A local couple trudged uphill through deep snow to a birthday party during one of the area’s worst snowstorms in February 1958. That harsh storm isolated many rural people and has brought a flurry of reader memories.
In 1958 Gerald R. Snyder was living at the top of the hill at the corner of Columbia Street and The Mall in Amsterdam. The Mall is one of the steepest streets in a very hilly city. It is what’s called a “hill off a hill” as it begins on the steeply inclined Northampton Road.
Snyder wrote of The Mall, “It’s a steep winding hill that taught me everything I needed to know about driving around Amsterdam in the winter.”
Snyder’s aunt and uncle lived in an apartment down the hill on Stewart Street and often came to Snyder’s house to watch television at night and on weekends.
Snyder wrote, “Our tiny house with the big yard always seemed to be the family gathering place. There were few houses in our immediate area in the early 1950s, and you had to go a few blocks to find civilization up on Chapel Place. It was mostly open fields and many of the streets existed only as lines on the city maps.”
A birthday party was planned for Sunday, Feb. 16, 1958, when Snyder turned 4 years old. By then the snowstorm had hit, and from his window all Snyder could see was snow, nothing plowed yet, no cars.
However, Snyder and his mother, Eileen, did see two figures in the distance trudging through waist-deep snow. The Snyders wondered who was crazy enough to be out in such weather. When the walkers got closer, they were recognized as Snyder’s aunt and uncle from Stewart Street, Anita and Haverly Hewitt.
Snyder wrote, “They had decided that a little snow wasn’t going to keep them away from my birthday party; they said it had taken them well over an hour to make the walk.”
Snyder also remembered that although the road was not plowed, his father, Gerald E. Snyder, shoveled a 100 foot stretch of the driveway, arguing that if there was a fire, they could at least get in the car and get away from the house.
Eventually a front end loader showed up on a nearby street. Snyder’s father went outside and convinced the operator to clear an area of road to connect to the shoveled section of the Snyder driveway.
Snyder wrote, “While I watched warm and dry from the living room, my father spent the next hour or so climbing through snow banks and drifts, walking along in front of that huge yellow piece of equipment showing the operator where the street was, one scoop at a time.”
Local icons calendar
Snyder, an active member of the Historic Amsterdam League, has been working on the new League calendar, Amsterdam Icons 2013.
Snyder said, “The cover of the calendar this year is the Amsterdam Free Library, which also has the centerfold with a two-page feature article tracing the creation of a library in Amsterdam from 1804 through 1904.”
Other months feature pictures and stories about Hurricana horse farm, downtown Amsterdam, the Antlers Club House, Chalmers Knitting Mill, Sarah Jane Sanford Home, the Shuttleworth Carpet Mills, Amsterdam Savings Bank, Old Fort Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt Junior High, the former Division Street YMCA and the Fifth Ward School.
Calendars cost $12 each and are available at Amsterdam Free Library, Old Peddler’s Wagon, the Bookhound and other Amsterdam locations. Calendars will be sold from 1 to 3 p.m. today at City Hall. They also can be ordered online at www.historicamsterdam.org.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 346-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.