Whenever I hear someone say they want a white Christmas, I’m reminded of Christmas 1961.
I got married in June that year and my husband and I lived in a mobile-home court halfway between Parkville and Riverside. My parents separated in September. My mother moved to the Kansas City area.
Christmas was on Monday. My mother planned to go to my home town (a two-hour drive) on Friday and my husband and I planned to go to his parents (another two-hour drive). Both towns are east of Kansas City, one a little more north than the other. About noon on Friday, it started snowing. The weather people said there would be ‘little or no’ accumulation. Mom left about two o’clock Friday afternoon.
My husband and I headed north Saturday morning. There was a little snow on the ground, but not much and the roads were clear. We got to Excelsior Springs and ran into a road block. The trooper told us we could not go any further on I-35 because there were about 200 cars stranded between Excelsior and Cameron including semis that were buried in drifts. I never thought about Mother – after all, she left early Friday afternoon. So we continued to my in-laws’ house via another route. There was still a little snow, but clear roads. We got to the in-laws’ Saturday afternoon, spent all day Sunday, and I still didn’t think about Mom.
We were just sitting down to Christmas dinner when I got a call from a truck driver I’d never heard of. He said my mother knew he was coming through the town I was in and wanted him to call me and tell me she was okay. They and about 60 other people just spent the weekend in a small bar outside of Cameron.
Later Mom told me the whole story. She was driving her 1960 Galaxy and stopped for gas in Liberty. A carful of young men pulled into the gas station. One of the men was an old boyfriend of mine who told his companions he was going to ride with Mom so she wouldn’t be alone. Mom and C. got about halfway between Excelsior and Cameron when the Galaxy slid off the road and got stuck. They were picked up by an older couple and continued toward Cameron. About three miles from Cameron, their car also stalled and the four of them made their way to a small bar.
The owner of the bar had gone into Cameron for supplies and couldn’t get back. His pregnant wife and year-old baby were alone. Like the truck driver said, in the end, there were about 60 people there. Three were babies in diapers (this was before disposable diapers). Mom said they had diapers draped all over the place drying. The only food they had was the ‘all-you-can-eat shrimp’ the bar served on Friday nights. Of course, they didn’t lack for drinks. There was a small store just across from the bar and someone went over there and got milk for the babies and some bacon and eggs. A truck driver who was carrying oranges up from Florida opened his rig and they had oranges.
So when anyone mentions a white Christmas, I remember 1961.
A footnote: at that time my mother and I wore the same sized clothes. She had borrowed one of my favorite dresses, a long-sleeved, aqua wool. After she wore it three days straight in that smoke-filled bar, even the dry cleaners couldn’t make it wearable again.