Snow Storms and Tire Chains in Rural Pennsylvania

Let's Talk Rusty Iron: Rural residents tackled snow drifts with tire chains and elbow grease.


| December 2007



South Beaver Pennsylvania

During the 1950 storm, this was a common scene: Traffic snarled along busy Pennsylvania Route 51 at a gas station not far from the author’s boyhood home. (Photo courtesy of Charles W. Townsend III.)

The month of December is often pretty wintry here in eastern Ohio, which, as most folks know, is part of the frozen north. Everyone talks about the weather, so that's what I'm going to do (even though I'm writing this in sweltering August).

I usually look forward to a good snowstorm so I can get out my Ford 2000 tractor and plow the lane, although I must admit some years, when we have snow after snow, the novelty pales just a little. Glen (the neighbor behind me) and I share a lane almost one-quarter of a mile long. My house is about 300 feet back from a state route, while my barns are another 300 feet or so beyond the house. The neighbor's place is about 500 feet beyond that, so including the driveways off the lane to the various buildings, there can be a lot of snow to move.

Glen has a Kubota tractor and a back blade, while my Ford has a front-mounted blade that can be angled in either direction. Since Glen works during the week, I try to plow things out on weekdays and he does the job on weekends. This way we both get to play in the snow, which works out really well.

I've noticed that when a big snow storm comes along, all us old geezers feel compelled to tell about the terrible storms of our youth, so here are my tales.

The details are pretty sketchy in my memory, but in December 1944 we had a blizzard where we lived in western Pennsylvania that snowed us in for several days. The milk truck couldn't get through Moore Road, the township road that ran past our place, so Dad and my uncle built a wooden platform on the drawbar of our Farmall F-30 tractor and hauled the milk cans the quarter-mile or so to the state road. This state road, paved with blacktop by the WPA during the late 1930s, was kept open only with great difficulty, and then just one lane was clear. I remember riding with Dad, after we finally got ourselves out, through narrow lanes cut into drifts that towered over the car.

The great blizzard of 1950 is a little clearer in my memory, since I was 17 years old then, had my own car and was unpleasantly immobilized by the snow. I think the 1950 snow storm was probably the worst one in these parts, at least in my memory.