Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: April 1994 Volume 32 Number 2, Pages 78–82

Notes and Comments

Page 78


A Winter to Remember

[Much of this material was taken from a review of "the winter of our discontent", during which a "constant barrage of snow and ice left us short of road salt, school days, and patience", that appeared in the Daily Local News on March 27, 1994.]

It was a winter to remember, with snow on the ground in some places from early January into April.

Back in November, the National Weather Service predicted that the winter of 1994 would be mild, with "temperatures warmer than normal during December, January, and February" along the East Coast. It was not to be.

The cold weather set in on December 28th. A week and a day later, on January 4th, two and a half inches of snow fell, and stayed on the ground as temperatures remained below freezing.

But it was the storm of January 7th that really marked the beginning of one of the most severe winters in recent history. On that day an unexpected ice storm hit the area. PECO called it the worst storm in its history as more than 430,000 homes in southeastern Pennsylvania were left with no electricity. Roads were hazardous to drive, especially coming up out of the Valley; trips that normally take only a few minutes took hours to complete. Traffic was stalled on Route 202 for more than five hours, due to the many accidents resulting from the hazardous driving conditions and spinning wheels. Cars were left abandoned in the middle of the road. An icy crust lay over the previous snowfall and protected it from thawing for six weeks. Walking was almost as treacherous as driving.

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On the night of January 12th there was more snow and icy rain, and once again the roads were slick. While the temperature reached 42 the next day, three days later the high was only 11, and on the next day, January 17th, another three to five inches of snow fell before again turning to sleet and freezing rain.

On January 19th Governor Robert P. Casey declared a state-wide state of emergency, "urging commercial operations to curtail business and permitting utilities to reduce power to all customers because of the cold conditions". (On the night before the declaration of emergency the temperature at the Chester County Airport dropped to eight degrees below zero, breaking the record of -4 set ten years earlier, and on the 19th the high temperature was a frigid 0.)

By now, adding to the problem was the fact that the supply of salt on hand at PennDOT and in the various municipalities was alarmingly low. In Tredyffrin it was reported that there were fewer than 30 tons on hand, about enough to fill four trucks.

And on January 30th it snowed again, but this time it was only a light dusting. Most residents were "thankful, by this time, that it was 'only snow' rather than ice and freezing rain" again.

That was January. Between January 7th and the end of the month the schools in Tredyffrin and Easttown were closed on ten days, with late openings on four more days and an early dismissal on one other.

The first snowfall in February was on February 9th, a snowfall bringing an additional two to four inches of snow. Two days later another six to eight inches fell. A major problem in clearing the roads and other areas was now simply where to put the white stuff.

An ensuing pattern of thawing in the daytime and refreezing at night over the next few days made the roads sheets of ice after sundown. At least five municipalities in the county declared snow emergencies.

With the thawing, of course, came flooding along the major streams, and also the need for the Philadelphia Suburban Water Company and other water companies to add more chlorine to the water to offset the effects of the run-off of salt and other chemicals used on the roads. The difference in taste was quite noticeable.

After a twelve-day respite, on February 23d another storm left four to five inches of snow on the ground, though it was virtually all plowed off by late afternoon. The low temperatures, however, again left a coating of thin ice on many roads, making them somewhat tricky to drive that night and the next morning, particularly as a freezing rain and snow unexpectedly resumed on the next day. The situation, however, was somewhat eased as the precipitation ended and temperatures rose in the afternoon.

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Another storm, with high winds and considerable drifting afterwards, hit Chester County on March 2d and 3d, but it by-passed our immediate area. As the Local observed, "People in eastern Chester County are wondering what the fuss is all about." Similarly, two to four inches of snow were predicted for March 9th, but fortunately it turned out to be rain instead.

But finally, just two days before the official beginning of spring, on March 18th Winter took "a final parting shot" with another storm of snow and sleet. It was the 17th storm of the season.

