Tuesday, June 23, 2009

1939 Snowstorm

In her recent autobiography Jacqueline Fahey says “all memories are true, but within families they can be hopelessly at odds.” I’ve got strong memories of Pigeon Bay in the great snowstorm of 1939. But I sometimes wonder whether that is because my mother’s photograph album had many snaps of the snow. There were other events and of these I have no recall, not even echoes. Maybe the storm was spectacular enough.

Certainly the word blizzard entered my vocabulary - snow fell right down to the seashore and for days flakes swirled past our windows to settle in a weightless hush on trees, shrubs, shed and lawn, the hills completely curtained off. We couldn't drive out for over a week and the power was cut. John had stacked piles of firewood so Mum kept the kitchen stove going full bore. She kept filling our hot water bottles all night and in the morning wrapped us in blankets to run shivering to dress in front of the opened firebox.

The cold meant that the jagged spikes of ice hanging from the guttering didn't thaw for over a fortnight. We built a large snowman on the front lawn. In some of the bays the snowdrifts were forty feet deep. 25,000 sheep were lost on the Peninsula. In Long Bay and Le Bons Bay cattle were frozen on their feet as for three days the temperature never rose over freezing point. Weeks went by before the biggest drifts of snow disappeared.

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