by Diane Norek Harrison
ELIZABETH-Here are some winter memories from William Frolich: “None of us have actual memories of the famous blizzard of 1888, but we have heard of it from our grandparents. We have heard that in the center of Elizabeth a train of the Central Railroad was stalled for two days at the Broad Street station, blocking the intersection that is now known as the Elizabeth Arches.
The snow was so thick that the train could go no further, but the crew did manage to un-couple some of the cars, and move them far enough to clear that intersection.
“One snowfall that many of us did live through happened near the end of 1947, when 25 inches of snow covered the ground for miles around. This snow started to fall about noon on Christmas Day of that year, and continued well into most of the next day, which was a Friday. Most workers had made it to work that Friday afternoon, but as the snow began to build up, by mid-afternoon almost everyone quit work and started for home.
“By this time, however, the roads were almost impassable, with cars and busses jamming the streets. There were some drivers who forced their cars to a parking spot at the curb, and headed on foot for the nearby railroad station. The trains, at least, were still running, and their high-wheeled steam engines had little trouble with the accumulation of snow. Those steam engines locomotives also provided welcome steam heat for the coaches.
“It was standing room only, in those coaches, with the aisles jammed with the “snow birds”, who did not have any tickets for their passage. The conductor had no chance to punch or collect those tickets anyway, as he could not pass through the coaches. It was also his duty to disembark at each station and make sure that any passenger was safely inside the coach, although he had to stand on the lowest step and hang on to the railing by the doorway. As the train had made several stops before it reached Elizabeth, he was covered with snow and a few icicles.
“The next day, Saturday, was a beautiful, cold, blue sky day, and the outside world was white. There had been no wind, and the snow lay deep and even over everything. Twenty-five inches deep, with sidewalks and driveways to clear, and in those days, no snow throwers to help with the shoveling. Drivers who normally parked their cars in the streets at the curbs had to dig the snow away to remove their cars, and woe betide any usurper who later parked his car in that ‘private parking spot.’
“After a few days things began to ease slightly, but then on the second day of the new year we were hit with a severe ice storm. Falling rain quickly froze whatever it landed, and trees, wires, and streets were soon covered wit a thick, heavy layer of ice. Branches broke from the trees, and wires snapped from the weight of the ice. The streets became dangerously slippery, and any that still were not completely cleared of snow added thick ice to the ruts and pot holes of the roadbed.”
If you have your own memories or past material for Union County you can email me c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or send copies of your material to me c/o CMD Media 1139, East Jersey St,. Suite 503, Elizabeth NJ, 07201.
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