This Jan. 1, as in past years, Star Tribune Opinion is republishing old letters to the editor as they once appeared, plus dates. They give a snapshot of what readers were thinking about in winter throughout the history of this paper — blizzards, war, Santa Claus — and perhaps prompt us to be grateful we live now, not then.
Happy New Year.
Elena Neuzil, Letters Editor
He Was a Teamster in the '73 Blizzard
To the Editor: I notice in the Nov. 12 Star Journal that the late storm was the worst in Minnesota in the memory of many of the old-timers. Well, I happen to be one of the old-timers — and on Jan. 7, 1873, at the age of 21, I was engaged in teaming between Waterville and Faribault.
We had no railroad at Waterville at the time; all surplus produce was hauled by team.
It was a mild winter morning, but cloudy. I, with two others, the late Giles Woliver and the late Adam Beeby, set out with three loads of dressed hogs — our route was three miles over Lake Sakatah, over land to Warsaw, then about fives miles over Cannon Lake, then three miles to Faribault.
We arrived in Faribault, unloaded, and, after feeding our teams and eating our dinner, we started on our return trip.
When we were about one mile out on Cannon Lake, the storm struck us. We left the beaten track and headed for the north shore, where we had shelter from the wind. We got along pretty well until we arrived at the lower end of Lake Sakatah, where we had to face a 60-mile wind, the mercury 20 below, and the air full of driven snow.
Driving the three miles to Waterville, we could not hold our face to the wind one minute without freezing, so when we got on the lake, we got off the beaten track and were weaving back and forth for over three hours. The head team went in a circle to the south shore of the lake, fortunately — and we were in a bay where we had shelter from the wind.
We got together to hold council. Mr. Beeby was so cold that he cried and despaired of ever seeing home again, but we cheered him up the best we could. I told them my father's farm was on the south shore of the lake, and that we could go with the storm along the lake shore to his house. We reached there at 10 p.m., got our teams in the stable and then to the house where a warm fire awaited us — home never seemed so cheerful before.
The storm continued to rage the next day, so we did not venture out, but on the third day, after dinner, we drove to Waterville.
The roads were filled with snow above the top fence line and it was nearly two weeks before they were opened for traffic. I believe the fatality list was as great in proportion to the population as in the late storm, but the property loss was not so great.
It was in that storm that the late Michael Dowling had his legs frozen and had to have them amputated. But he lived to establish the home for crippled children which stands as a monument to his memory in your city.
Patrick O'Leary, Lonsdale, Minn., Nov. 21, 1940
A Fall Blizzard Story
To the editor: I read with much interest Pat O'Leary's story of the storm, in which I had the following experience:
It was Jan. 7, 1873, and I was toting supplies for McGaffy Bros., who were logging in northern Minnesota. The storm came up without warning and increased in fury. I was unable to go farther. I tied the team to a post with a halter chain, made a wind break, and having lots of prunes, salt pork, etc., made myself as comfortable as possible.
The storm lasted three days and nights. When it stopped, I tried to untie the halter chain but it was plugged with snow and ice. I then unsnapped it and drove on to camp.
In the spring I remembered the halter chain I had tied to the post and went back after it. Imagine my surprise when I located it at the top of a large stub — exactly 22 ½ feet above the ground. You can judge for yourself the depth of the snow.
R. Peterson, Grand Rapids, Minn, Nov. 26, 1940
Getting Ready at Leisure
To the Editor of The Tribune: I was pleased with the editorial in The Tribune titled: "Is America Falling Down?" Those of us who have sons among the first contingent in France feel almost sick over the delay in equipping and transporting more troops. I have just talked with a young man from Camp Dodge and he says very little is being done in the way of drilling soldiers as none of the companies are full and the men are being used simply to care for the cantonment. As he expressed it: "keeping up the fires and shoveling ashes."
I had supposed we were making an army on this side as fast as possible but I begin to suspect that the same dillydally measures that are being shown up in the Ordnance Department prevail elsewhere.
I do not feel as King Henry V did at Agincourt — the fewer fighters the more glory in victory.
My son is now in the trenches and I want to see him and his companions backed up in every way. I don't dare send him a daily newspaper because there is so much discouraging news in every issue. I send him clippings only.
A father, Dec. 26, 1917
Santa Myth Must Go
To the editor: Shall the Santa Claus myth be debunked or shall parents tell this lie to their little children?
Why will parents consent to this falsehood as foundation for the future training of the mental and intellectual faculties of their children?
Do they not understand that a child's soul, in its spotless purity, is without character and impression, a beautiful, innocent, guileless existence, which receives impressions not only through parents' spoken words but also their actions and manners? When the child commences to observe, curiosity arises and he comes to the parents with questions about the Santa Claus rumor. Shall the child then be given this nonsensical story to believe?
No time is more opportune for parents to reach the hearts of their children than Christmas. Presents should be given the children by the parents themselves, advising them that what they are receiving is their reward for obedience and good behavior.
O. Thoften, Minneapolis, Dec. 22, 1937
A Christmas Suggestion
To the Editor of The Tribune: The red letter day of all the year will soon be here again, when the joys of Christmastide will be exhibited in many happy homes by the wreaths in the windows, the Christmas trees adorned with lighted tapers and pleasing gifts and the happy family circle. With so many events crowding fast one upon another we are in danger of losing much of this beautiful Christmas spirit through the whirl and rush of our city life. Of late years there has been manifested a somewhat selfish spirit in our holiday celebrations. There has been lacking the old-time spirit. Please permit a suggestion at this time. Our hearts are gladdened in an especial manner this year as we are assured that our time-honored American customs are to be revived at the coming inaugural ceremonies of our president-elect. Taking this as our cue, would it not be fitting and very appropriate to revive here in Minneapolis some of the good old-fashioned hospitality that made our city famous years ago? As this is the birthday of our Lord, and we read in the sacred word "that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor."
There could be no more appropriate way of celebrating this day than by extending generous openhearted hospitality to our sick soldiers, the strangers in our midst, the homeless and friendless. Let us prolong as far as possible this season of "good will to men." My best wish for our city is for the return of the real old-time generous hospitality of years ago.
An Old-Fashioned Mother, Dec. 22, 1920