Birch Lake – The Blizzard of ’41 – Chapter 1 of 4

Written by Harold McNeill on January 18th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Blizzard of 41

Photo (Farm Life): In the early years of living on the farm in Saskatchewan, winter blizzards could arrive suddenly and last for days. Travelling in such such weather was a dangerous affair.

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Deep Winter, 1941: Northern Saskatchewan

It was just after 10:00 am when the pain struck causing the soon to be mother to double over. She grabbed the kitchen table to keep from falling as the pain slowly eased. Home alone and two miles from the nearest neighbour, ten miles from the village of Glaslyn, and forty-five from the hospital in Edam, she was frightened as she had no idea what time her husband might return. Outside, the bone-chilling cold of the January blizzard continued to dominate everything in its path.

Map: Open in a new window for full size.

The high winds rolling off the southwest shore of Birch Lake pounded their log cabin and although partially sheltered by a thick of caraganas and grove of poplar, the wind treated these barriers as minor annoyances. Each time a gust hit, it felt like her little home might be shaken from its foundation.

To make matters worse, the wind created a forlorn howling sound as it whipped through the trees around the house. Those sounds seemed to the expectant mother to be among the most lonesome in the world, right up there with wolves howling in the wilderness or a loon calling across a dead calm lake at dusk. What would she do if the baby could not wait?

While the temperature had remained steady near -20F, Laura noted that later in the morning it started to drop and was now nearing -25. Over the past few winters, it was not uncommon to see the temperature drop to -50 or -60F during a cold snap. It was always hard to tell the exact temperature as the mercury froze at -40. Add to that the wind chill and exposed skin would freeze within seconds and breathing super cold air could damage lungs so quickly that, in her condition, walking to a neighbouring farm would be a risky, perhaps deadly proposition. She knew of people who become lost in such storms and froze to death.  No, her best bet was to sit tight and wait for her husband. If the baby came she would just make due. It would be a January blizzard forever etched in her mind.

Years later when telling the story, she still shuddered at the memory:

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

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  • Harold McNeill

    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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    January 5, 2020 |

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    […] During the Ice Age, the Earth’s average temperature was about 12 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it is today. That was enough to keep snow from melting during the summers in northern regions. As snow fell on the snow, glaciers formed. (NASA Earth Observatory) […]

  • McNeill Life Stories How to Game an Election - McNeill Life Stories

    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]