A Note from Cottonwood Corners

The difficulties and challenges of the weather, while far from having disappeared, seems to have become agreeable.  We seem to have been able to deal with its aftermath.  Improvements have been made in many areas which have resulted in enormous benefits to those who are living and working in our vast open country.

The 1952 blizzard which hit the Rosebud country on Monday afternoon, January 21 lasted for about thirty hours and resulted with many teachers and students spending one or two nights at the school.

Mrs. Muriel Hofeldt of Paxton reported that there were thirteen students and herself at the Valley School District #65 on that Monday morning.  Three pupils were absent on the day the storm began.

There was first a skift of snow a little after 10:00 o’clock and then it suddenly got very quiet.  Sometime after 11:00 some snow began to fall and it was getting dark in the west.  At 11:50 WNAX radio broadcast the following news bulletin:  “If you have children at school you better get them home.”  They repeated it again on the noon broadcast.  Those at District #65 did not hear these broadcasts.  It is doubtful if they had a radio at the school.

Mrs. Hofeldt, the teacher, wrote:  “Immediately after lunch, we noticed that the south windows began to shake and rattle so that it attracted everyone’s attention.  Then the wind quickly changed to the Northwest and it began to snow and blow furiously.”

Shortly after the wind had switched directions, Clayton Shattuck came to the school for his children, Ronald and Linda Mae.  He came to the school on his horse facing the storm.  He told Mrs. Hofeldt that Mr. and Mrs. John Shedeed had gone to Gregory, and that also in the morning Dallas Vaughn went to Gregory.

Mrs. Hofeldt continued: “So I had the Vaughn children, the Shedeed children, and Eliel Wilson’s daughter, Ethel, all from Paxton.  I decided that since it was so bad and no one at home to come for them, I would keep the children and not let them start home.”

“I told Mr. Shattuck to telephone them that I was keeping the children at the school house until the storm was over.  He said he would if the telephone was still working.  We later found out that he had been able to let them know.”

“We filled up the fuel tanks on the stove at four o’clock and got two old lamps ready for the night.  The children seemed satisfied to stay rather than go out in the storm.”

“The first evening passed so slowly for them.  They asked about every ten or fifteen minutes what time it was.”

“The wind was so fierce the stove did not heat as it usually did and the children would lay on seats, or desks, or on the floor with their coats and caps on.  But they would get cold, and so were up and down every hour the night of the 21st.”

“About midnight I found our fuel tanks were about empty so Derald Vaughn, my son Ernest and I put on our things, took one lamp and went to a lean-to where the fuel barrels were kept.  It was about three steps from the school door to the other door.  We got back all right and figured the fuel would last until about morning.”

“We had no supper except for a few hard crusts or a slice of bread or an orange.  We had only a little water but melted some snow.  About nine o’clock Donna Hofeldt found enough gum in her jeans for a stick of gum for each child, which helped to satisfy them.”

“Everyone was awake at six o’clock on January 22nd and the children were up and down again until eight o’clock.  We had classes as usual that day.”

“It continued blowing very hard but about ten o’clock we could see the sun a little, and hoped it would clear up.”

“At ten minutes to twelve someone came into the hall and we hurriedly unhooked the inner door.  There was Leo Vaughn, a brother of the Vaughn children, who works at Dave Beck’s.  He had walked a mile and carried a lunch of sandwiches, crackers, and apples.  Leo had heard a radio broadcast for him to take food to the children, from WNAX at Yankton.  The message had been telephoned in by his sister in Gregory.”

Three apples were saved for supper.  They were divided and each child got a quarter of an apple.  That evening the desks were laid on the floor to make a circle around the stove to stop floor drafts.  The children slept on the floor next to the stove.  Everyone went to bed about 8:30 and no one woke up until about 2:00, when it got too warm.

The children left school about 8:15 on Wednesday morning.  They were met by Leo Vaughn and Eliel Wilson who took them to Dave Becks where Mrs. Beck gave them breakfast.  One boy said:  “Mrs. Beck cut up two whole loaves of bread and we ate all of it, and when we got home we ate bean soup and went to bed.”

Bread is truly the “Staff of Life.”

NOTE:  The story by Mrs. Hofeldt of Paxton is taken from Blizzard Strakes the Rosebud: 1952 Winter of Disaster which was compiled and edited by Mrs. Walter Hellman of Millboro.


Author Clarence Shoemaker, originally published in the Gregory-Times Advocate on January 15, 2020.

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