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Archive for Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lawhorn’s Lawrence: Lawrence’s March Madness of 1912

March 24, 2013

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Don’t kid yourself Lawrence. This March Madness thing isn’t anything new. Madness has been a March trait in Lawrence for at least a century.

On this very day 101 years ago — Sunday, March 24, 1912 — Lawrence residents awoke to 19 inches of snow, the largest single snowstorm in the city’s history.

The Monday paper (the bosses back then gave us the day off on Sundays) was full of talk about the “spirit of ’76.” That would be the spirit of 1876, when the city had another massive March snowstorm that dumped 17 inches on the city.

The lead paragraph of the 1912 article went like this: “The spirit of ’76 was abroad Saturday, only instead of being the spirit of 1776 it belonged to 1876. The heaviest snowfall ever recorded by the University for March was in 1876 when 17 inches fell, but Saturday the spirit of that year returned with renewed vigor, and so vigorous was it that it did not disappear until the ground was covered with 19 inches of snow. Rather deep that.”

Indeed, rather deep that.

But hey, it's March. Madness happens. Here in modern day Lawrence we may not be awash in the Spirit of ’76. I haven’t found a sports bar that sells that one yet. But, fear not, there are plenty of other bottles of spirits to choose from during this month of madness.

It seems, though, the madness of 1912 was a little different. I didn’t see as many sports stories on the front page, although the fact the Wentworth Military Academy of Lexington, Mo., canceled its game for Monday did draw a front page mention.

But the big story of the day was a national one. The last of the sailors killed in the explosion of the USS Maine — the event that led to the Spanish-American War — were buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Remember the Maine? I bet you don’t when the tournament is on. But the folks in 1912 did. They really did, because if you remember your history, the Maine sunk in 1898 — 14 years earlier. Already, 165 of the Maine’s dead had been buried in Arlington Cemetery. But a decade later there were still 66 on the bottom of the sea, and Congress ordered them brought home. Two years of salvage operations saw that it was done.

“With all the pomp and solemnity that a mighty nation can pay heroes of war, the last of the dead of the Maine were buried today in Arlington Cemetery,” the front page of the Journal-World proclaimed.

Ships weren’t the only vessels in the news though. A new thing called an automobile also grabbed local headlines. The day before the winter storm, the first meeting of the Douglas County Automobile Association was held in the “parlors of the Eldridge” hotel. Although the paper didn’t say so, I assume with a 19-inch snowstorm approaching, the first meeting of the Douglas County Tow Truck Association also met to celebrate with lobster and caviar.

They would have made a killing in March. The 19-inch storm was just the grand finale. The city in March 1912 received 31 inches of snow for the month, according to the newspaper. It was even worse elsewhere. The paper reported “ice banks” 30 feet high along the Des Moines River in Iowa, and an article in the paper had this to say about the situation along the Mississippi River, overflowing with snow melt: “Practically authentic reports say that the levee along the Mississippi River broke at Mount Pleasant, Mo. this afternoon.”

Practically authentic? This guy was ready for the Twitter age.

But perhaps the most interesting item in the paper was about how Lawrence residents responded to this record snowstorm. Not once was the city’s street car system shut down due to the snow. And by Monday, the paper reported Downtown Lawrence was in fine shape too.

“The down town stores had the streets in front of their locations cleaned of snow so that horses could be driven up in front,” the paper reported. “It was no easy task that.”

Indeed, no easy task that.

But even more interesting was what happened to the sidewalks. Get this: They actually were shoveled, and I don’t even think the city had an ordinance saying they had to be.

“Everywhere one could see men and boys shoveling off the snow fall, for almost everyone seemed to realize that it would be impossible for those to walk who were compelled to be out, unless everyone did their share toward clearing the walk.”

Quite a thought that.

In that same day’s paper, as men and boys surely were feeling the effects of shoveling 19 inches of snow, the paper ran an article reminding everyone that the mayor had set aside April 20 as the city’s “annual clean-up day,” where the city “will be put into its fresh dress for summer.”

“On that day, committees will take the city in charge and will see to it that every nook and corner is swept out and purified.”

It was an effort led by the Lawrence Civic League, which spent all year going to the city’s schools where children were “taught what constitutes a good looking town, and what they can do toward making their home town a ‘city beautiful.’”

After reading about our 1912 forefathers, I have come to a conclusion: They can keep the snow, I’ll keep the basketball, but I’m interested in a bottle of that Spirit of ’76.

March Madness that.

— Each Sunday, Lawhorn’s Lawrence focuses on the people, places or past of Lawrence and the surrounding area. If you have a story idea, send it to Chad at clawhorn@ljworld.com.