With early dismissals or delayed openins on top of the days with no school at all, by the end of February there had been only two full five-day weeks of school in Tredyffrin and Easttown since the first week in January. The T-E schools were closed a total of 14 days altogether; to make up the lost days the school term was extended to June 27th, the latest "last day of school" in the district's history.

One lingering legacy of all this, of course, are the numerous and "flourishing crop" of potholes that were left in its wake. When the weather conditions permitted, plowing and salting were replaced by patching, but the generally wet weather in February and March made it impossible to accomplish much and there is still much to be done.

In the meantime, the cost of coping with these storms has cut deeply into the budgets of PennDOT and the various municipalities. It was estimated that PennDOT used some 18,000 tons of salt on the roads in Chester County, compared with an annual average of about 10,000 tons over the previous ten years, with an additional 28,000 tons of cinders, stone, sand, and other anti-skid materials also used on the roads. Snow removal costs in Tredyffrin in early March were estimated to have been $164,000, as compared with a budget of $90,000, while in Easttown they were more than $100,000, with the budget $21,500. To compensate for these increased costs it is likely that many repaving projects originally scheduled for the summer simply will not be undertaken. Thus the effects of the winter will continue to be felt for some time into the future.

As much as many of us would like to forget it, it will be "a winter to remember".


Old Berwyn Fire Company Banner Restored

To start the commemoration of its 100th anniversary this year, the Berwyn Fire Company had its historic banner restored.

The banner was made in Ohio early in this century, in about 1910, but over the years had become quite dilapidated. It is made of silk, etched with hand-painted decorations and metallic braid and fringe, but had become "very, very brittle" and was "so fragile, you couldn't put a needle through it or risk trying to take the trim off". As John Hucker, the treasurer of the Fire Company, described it, "It was being held together with yards and yards of Scotch tape."

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The restoration work was done by the Art Conservation! Program of the University of Delaware and Winterthur Museum, and required "a few hundred hours" worth of work by Sara Reiter, the conservation fellow who worked on it.

The restored banner was returned to the Fire Company in mid-March, at which time a re-dedication ceremony was held at the Fire Hall. Among those in attendance was U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon, himself a former fire chief in Marcus Hook, who commented, "The camaraderie and esprit de corps of this company and all volunteer fire companies is the best example of what America is all about."

Several other events, including a parade in October, are planned by the Fire Company as it celebrates its 100 years of service to the community.


Another Paoli

Through the courtesy of S. Hamill Home, who lives in Gladwyne and is a student in this spring's course on the History of the Upper Main Line at the Mai Line School Night, we have learned of another Paoli. This one is in Wisconsin. (There is also a Paoli in Indiana, and one in Oklahoma.)

He sent a brief history of the town, apparently taken from a monument that was erected there in 1990.

"A meander of the Sugar River, providing an excellent water power opportunity, prompted Peter W. Matts to acquire [land] in Montrose Township in 1846. He erected a sawmill in 1847, soon followed by his home, a tavern and a general store. Matts platted Paoli in 1856, and named it for a town near his Pennsylvania birthplace.

"In 1864, Francis and Bernard Minch purchased the sawmill and built a stone grist mill. By the mid 1870s, the community boasted a school, post office, two churches, a cheese factory, two hotels, a doctor, and several tradesmen.

"The Chicago, Madison, and Northwestern Railroad bypassed Paoli in 1888, but the settlement prospered past the turn of the century: the proud possessor of a local band, an acclaimed baseball team and theater group. The public ground and Fischer Hall were often used for holiday, social and political events.

"As the mill era passed, the population declined. Recently, the community has shown new vitality; buildings have been recorded, a new town hall acquired, and new business opened."

He also sent a flyer from the Paoli Cheese Cottage located there on Paoli Road. According to the flyer, the Cheese Cottage "is located in Paoli, 5 miles north of Belleville", which is where the post office serving the area is now located.

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An Invitation to a Pic-Nic

This invitation toa pic-nic in Serrill's Grove was a recent acquisition of the Chester County Historical Society. (Obviously, at that time there were no throw-away plastic spoons!)


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