Letís Reminisce: Extreme weather calls forth ingenuity
By Jerry Lincecum
Dec 28, 2013
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A theme emerges in the reminiscences my readers have shared from the Great Ice Storm of 1949: using imagination and ingenuity to solve problems.  Letís consider a few examples.

A lady who grew up in Clarksville reported her father was a mail carrier and he had to tack coke bottle caps to his bootsoles in order to get traction to deliver the mail.  I wonder if beer bottle caps would be as good?  The delivery of US mail in my neighborhood has been intermittent since Thursday of last week; maybe I should Fed-Ex them a case of the Mexican coke with old fashioned caps that some stores sell now.

In 1949 girls were not allowed to wear pants to most schools in Texas.  In Celeste one lady recalls that her grandmother realized how cold the first graderís legs became as she walked home.  Of course girlsí jeans hadnít even been thought of in Celeste.  But Hudsonís Tailor Shop sold them the smallest pair of boysí jeans they had. 

However, the girlís waist was too small to keep the jeans up, so a makeshift belt was fashioned from a piece of Grandmaís clothesline.  Wearing those jeans (under a dress) was acceptable in the emergency situation.  My wife recalls that in Illinois during the 50s, she could wear pants to school only if a dress was also worn.

Back to Celeste in 49: another benefit of the ice storm was that the first-grader, who had an uncle in high school, could walk home hand-in-hand with him.  Only in extreme circumstances would any self-respecting high-schooler be seen that close to an elementary student.

Another form of ingenuity was figuring out how to enjoy the ice without proper skates or sleds?  Leather boots, especially old ones, made it possible to slip and slide with pleasure.  Pieces of cardboard took the place of a sled. Even spills were enjoyable for kids.  After all, their bones were more flexible than those of elders.

What if you had electric milking machines, only recently installed, like Sudd's Corner Dairy. Although the manifold vacuum from their 1946 Chevy bobtail truck could power the milking machine, it could only handle one machine/cow at a time.  What were already long winter days must have seemed interminable to Dad Suddeth without electricity.  But it was better than milking all those cows by hand.

Alas, despite their best imagining, some folks were doomed to suffer bad outcomes that have not been forgotten. There was one Texas A&M freshman in North Texas in Jan. 1949, caught in the ice storm, who was very late in getting back to College Station for spring registration.  When he finally arrived, he found most of his favorite teachers and preferred class times had already been booked solid. He managed to get his academic courses set up but still needed a P.E. class.

The Registrar suggested Boxing 101, assuring our Aggie that everyone in the class would be ignorant and harmless regarding pugilism.  Well, either he lied or was joking, because during the first class all participants were paired off for the entire semester.  Our friend drew a Golden Gloves champ from Houston and never landed a glove on the guy in 14 weeks.  The silver lining: he became pretty good at defense.

A retired English professor, Dr. Jerry Lincecum teaches classes for older adults who want to write their life stories.  He welcomes your reminiscences on any subject: