiction of “nature’s way of telling us to slow down” made me want to rush out and get some hot chocolate and popcorn, two of my favorite foods!

  6. Melodie Davis on January 29, 2015 at 5:26 am

    Such a distinctive whiff and memory this brought back: “Sometimes the smell of hot wool sizzling reminded us that they were dry enough to go outside and play again.”

    Totally. I can see, smell and feel those mittens. I keep a notebook of scribbled dates of past big snows (part of my records downloaded from WSVA at one point) just to solve arguments about “that was in 1966 or 78 or 96 …”

    Thanks for the memories!

  7. Elaine Mansfield on January 29, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Shirley, I love the photos and the beauty of snow. Also the poke at weather forecasters. I usually don’t mind snow, but it’s harder with my dog laid up after knee surgery. I got about six inches. My usual routine would be pull on my snowpants, strap on the snowshoes, and tromp around following animal tracks. I still do that, but it’s not as much fun without Willow leaping through drifts.

    Last night, 10 degrees at 11 pm when I took her for her allowed 5 minute outing with a strap under her belly and a halter to keep her under control, I thought: “Another month of this will get very old.” And another two months after that of only leash walks? Willow who is used to running free at home and I will find new levels of patience.

  8. shirleyhs on January 29, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Poor Willow. And poor Elaine. You will indeed find it hard to obey the rules. However, I’m confident in your creativity and ability to turn necessity into a spiritual practice.

    By the time Willow gets the green light to romp, the fields will be green again. And you will both enjoy twice, once for the present, and once for all those hard but patient days indoors.

    May your own solitary walks in the snow also bring you new forms of joy.

  9. shirleyhs on January 29, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Saloma Miller Furlong did a blog post on blizzards two days ago. You can read her incredible story here:

  10. merrildsmith on January 31, 2015 at 10:05 am

    Shirley, Our mutual blogger friend, Marian, sent me the link to this post because I wrote about the snow, too. Lovely photos and post. I love the view from your deck. We were fortunate not to get much of anything here in S. Jersey.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • shirleyhs on January 31, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      Merril, snow seems to be inspiring the blogosphere this week. And no wonder. I’m in Atlanta now with a group of people who are trying to get back to the midwest. Cancelled flights all over the place. Fortunately, it is only raining in Virginia. I love a temperate climate. Glad you escaped in S. Jersey. Now I’m off to read your post.

Leave a Comment