TBT Snow: Stranded in 4 feet-plus
Survivor's tale; Equinox storm of 1958 was the real deal.
Spring's arrival was a huge deal in Darby Borough in 1958, and not just because it came at the end of one of the snowiest winters on record.
Darby High School was heading to the PIAA basketball tournament in Lancaster and had a good shot at making the finals.
Pete McClure, who graduated in 1962, was a 13-year-old freshman, heading to one of five buses that would take him and classmates to the game. HIs bus was to leave at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19.
We have expressed skepticism about the reported 50-inch snowfall from that storm in Morgantown, but McClure's story has allayed some of our skepticism.
What McClure remembers is that as his bus was leaving, the snow was picking up, as were the size of the flakes: "They were the size of baseballs."
By the time the bus got to West Chester, 6 to 8 inches was on the ground, he said. "The farther you got from Darby, the heavier the snow became."
Slogging through the intensifying snow on back roads, the bus and one other in the fleet finally made it to Lancaster at 11 p.m., just in time for McClure to see his team lose.
The three other buses never made it. Those passengers took shelter in a diner that ran out of food. Farmers in the area bearing slaughtered pigs came by to feed them.
On the way home, the snow was so deep his bus was going nowhere. The 40 or so passengers had to sleep on the heat-less vehicle. As for bathrooms, "We had outside," he recalled.
His bus tried again on Thursday, with heavy snow still falling – that's the day that 38 inches was measured in Morgantown for the 24-hour period -- but ran out of gas. The passengers ended up sleeping on the floor of a local Grange hall.
McClure recalls that the next day, he was walking on a nearby farm, stepped into a hole, and "the snow was over my head." The bus finally made it back to Darby on Friday night.
Were the parents worried? "Not having Twitter, not having cell phones, I don't think they had an hourly update," said McClure. Nevertheless, he doesn't recall any widespread panic among the adults.
And for the youth, it was hardly an ordeal he said: "It was an experience. It was kind of cool. Here we are, we didn't have to go home. We didn't have to go to school."