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The blizzard of 1958

By: Bob Cudmore

Date: 2017-03-18

The blizzard of 1958
By Bob Cudmore, Focus on History, Daily Gazette, 03-18-2017

A 27 inch snowstorm February 16 that followed a 9 inch snowfall a week earlier isolated many rural Montgomery County families in 1958. Blizzard winds and cold temperatures followed the second storm. Warmer temperatures in late February helped with the cleanup.

For four days a U.S. Army helicopter was used to evacuate isolated families and bring in food, fuel and medicine to Charleston and other towns. There were ten foot snowdrifts on roads in the county.

Ralph Bohlke was 13 years old then and lived on Route 160 on the border between Princetown and the town of Florida in the hamlet of Scotch Church.

Bohlke wrote, “I remember that there was so much blowing snow that it was the only time in my life that I could not get out the front or back door.” He was able to go outside through a dog door on a wood shed attached to the back of the house.

Bohlke and his mother Genevieve stayed home to make sure the furnace kept working. His father, Harley Bohlke, stayed in Amsterdam with an aunt, Elizabeth Folmsbee on Guy Park Avenue, as he had to operate his business, Mohawk Cleaners & Dyers, on the old Cedar Street.

Bohlke wrote, “I remember digging a tunnel out to the road in the driveway. When my father came home after two weeks, he had a black bear hat on and when I first saw it I wasn’t sure who or what was coming through that tunnel. Fortunately it was my father with groceries in both arms.”

There were about 100 rescues in rural Montgomery County. Sheriff Alton Dingman and State Police reached the snowbound Norman Phillips family on Dorn Road in the town of Florida. Two of their children were sick but survived the ordeal.

Amsterdam’s remaining carpet mill, Mohasco, closed the Monday after the second storm, as did Beech Nut in Canajoharie. Some farmers had to dump their spoiling supplies of milk. Amsterdam city schools closed for a week. County highway superintendent Harry Mason borrowed heavy equipment, including a large rotary snowplow loaned by New York City.

My cousin, Barbara Segen Gould, lived then on Touareuna Road between the town of Amsterdam and Glenville. Gould has a picture showing her standing on a drift that is higher than the apple tree branch her swing was attached to. Two plows came to open their road after they were snowed in for a week.

A local couple trudged uphill through deep snow to a birthday party during the February 16 storm. The four-year-old birthday boy was Jerry Snyder, one of the founders of Historic Amsterdam League.

Snyder and his parents lived at the top of the hill at the corner of Columbia Street and The Mall in Amsterdam. The Mall is a “hill off a hill” as it begins on the steeply inclined Northampton Road.

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 and his mother Eileen saw two figures in the distance trudging through waist deep snow. When the walkers got closer, they were recognized as Snyder’s aunt and uncle, 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.”

The spring of 1958 brought major flooding along the Mohawk River. After that, the Army Corps of Engineers built retaining walls along the south side of the river in Amsterdam.