The First Blizzard I Remember (1940)

On St. Valentine’s Day in 1940, as I was approaching five and a half years, a horrific northeast blizzard swept over the northeastern United States. Seaview was left buried in snow.

It was on a Wednesday, and my Dad made it to Greenbush to take the train to work in Boston. The storm was getting worse. At noon his boss – knowing my Dad had a long trip home — let him off early. The next train to Greenbush wasn’t until 4:30. Dad had to wait four hours in the South Station . . . and my Dad didn’t like waiting.

Steaming out of Boston.

That early train just made it to Greenbush. Dad had installed tire chains on his car that morning, just in case the storm got worse. Route 3A was plowed, but at Stoddard’s Corner, Summer Street had a huge drift across it. Dad had to continue down 3A until he found a plowed road to Seaview.

Highland Street was plowed, as were Pleasant and Summer Streets. Station Street was not plowed, and the snow bank was too high to crash through. The Seaview Garage was closed for the night and had a space plowed open. Dad left his car and walked home from there, just two doors away.

Our streets were barely plowed.

I remember the snow was so high that getting in or out of the back door was difficult. Dad was over an hour late, but Mom had supper warm on the kerosene stove. Mom made a favorite dinner for Dad. Valentine’s Day was always special for my folks and so the dinner was eaten in the dining room by candlelight (this night we HAD to use candles — the electricity was out.

After supper, a white frosted cake with red heart shapes all over it, was dessert. Just after we finished, Dad placed a red heart-shaped box of Fanny Farmer chocolates at Mom’s place. Mom had first pick, I had the next — always a square one. Dad had last pick — he didn’t care which one. Then we had another round.

After supper, Dad lit his lantern, and went to shovel an opening out to Summer Street so he could get his car into the side yard. The wind was howling and stayed that way all night. The drifts were becoming quite high against our house — up to the windows!

We had a coal furnace for heat and the telephone was working. Our home was lighted by kerosene lamps and candles. Dad had a flashlight that he carried everywhere until the batteries went dead. When the flashlight was useless, he lit up a kerosene lantern.

The next morning, Dad got a telephone call from Bill Pratt, the Police Chief. He was asked if he would help dig out Summer Street between the O’Donnells’ and the Littles’. This is now the entrance to Cedar Acres Road. Dad agreed, got his shovel and walked down Summer Street to the site. There were many men and the older boys from the neighborhood there.

Men and boys shoveling through a drift.

When he arrived home in the late afternoon, he told Mom and me that they only made about ten feet of headway and Dad was beat! There were no plowing machines that could handle these fifteen foot drifts, and many were higher.

The ladies of the neighborhood kept a steady flow of coffee, sandwiches and goodies for the crew.


Also, there was a huge drift at the south end of Station Street and the plow truck couldn’t budge it. The north end of Station Street got plowed because Charlie Langille, our neighbor, was a town selectman. All hell would break loose if it didn’t get plowed!

On the third day, Saturday, Mom and I took a hike down to the big drift to watch the gang shoveling.

When we arrived, Dad was atop the drift, cutting blocks of snow that would be passed to the next shoveler, and finally into a waiting dump truck to be hauled away. In those days there were no front end loaders. I think there were only two graders in town, one was the town’s and the other was Gino Rugani’s. Gino’s was assigned to Stoddard’s Corner (Main and Summer). The crew got information about the goings-on around town from the truck drivers. It took three days to get through that drift.

I think Dad got to work in Boston on that following Tuesday. He said that along the way to Boston, from Greenbush, that the drifts were as high as the train.

I was to live in that house for another seven years, and every Valentine’s Day dinner, my folks would go over every detail of that 1940 “Valentine’s Day Blizzard,” and a box of Fanny Farmer’s candy would always there.

by Ray Freden, 70 years in Marshfield,/ Seaview.

9 Replies to “The First Blizzard I Remember (1940)”

    1. Hi Ray!
      Your stories make me smile everyday. Thank you for taking pictures and documenting this town. Your photographs and your art and story telling I can’t get enough of!
      Thank you for helping me appreciate Marshfield even more. It’s very hard to learn about this town and finding your blog has brought my family and friends even closer, I believe you might know some them:)
      Allyssa Oakman- Fleming

      1. Thank you Allyssa, with comments like yours, I feel I have achieved my goal. I like the “smile everyday”, that’s something you can pass on. &, yes, I have known some Oakmans.

        1. Not many of us left! My father is Dennis and Uncle is Phillip. They both say hello!
          Roy and Peg Davis do as well, they are my self adopted grandparents 🙂
          I will be tuned in to your next entry whilst admiring your artwork!!

  1. Dear Ray,

    What a sweet tale! (No pun intended.) It was reminiscent of a favorite feature length movie of The Walton’s, when Daddy Walton, bearing gifts, walked 25 miles home in a blizzard on Christmas Eve, to be with his family.

    Your story is much richer, as it is a tale of a lost period of time when the pace of life was slower, and the little things were greatly appreciated, long remembered, and eventually shared. Thank you for this poignant remembrance.

    To our Fathers and Mothers who kept things functioning, and who kept us fed, clothed, sheltered, and loved. You and I were very fortunate.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. Ray, As usual your descriptions are mind boggling! Thank you! That blizzard I was staying at my aunt & uncle’s home in Quincy. My brother Richard had been born on January 29 and my brother John and I were farmed out while Mom and baby were in hospital. Being the same age as you, probably we remember similar things. For me, my uncle had made the most decorative Valentine box imaginable and filled it with cards for my aunt and me. Also there was a giant solid chocolate heart for us to share. I felt so spoiled.
    Outside, the older boys in the neighborhood were busy making an igloo from blocks of snow and it turned out to be a masterpiece. A friend and I enjoyed sitting in it and were never cold. It is these memories which sustain us in our older years. Nancy

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