THE GREAT SNOW OF ’73: Digging up old memories of a record snowfall

February 9, 2013 

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Great Snow of ’73, we wanted to give our readers the opportunity to share their memories of the record snowfall and their pictures documenting it. Below is a collection of their responses. We hope you enjoy!

In 1973, I was a Wesleyan student living on campus. One week before the snowstorm, my boyfriend, a Walter F. George law student, proposed. Since my parents were vacationing in Florida, he told me not to tell anyone until he could formally ask my father for my hand. But by the time my parents returned, Macon was covered in snow! Determined to ask my father for my hand in marriage, he bundled up and trekked from his apartment on Old Tucker Road to Wesleyan College to pick me up. We tied plastic bags over our shoes, and together we walked all the way to my parents’ home on King Alfred Drive off Wimbish Road! After my father gave his approval, we shuffled on to Old Holton Road to tell his parents the news. All in all, we walked 6 miles through the snow just to get engaged! Elated and frozen solid, we had just one thing left to do. We borrowed his father’s truck and went on his daily paper route, delivering The Telegraph! This year, together with the snowstorm, we’ll celebrate our 40th anniversary.

-- Evelyn Harrison

I was working at the old C&S Bank on 2nd and Hemlock, the Denmark Branch. It looked like we were going to be there all day, but “cooler” and saner minds prevailed and we closed early, but not that much. I was in charge of the Central Money Vault for the Macon banks and all shipments to and from other branches came through me. I remember thinking, who was still open and what other businesses would do with their pickups from Wells Fargo armored service who delivered to us for deposit, if we were not open. It was kinda frantic for about minute. But in the end it all worked out and it was definitely a wild trip getting home, simply because we left a little later than most other businesses, because of the decision to wait and see who was closing and what was going to happen and to get the word from the top to close it up.

What a day. But we were back at it, next a.m. at 8 o’clock, Central Money Vault, shipping and receiving time.

-- Art Brown

Every kid at McKibben Lane Elementary School knew it was going to snow that day. We just knew.

The adults -- and the teachers, as it seemed -- were content on carrying on their day as if it were another school day.

Mrs. Colleen Dumas desperately tried to conduct math class and debated some of the kids as to whether or not there was to be any snow. What she referred to as “heavy sleet” began to fall. The kids in our fifth-grade class, of which I was one, had “ants in the pants” and were ready to spontaneously combust. We were pinging off the walls as if we had consumed a 5-pound bag of sugar. In a few minutes, Mrs. Dumas went to the principal’s office (Mr. Jim Nolan) to check on the weather -- there was already an inch of “heavy sleet” on the ground -- and when she closed the classroom door, 25 kids took turns pressing noses against just a mere slit of a window. In what seemed like an hour later -- in reality, it couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes -- parents began to show up to pick up their kids, and at some point the bell rang and it was pandemonium!

The only ones educated at school on this day were the teachers. The kids knew. They just knew.

-- Lt. Col. George L. Fisher

In 1973, my husband was in the Air Force and was being sent to Shemya in the Aleutian Islands (about 1,800 miles off the coast of Anchorage, Alaska.) In-laws asked him if he could send them some snow, and he said he would see what he could do. (Be careful what you ask for!)

-- Marie Prescott

Fort Valley

That is my son Tim Ellis with the big snowman on the front page today. (Thursday’s Telegraph) Tim was 7-years-old and he and other Lane Elementary students really had fun playing in the snow. The big snow of ’73 brings back many other wonderful memories. We lived near Lane and we really got to know some of our neighbors then. When the power went off, we had a small emergency gas space heater that we could connect. We invited people in to get warm and one family with small children slept on our den floor. I put a skillet on top of the heater and made breakfast. We all helped each other and created community. The picture of Tim got picked up by AP wire service and we had friends from other places calling us, so that was fun too.

Thanks, Macon Telegraph, for remembering.

