I Was Born in a Blizzard;
I Collect “Snowy” Postcards*

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A jolly old man, that I once knew, bragged about the first day of his life. His story was always the same, he would say, “I don’t remember a thing I’m about to tell you, but my mother told me, so I know it’s true.”

He continued, “Mom always said that I chose the most awful day in the winter of 1888 to be born. It was snowing when she got up that morning, and before I was a week old, the newspaper headlines were telling tales of horror, disaster, death, and destruction from Maine to the Carolinas. The headline writers were calling the storm, the Great Blizzard of ’88. The reporters were writing stories about places where so much snow fell that the snow was deeper than the tallest man in town. He was six feet 2 inches tall.

“There were places in Massachusetts where the snow drifted to more than fifty feet. There was a place in a New York state railroad “switching yard” where the snow on top of the boxcars made them so heavy that they wouldn’t roll. In Rhode Island where the snow drifted up against a man’s front door, he was trapped inside for six days. And in New York City the snow clung to the telephone and electric wires, causing them to break under the weight of the ice.”

He continued, “My mother had very little formal education, but she loved poetry. There were over a dozen books of poems on the same shelf where she kept her cookbooks. It was not unusual to find mom in her rocking chair after supper with a book of poems. She would look up occasionally and ask, “Lou, what does the word, ne’er, mean?” I was always thankful that I could answer her questions. My teachers taught me well!

“When my mom died in 1939, Lizzy and I had just married, she had been my steady girl for eleven years. She was a schoolteacher. I was so proud when she said yes to marrying me.  Most of mom’s personal stuff was about to go in the trash, but Lizzy asked if she could “go through” mom’s things to look for keepsakes. There could be no harm in that; I told her that would be okay. Lizzy started with some of the poetry books.

“A few days after the funeral, Lizzie put one of mom’s books on the kitchen table where I ate breakfast. She told me to turn to where she put a bookmark. It was a box top she ripped from a package of Quaker Oats. The page had a note that my mom had scrawled, it read, I read this poem the night before Lou was born. I was unaware that mom made notes in the page margins of almost all her books.

The poem was one by Robert Frost:

Good Hours
I had for my winter evening walk—
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.

And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.

I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.

Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o’clock of a winter eve.

At the end of his interview, Lou, recanted, “There is no shame in this, for I believed everything my mother said to me, but with much chagrin I discovered that perhaps her memory wasn’t as good as I had once thought.

“More than twenty years later, I was browsing the bookshelves in an antique store in Franklinville and recognized a poetry book entitled “North of Boston,” by Robert Frost. I took it off the shelf and found Lizzy to show her the page where I found that “Good Hours” was published in this anthology by Henry Holt and Company in 1914.”


Lou started collecting postcards because that was another of his mother’s interests. She kept every card anyone sent to her, and she bought cards as souvenirs when she and her husband traveled. In all his life, Lou never had more than a hundred or so, but each card he collected was based on one theme – Snow!

Some of Lou’s cards were probably difficult to find, since he was born a few years before the Golden Era of Postcards, but he was proud of the ones he had because they were perfect reminders of the two most important ladies in his life – his Mother, Sarah and his Wife, Lizzy.

Lou didn’t remember when, but he gave most of his postcards to his grandson and they were later lost in a housefire. The few that were left he shared with me (ERC).

New England Scenes After the Blizzard of 1888

The Great Blizzard of
March 12, 1888
Railroad Crossing after
Blizzard of ‘88

The Blizzard of 1888 was recorded as the worst storm of the 19th century. Along most of the east coast and in New England, it took eight days to clear the snow from the streets and railroads. Likewise, the national telegraph network was crippled from Washington to the Atlantic provinces of Canada. This storm brought forth several discussions about prevention of infrastructure damage in the future; including underground transportation systems in Boston and the expansion of the New York network. At the same time New York began installation of underground telegraph, telephone, and electric wires. The blizzard was also the cause of more than $25 million in fire damage and more than six-hundred deaths were blamed on the storm and the cold days that followed.

Of interest may be the fun-fact that this was the first time that a streets and roads department (NYC) trucked the gathered snow to the beaches of Long Island and dumped it into the Atlantic Ocean.

Other snow storms at different times and different places

A New England farm in winter
Franklinville 1 May 1908

*Excerpts from an interview conducted by Edward R. Cleveland at the first annual New York State Oral History Project – Gloversville, New York – June 1969.

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I love this!!!

A wonderful story! Lucky for us that it was shared with the NYS Oral History Project.

Interesting mothers beget interesting children!

Thank you for such a heartwarming story on this cold morning in Pennsylvania

The third postcard on this page reminds me of a postcard in my collection showing the local park in the snow in Hastings, Sussex, England. The PC was posted in 1905. Here’s a link to where I posted it on my Hastings history page. Thanks for the interesting story. https://www.facebook.com/HAPP1066/photos/a.225766934213863/244633478993875/

Since Robert Frost was born in 1874, he would have been a young teenager during the Great Blizzard of ’88, and thus unlikely to have already become a published poet!

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