This has been an unusual winter. We had a month of deep freeze weather followed by two months of freeze and thaw. Flash freezing has occurred several times. When I was a child, I have a vivid memory of what I believe to be a flash freeze and the conditions my family faced one night. Two archival photos on-line recently reminded me of the event.
We lived with my Dad’s father in St. John’s from the time I was born until I was three. Then we moved to Maddox Cove, next door to my mother’s family. The photos show images of Petty Harbour, a neighbouring community, in the 1950s, which is part of my memory.
We had a car at that time and one Sunday, went to visit my grandfather in St. John’s. That evening, on our return home, it was icy. I imagine a mild winter day when the water is running and then the temperature drops. A flash freeze is the result.
We drove through Petty Harbour and rounded the point of land on the road to our home in Maddox Cove, just a mile away. A few minutes later, Dad came to a dead stop. My three year old self in the back seat became aware of a discussion my parents were having about the dangerous road.
Snow had melted from the mountain on the left side and ran over the road which was positioned above a cliff. This road would be equivalent to a cow path by today’s standards. We had stopped by the Big Gulch, and on the passenger side of the car, we could look down into the gulch, where the waves broke over the cliffs, sending spray skyward. The headlights shone over the ice surface which sloped towards the gulch. I don’t remember a guard rail in place along that treacherous road but I imagine there was a fence like the one in this photo.
No wonder I was scared.
There were no studded snow tires but Dad had chains in the trunk. Somehow, he and my mother put chains on the tires. Dad steered our car as it crept over the ice with the chains sounding like jingle bells. At least that sound was comforting. I remember the sense of relief when we drove past the danger.
The images of the gulch and the ice are as vivid to me as if they happened yesterday. I wonder if my father, who would have been in his early thirties at that time, ever had second thoughts about driving home over that treacherous road?