Thursday, August 6, 2020
Aug. 6, 2020

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Everybody Has a Story: A blizzard, a baby and a 70-year-old memory

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It was Friday, Jan. 13, 1950. I was living in the small town of Napavine and was 19 years of age. I was working as a telegrapher for Northern Pacific Railroad at a depot off Highway 6 that runs from Chehalis to the coast.

It had been snowing off and on for a few days, so I had put chains on the car. There was no place to park at the depot, so I had to leave the car at a small grocery store on Highway 6 and walk.

The wind started to blow and the temperature dropped below 20 degrees. It became an all-out blizzard like I had never seen before or since that day. About 1:30 p.m. my dispatcher told me to go home, so I walked up to get my car. The store was not open but a friend of mine was there. Both of our cars had been snowed in.

A Franz Bakery truck stopped at the store, so we asked the driver if we could catch a ride into town with him. We were still 3 or 4 miles from town when the road was closed due to cars stuck in the drifts. The only thing we could do was to start walking, but by this time the road had about 2 feet of snow and the temperature had dropped to 10 degrees. It felt even colder with the 30 mph wind.

On the walk, we met a woman who invited us into her house. When we entered, there were about 12 people in the kitchen, including an ambulance driver who had been transporting a woman in labor to the hospital in Centralia. As we thawed out, a woman came into the room and asked for a volunteer to deliver the baby. I did not volunteer because I was too young and my hands were still frozen.

A man did volunteer and was on the phone with a doctor, who gave him instructions as another volunteer held the phone to his ear. Thankfully the phone line was still working.

The baby was a boy and was in good health!

The National Guard sent out a half-track truck to get the baby, mother and father. We asked if there was room for me and my friend, which there was, and we were able to catch a ride into Centralia.

When we arrived, my friend went to work. I got something to eat, then went to an all-night movie theater and saw a double feature. When I left the theater at 5 a.m. I was able to catch the train to Napavine.

Ever since that day, every Jan. 13 I think of that baby. He would be 70 years old on his birthday this year. I wish I had gotten his name so I could tell him I was there on the day he was born in the worst blizzard I have ever seen.


Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.

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