-- Mary Ann Ellis

Two of my sons (Jim Kirchoff and John Kirchoff) were Macon Telegraph (and News) delivery boys at that time. I remember the papers being delivered to my home in Warner Robins, and the boys pushing their bicycles, loaded with papers, through the snow- laden streets to deliver the papers. It took several trips since they were pushing the bikes rather than riding, but they managed to get the papers delivered. Through rain, sleet, or snow, but especially the snow, they delivered the papers.

-- Vivian Stilley

Warner Robins

This is a watercolor painting I did of the first house my wife and I lived in on Winship Street over by Mercer University. We were both students at Mercer at the time. I was an art major. Those are my Dingo boot footsteps in the snow. I almost froze to death painting that picture.

Presently, I’m a photographer and still living in Macon with my sweet wife of 40 years, Sharon Falls. The snow must have cemented our relationship. We now have four grown children and six grandchildren, all living in Macon.

-- Larry Falls

I had moved to Warner Robins in July of 1972 from that quaint little city by the lake, Chicago. On the 8th of February, my sister, Kathy, and my brother-in-law, Mike, came to visit us on their way to Disney World with their children. That day I believe the temperature was in the upper-60s or low 70s. In any event, my sister made the remark that she could see why I had decided to move to the sunny South.

The next day -- the 9th -- came the snow! It has been 40 years since the event-of-a-lifetime ... and she still reminds me of it every so often.

Side note: In 1967, Chicago had the heaviest snowstorm in the city’s history -- I was there; in 1970, Kentucky had the worst snowstorm in the state’s history -- I was there; then, in 1973, Middle Georgia got buried -- I was there. Shortly after the third installment, I received a brief note from the folk in Miami asking me NOT to visit them.

-- Dan Jaskula

Warner Robins

I remember that snowstorm. I was in third grade at Hunt Elementary School in Fort Valley. My principal, Mrs. Bell, came on the intercom and announced that we would close early and those whose parents did not pick them up would ride their buses. I listened as my niece’s name was called (she is the same age I am) and I waited anxiously for someone from my family to pick me up. Finally, my name was called and I went home. Later the next day, I rushed along with my other siblings (I am the youngest of 10) to go outside, and we built two snowmen that were as tall as my brother, who was 6-feet 4-inches tall. The snow came up over my knees, (I was only 9) and I could hardly walk through it without falling. The snow was ridiculous but I loved it; my mother and our German Shepherd Schlitz hated it.

-- Wanda Thomas

In 1973, my husband and I lived in Columbia, S.C. We both grew up in Macon, but he went to the University of South Carolina on a baseball scholarship, and then we got married and lived in Columbia for a few years. We had an 8-month-old son and the weekend of the “great snow” we had decided to come home for a visit. It’s generally colder and snows a little more often in South Carolina, but when we left that Friday, the weather seemed fine. This was, of course, before the age of constant weather updates and cellphones.

As we traveled down Interstate 20 toward Augusta, it began to snow. And then it snowed harder and harder. By the time we got to Augusta, it was really bad, so we decided to head back to Columbia. We stopped at a service station to get some gas and a snack and when we tried to leave, our car wouldn’t crank.

We were a young couple with a baby and didn’t have much money, definitely not enough to get a motel room for the weekend!

So we decided to call the nearest church to ask for help.

A wonderful older couple, out of the goodness of their hearts, took us in. They couldn’t have been nicer and we ended up becoming friends with them and their adult children. We called home to our parents and found that Macon had even more snow than Augusta did, so it was wise that we didn’t go any farther.

We stayed with the couple through Sunday, enjoying all the snow and when we went back to check on the car and possibly get it repaired, it cranked right up!

We always felt that our meeting the wonderful couple was meant to be, and we stayed in touch with them for many years until we moved back to Macon.

