• Marie Hickman

Snow Problem for Athens in 1949

By Anne Adams

Snowfall is rare in Henderson County so when it does happen naturally people talk about it and then it automatically brings up memories of such events in the past. Of course, usually, snowfall in Athens is just a dusting of snow that occurs when there is precipitation in the area and the temperature fell below freezing for a while.

However, there was one time when Athens had a “real” snowfall  as described in the headline of the February 3, 1949, Athens Weekly Review: “Mercury Drops to Four Degrees here; Nine –Inch Snow Blankets Section.” The accompanying articles described the effect: “Traffic on Henderson County highways was virtually at a standstill” said one story.  The snowfall came on Sunday night – “believed to be the heaviest ever to fall here” – and by Monday everything was “packed and frozen...” Then the reporter eloquently described the scene:  “A foggy veil settled over the city at dawn Monday, and coated tree limbs with a frosty, fuzzy covering.”

As they would today, authorities like the sheriff’s office urged motorists to not travel unless necessary, however, there didn’t seem to be any accidents. Instead, Deputy Ras Warren said that they found abandoned cars, often stuck against curbs.  That seemed to be the only result of the weather for as Deputy Warren put it: “We toured the city Sunday and Sunday night and found everything orderly.”

At the time when intercity busses were an important part of local transportation, the snowfall meant delays. Also, truck drivers on the snowy roads said they had to watch the mailboxes on the edge of the road as a guide. Railroad traffic was also sometimes delayed.

And in the Athens schools?  School buses didn’t run but classes were open with teachers present and about 40% of their students made it in.  “We opened the building,” said Superintendent Roy Lowe, “and we had it warm for the students who did show up because we had no way of notifying all of the students whether or not there would be classes Monday.”

Local business owners also coped with the storm. One example was Roy Parnell, owner of downtown’s Texan Theater, who spent much of Sunday shoveling snow off the theater roof, and then since business was so bad he gathered up his employees and took them to dinner. As related in the February 3 issue of the Review he explained:    “We had wanted to have a dinner for a long time, and I always did believe in cooperating with the inevitable,” he said. (Of course the Texan Theater today is an important entertainment venue in Athens).

However, three men in Murchison ended up thawing themselves out in the Henderson County Jail on Monday.  According to Deputy Warren, the three drunken men broke into a Murchison home and as the lady homeowner fled to a neighbor’s home the men took over the house. They “bedded down like pigs but didn’t damage the place” as Deputy Warren put it.

Deputies were slowed in their response because of the heavy snow, but when they arrived they arrested one man in the house and apprehended the other two at another residence across the road where they had fled.  All of them were jailed for drunkenness and disturbing the peace.

So was there any advantage to the weather? Well, a local minister reasoned that there might be profit in the frozen precipitation, and his reasoning was covered in a February 3 article headlined “Now We Know the Value of Snow.” Minister of the local Church of Christ Kermit Upshaw got his idea from the Biblical book of Job. There it asks:   “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” (Job 38:22 KJV).

According to the reporter and the minister, modern science had delved into the riches of snow and has come to the conclusion that its riches should compensate for any discomfort. According to Mr. Upshaw, data compiled stated that snow is worth $2.35 for an acre of land per inch of snow – that came from the minerals of snow deposits in the earth. And since Henderson County had a snowfall of 9 inches, then the county landowners stood to profit by some $21.15 per acre.

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