Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Postcard reminder of "Blizzard of '88' Association" meeting

Here's the front and back of a postcard that was sent to Mrs. Margaret B. Lapp of West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1949, reminding her of an upcoming meeting — on April 23, 1949 — of the Blizzard of "88" Association. The meeting was slated to be held at 8 p.m. at the Salvation Army Recreation Center in Philadelphia.

The Great Blizzard of 1888, which will have its 130th anniversary next month, was a superstorm that crippled the Northeast, from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine, with up to five feet of snow in some places, drifts in excess of 50 feet, and winds gusting up to 45 miles per hour. Hundreds died, including many mariners whose ships were scuttled.

So what was the Blizzard of "88" Association? Why would you want to commemorate this natural disaster?

According to the postcard, the association was founded in Philadelphia on September 28, 1946. An article in the March 12, 1949, edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer gives more background:

Anniversary Revives
1888 Blizzard Stories

Optimists who think that Philadelphia has come through the winter without much snow are reminded by old-timers that today is the 61st anniversary of the start of the great blizzard of 1888.

Exactly how deep the drifts were after the three-day snowfall has never been agreed upon but to hear some of the survivors tell it, the snow is getting deeper and deeper.

For 58 years everyone who saw the blizzard talked about it, but nobody did anything about it until 1946, when William J. Stafford, 2754 N. 8t St., founded the Blizzard of '88 Association.

Now, each year, the organization members get together and reminisce about the historic storm. Albert Idell, Philadelphia novelist, has written a book about it.1

This year the association will commemorate the final day of the blizzard at a dinner Monday night at McCallister's, 1811 Spring Garden St. In addition to the telling of personal experiences, the evening will be devoted to the group singing of songs of the '80s and '90s.

Stafford said it was on just such a day as yesterday after a light rain, that it started to snow.

"When I woke up that morning," Stafford recalls, "the snow had drifted up to the level of our second-story window. I first shoveled a tunnel from our house to the street and then dug out passages for my neighbors. I made so much money my family decided I should leave school and learn a trade."

Another survivor, William J. Erskine, 74, of 158 W. Coulter St., and his cousin, Thomas Galbraith, 75, of Hatboro, both recall that they trudged 10 blocks to the John S. Hart elementary school, Cedar and York sts., to find that only three teachers and five students were present.

1. That book would be 1948's The Great Blizzard, by Albert E. Idell. States one Goodreads reviewer: "D+. fiction, New York City, late 19th c., dated writing, pretentious narration, mom's stash, discard." On the other hand, this kinder review comes from Amazon: "I did enjoy this book. It's written in the late '40s about life in the 1880's so I gather the writer was trying to capture some recent history flavour while it was still rememberable to some people. Since this was no doubt one doozey of a blizzard, doubtless it was easy for him to find stories about it from old timers."

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