-- Charlene Churchwell

My recollection is that the storm was not predicted. A humid air mass from the Gulf (of Mexico) hit a cold front, and Macon got 18 inches of snow. You can see the depth of the snow in the photographs. My mother lived in Atlanta. She decided to drive to Macon and to bring us her sled. She drove as far south as Forsyth and had to turn back as the roads were not passable. She could not believe we got snow and she did not. Maybe they only got 15 inches at the airport, but we got more on the north side of Macon. It was so beautiful and such a fantastic surprise! Forty years ago!

-- Nell Flatau

Gary Ertel was the general manager of the then-Hilton Hotel at First and Walnut streets. Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians were in town to perform a concert. The concert was canceled, and The Pennsylvanians had an extended stay at the hotel. Gary asked the maintenance crew to get the shovels to remove the snow!!! Of course, there were none. ... Gary was from the North, so it was an automatic response for him.

-- Holly Ertel

On Feb. 9, 1973, my grandmother Mary Ann Cochran Maze was celebrating her 81st birthday. My mother, Essie, her sisters Irma and Sara and I were honoring her by taking lunch for her and Papa Maze to enjoy. That morning, it started snowing, but we thought it would be like before and not last for long. Although I was at work and we had auditors that day, I was going to go to see Mama Maze for lunch. The snow just kept coming down in big flakes, so the auditors decided maybe they better leave before it got so heavy. Then school was let out and my daughter Robin called for me to come get her. And it was still snowing. Not wanting to stay at home by herself, she asked to be taken to her friend Diane’s house, who lived in an area across Potato Creek Bridge in Thomaston. By then it was obvious the snow was going to continue, so we finished our visit with Mama and Papa, leaving them all the birthday meal leftovers. And it seems a trip to Northside Thomaston was necessary to get Robin and make it home while still possible. But this turned out not to be so easy. By the time we reached Potato Creek Bridge going back home the snow was so deep my big old heavy Pontiac wouldn’t hold traction and move forward ­-- we just kept sliding backwards. The Civil Defense unit was having to push cars across the bridge manually. They did this for us and we managed to get home, but when I turned in what I thought was the driveway it wasn’t, and I was in the ditch beside it. But we managed to get inside, safe and sound and stay there until it was safe to venture outside to play in the snow ... along with our two dogs Princess and Dutchess.

-- Wanda Christine Cochran Hilley

Yatesville

My late father, Dan Gunn Jr., and I awakened to what appeared to be about 2 feet of snow and it was still falling. We were cooking breakfast in the kitchen, it was very quiet. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the roar of a semi tractor truck coming up the hill around the curve headed north from Watson Boulevard on U.S. 41. He was going at a pretty good clip in that fresh powder, spraying snow. He was the first vehicle to pass through. It was a sight to see, spraying snow higher than the truck on both sides. My father got a charge out of that, realizing it wasn’t the driver’s first encounter with snow.

-- Dan Gunn III

Byron

As the snowstorm picked up, my former unit the 48th Brigade (Mechanized) was called to state duty to assist the local authorities. The members of the 48th worked with the utmost vigor and professionalism. As a member of the 48th MP platoon, our members assisted law enforcement and emergency management with many tasks such as going on patrol with officers, assisting in medical emergencies and like activities.

My unique time was while on patrol at about 3 a.m. Saturday morning. Spec. Pruet and I came upon a young boy way out on Interstate 16 with no one anywhere around.

He stated that he was waiting on his uncle to pick him up to go bird hunting. After carrying him to the armory, it was found that he had given us the wrong name and was actually a runaway from Conyers. We, by being out, saved this young boy from freezing. Later that night, I was Ronnie Thompson’s driver and he was out and all over Macon.

On patrol with Macon Police Department officers, we were called to a donut shop on Pio Nono. We went in and were met by management and told that an individual was out of control. We then guided the person outside. I told him not to reach into his pants as they were bulging out and what was in the pocket. He replied that it was snow and he was saving it because he said no one would believe it snowed in Macon and he had proof.

The National Guard soldiers did a great job.

Proud to have been a member.

-- Former MP Tommy Tucker

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