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Saturday, February 6, 2021

60 Years of Memories: Winters as they were

ON THE SQUARE

Memories Of 60 Years In Butler

by James Ring

  

At the risk of adding to my aura of geezerdom, I occasionally observe “we sure don’t have the winters like we used to.” It is an recorded fact that Missouri’s winters have gotten milder over the past 60 years, in both low temperatures and precipitation amounts. Blame it whomever you want, most of us don’t mind a break from the cold.

 

In the 1980s, the Butler State Bank had a big digital sign on the corner of its building; somewhere I have a picture of it reading “minus 12” degrees Fahrenheit, with a slick white street in the foreground. Not much thawing going on, salt application notwithstanding.

 

One of my duties as a retail minion was to keep the sidewalks in front of our establishment clear of snow and ice. The theory was if someone slipped and fell, even of their own carelessness, a hungry shyster would assist them in filing a lawsuit. I always felt that a few inches of snow provided better traction than polished concrete, but I did my duty.

 

The awning over our walk and the inset doorway kept much of the snow off the pavement, but there was plenty to move anyway. And since we had a crosswalk right out front, it was determined that it should be shoveled as well, to keep people from tracking snow up onto our sidewalk. Plus, our neighbors on either side were not particularly diligent with snow removal, so I was told to shovel a path on them to help keep us clean.

 

And did I mention that our building had a nice large sidewalk on the rear as well, where the well-shaded alley preserved snowfall? It needed to be cleared for the sake of the freight delivery folks and passersby. All in all, there was most of an hour’s work involved after a fresh snowfall.

 

The City crews did their best to open up streets after a half-foot of more came down, but it had to be quickly in the wee hours, before traffic interfered, so the 10-foot high piles that were left sometimes filled up parking spots and crossings. At some point, front-end loaders had to fill dump trucks to take it out to the fair grounds.

 

The country roads were prone to drifting shut during our old-time winters, perhaps two or three feet deep in places where there were banks and minimal ditches. It would be amusing to see two-wheel drive cars buried in a drift, blocking the plows, where a brave soul had thought to “bust through” to no avail. People with the new-fangled front-wheel drive cars like an Olds Toronado had to learn that they would ride up on snow and “high-center.”  I remember one particular bad storm that required huge loaders to be borrowed from the P&M coal mine to open up side roads. Always-enterprising Terry McGuire once obtained a genuine tractor-mounted snowblower, with which he could back into a drift and throw the snow far out into the field.

 

I believe I once saw 20-below on a local thermometer one cold clear morning. Now we hardly reach zero and we complain about something called wind chill. Guys today want to wear their baggy shorts with bare legs all winter, wading snow in tennis shoes, and girls strip off into shorts on pre-spring days when it hits 50 degrees. We who remember dig out our parkas and galoshes, gloating in comfort.