Friday, November 21, 2014

Historic Pittsburgh Snowstorm of November 1950

In 1950, a huge snowstorm that started Friday, November 24, continued for several days until more than 30 inches had fallen. People abandoned their vehicles, and public transportation was "paralyzed," according to The Pittsburgh Press.

Department stores tried to open but most employees couldn't make it to work. The mayor asked people to stay away from the downtown area so there wouldn't have been many shoppers anyway. Newspaper employees walked, one trekking all the way from the southern suburb of Mt. Lebanon.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted an article about this storm last year, and some of the contemporary comments are very interesting. One person said her grandmother went into labor and had to be taken to the hospital on a sled. Another recalled that all of the neighborhood residents had to work together to shovel snow from the street themselves.

My own mother was a young girl at the time and also remembers this historic event. She lived in a rural neighborhood south of Pittsburgh in Washington County. Only one door could be used to exit the house because it was under a covered awning or roof. The others had snow piled up against them. Her family cleared the drive leading up to the house by pushing large snowballs down the hill which picked up snow as they rolled.

But the most memorable part was that her grandmother, Kunigunda Boser Stenglein, had died on Wednesday, November 22. On the day of the funeral, my mom's family couldn't make the drive to Pittsburgh. My mother isn't even sure there was a funeral, unless other relatives who lived near the church were able to walk to it. And her memory is that the cemetery held the body until she could be buried later.

The Pittsburgh Press news story at the time seems to confirm this:
"There were no burials because of the five to six feet snow drifts in cemeteries throughout the district. Funerals were held, in most cases, and the bodies stored in vaults until their graves can be cleared."  
Kunigunda's death certificate, however, says she was buried on Saturday, November 25, in St. Michael's Cemetery. Perhaps being stored in a vault was recorded as a burial on the certificates.

In the midst of all that crazy weather, Kunigunda--who was pregnant when she and her husband made the difficult trip across the Atlantic in 1891, whose eldest son was killed in action during World War I, and who buried 3 other children--was involved in one more difficult situation before she finally could be laid to rest.

My great-grandmother may not have been surrounded by all of her loved ones, but she was not forgotten by them.

1 comment:

  1. Great Story.
    My family stories from that blizzard are much more mundane. My mother, who lived in West View, was going to collage in Springfield, Ohio, so my Grandpa called the school to tell them she would be late returning from the Thanksgiving break. According to my Grandma they said "Yes, we heard you had a lot of snow there"!


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