Saturday, February 14, 2015

Western New York Winter Weather By Harold Livingston Spencer, Jr.

Once again, the Cousins Blog has introduced us to new cousins! Googling for information on his Carson family, Harold Livingston Spencer, Jr. found and emailed me. Wonderful to get to know him as before this, he was merely a link in our family genealogy—second cousin once removed. Now, he is a ‘Carson Cousin’!

How are we related? Go back to Grandpa Taylor’s mother, Emma Carson Taylor. Lloyd’s mother had five brothers and two sisters. Sister Anna Carson was Harold’s grandmother. Anna married Samuel Spencer of Springville, and they had two daughters and a son, Harold Livingston (named after Jane Livingston, Anna’s mother) Spencer. Harold Spencer had two sons and so, here we have our Cousin Harold!

The Three Carson Sisters--Libbie, Our Emma, Anna

During our epic winter weather, Harold and I have been emailing family information and stories back and forth. Harold was kind enough to share these winter memories with the Cousins Blog:

Harold In Yorkshire, northern Cattaraugus County, New York:

Living in the Western New York Snow Belt is really not all it’s cracked up to be. Most of our heavy snows come early in the season - late October, November and December, sometimes even early January. Then, if it turns cold enough, Lake Erie will freeze over and cut off the supply of water which generates the snows. That usually puts an end to heavy snow. Then, it’s the cold temperatures we have to deal with.

 The big blizzard of 1977, which was deadly, was caused by snow blowing off the frozen lake, dumping huge drifts on the suburbs south of Buffalo. Actually, very little snow fell, but drifts were super high from the extreme winds. However, this past fall’s blizzard was caused by a weather system that did not oscillate, but ran the length of the lake in a very narrow, well-defined band and dumped all the snow for a number of days, on the suburbs south of the city of Buffalo. The band never moved right or left, just kept on bringing snow to those suburbs.

We here in Yorkshire, New York were just about 8 miles south of the band, and did not receive more than 6 inches of snow - but we could laugh about it - they got hammered, and we didn’t.

Last winter, and so far this winter, the weather has been like it was, as I remember it, in the 1950s. I worked for the NY State Health Department’s Roswell Park Memorial Institute’s Biological Research Station in Springville from 1953 to 1964. For 5 years I was the resident caretaker, and part of the job entailed snow plowing of roadways and parking lots. Many times I was plowing roadways until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, trying to keep ahead of the snow - sometimes with success, sometimes with no success. Then I went to work for the day, and that evening started all over again.

While living on Buffalo Street as a youngster in Springville, my cousin, Liol Washburn, whose family lived downstairs, while we lived upstairs, and I really enjoyed the winters. We would collect icicles from the eves of the garage building next door. Then we would get Aunt Harriet, Dad’s younger sister, to make some homemade ice cream.

 We knew all the best hills in town on which we could sled or toboggan. Some evenings, when we were a little older, we would sled on the sidewalks on Elk Street in the village, until, that is, the homeowners kicked us off. Sledding on the sidewalks made them really slippery. We posted a kid at the bottom of the hill at Main Street to warn of any cars ‘cause we usually went across the street. And the hill on Maple Avenue was really good, before the highway department began to spread sand and cinders on the street.

 Anna Carson Spencer, Harold's Grandmother

That was a great place to sled (in the street - not the sidewalk). One of the kids in town had a bobsled that carried six kids, and that was a great ride, too. It would go about 3 blocks, almost to Buffalo Street. Then came sand and cinders.

My mother, probably when I complained about being cold, reminded me that the day I was born, January 31 in 1934, the temperature hit 35 degrees below zero; but in recent years it has never been that cold, although as a kid I remember seeing 30 below. All the windows in the house were frozen over on the inside. Nobody in that age ever heard about insulation for a house.

One of the best aspects of blizzard-type winter weather, is when they call off school for the day. Only once can I recall, that school was out for a whole week. That was great! If it was storming, everyone listened to the radio stations from Buffalo, which would broadcast any closings for the day. When they announced the Springville schools, we all cheered.

For years Dad was the chief mechanic for the local school district’s bus fleet. And he also drove a school bus. When the winters got bad, he was always on call to help pull a bus out of a ditch somewhere in the district. I rode with him a few times, but never thought the weather was of any significance. Thinking about that now, I was very wrong, because the drivers have a huge responsibility.

In the early 1950s, the B&O Railroad ran right through the village of Springville. One especially severe snow storm, the northbound passenger train, headed for Buffalo, became stuck in a shallow cut just north of the village. I don’t recall how many passengers were on the train, but they were all taken off and spread around town in private homes, until the railroad got its wrecker train down from Buffalo. That would have been about 3 or 4 days worth. That was in the days of steam locomotives, and it hit the cut and was stopped in its tracks.

Thanks, Harold! We look forward to more stories from your Carson side of the family!


Pat Herdeg said...

Sorry for the different fonts, etc. As I often say--you get what you pay for, and this is free. I have tried to fix it, but at least it is able to be read!

Harold, LOVE these stories!

Thank you.

Susan Kinsella said...

Love having a new cousin!

I'm glad you said that last year and this winter remind you of the winters in the 1950s. Growing up in Rochester through the 1950s, I thought the winters were Arctic. But when I moved to California in the late 1970s, suddenly the family was reporting balmy, even almost "tropical" winters all of a sudden. I started wondering whether I'd exaggerated the Rochester winters I remember.

When I'd go back to visit, whoops - that always seemed to be the "California week," with no snow to build snowmen or go sledding. Totally confused me. I do think it's a bit too extreme this year, though.