Comments

Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 5 months ago

I didnt know global warming was an issue in 1912.

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Ken Lassman 1 year, 5 months ago

Quite a confusion between weather and climate, that.

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parrothead8 1 year, 5 months ago

It's time you let go of that. It was a few people out of thousands, and the thousands are still producing data and finding evidence that climate change is real.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

Correct. The only mystery right now is how fast global warming will happen, and how catastrophic it will be.

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hujiko 1 year, 5 months ago

The way in which you utilize the word "theory" proves you really don't know what you're talking about anyway.

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Ken Lassman 1 year, 5 months ago

Larry said: ""Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere "behaves" over relatively long periods of time." It's the maniuplation of data and time lines used by individuals to prove their theories which is confusing."

Precisely. Your statement about the climate trends as it applies to the 1912 snowfall event is an example of such manipulation, or at least a confusion between the two.

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Sean Livingstone 1 year, 5 months ago

When you see how people use socialism and Nazism, it's easy to understand why people don't understand the difference between weather and climate. George Bush sounds as like Hitler and Obama sounds as like Castro base on their theory. :)

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fancy80 1 year, 5 months ago

Must have started in 1876, as they had 17 inches (of snow) one day in March of that year, according to the article. Interesting...

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somebodynew 1 year, 5 months ago

"Quite a thought that."

And you seem to have a lot of them Chad !!! Another good column. I think it would be very interesting to sit and share a bottle of that Spirit of 76 with you if you ever find any of it.

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Angela Heili 1 year, 5 months ago

"Although the paper didn’t say so, I assume with a 19-inch snowstorm approaching, the first meeting of the Douglas County Tow Truck Association also met to celebrate with lobster and caviar. " Hahahaha! That's fantastic!

"But even more interesting was what happened to the sidewalks. Get this: They actually were shoveled, and I don’t even think the city had an ordinance saying they had to be.

“Everywhere one could see men and boys shoveling off the snow fall, for almost everyone seemed to realize that it would be impossible for those to walk who were compelled to be out, unless everyone did their share toward clearing the walk.”

Quite a thought that."

Indeed, quite a thought that. I miss the days when people were considerate of others just because it was automatic and not because they were forced to be. Gone are the days when common courtesy and common sense, and respect ruled the day. It's a sad thing that people are more concerned about what's in it for them, rather than how they can help their fellows citizens.

This was a great article! Very well done!

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elliottaw 1 year, 5 months ago

It is an every man for themselves mentality now, most people don't even know their neighbors names yet alone spend any time talking to them or gasp helping/worrying about them

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

One very important difference between then and now is that if you went somewhere, 90% of the time, it was on foot. Now, 99% of the time, you drive there. So clearing the sidewalks was much more important to enable people to get around.

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Sarah St. John 1 year, 5 months ago

Hi folks! It's fun to see these old Lawrence tidbits, isn't it? With Chad's permission, I'd like to let you know (if you don't already) that you can get your daily dose of history at http://www2.ljworld.com/news/lawrence/history/old_home_town/ -- three timelines, one of which is 100 Years Ago, updated daily. (Much better to read these online, as the print edition usually only has room for a truncated version.)

Here is the one from that snowstorm: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/mar... ... with that line I still love: "So fast and heavy did the flakes fall that by afternoon the ground was covered with a heavy 'blanket' of snow, but blanket is not the correct word for who ever saw a 19-inch blanket." Hahahaha!

I always enjoy reading about the annual Clean-Up Day. Remember, this was before city-wide trash collection; homeowners were still in the habit of throwing things on the "ash heap" in the back yard. The removal of all "rubbish" from the residential section of town was looked on as a grand Spring Cleaning, usually on a Saturday. Residents would get up early and collect all their winter garbage; the Civic League would send wagons around the city to collect it all. Another one sometimes took place in the fall, as in 1912 when the Governor of Kansas requested that "everyone clean out their cellars, rake up the leaves and clean up the summer accumulation of trash in the alley and burn or have it hauled away." I bet everything smelled a lot nicer after these Clean-Up Days!

(continued.....)

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Sarah St. John 1 year, 5 months ago

Was there a shoveling ordinance? Indeed, there was! In January 1912 there were already complaints about its neglect: "Everyone about town should see that the walks are cleaned off. There is an ordinance to this effect but it is not noticeable in many parts of town. In one location in West Lawrence the snow has never been cleared away from an incline and walking is very dangerous." And from Feb. 28, 1912: "Four residents of Lawrence, who had neglected to clean the snow from their sidewalks as is required by law, were arrested this afternoon and brought up before Judge Benson in the city police court. They pleaded guilty to the charge and each paid a fine and costs amounting to $10.50. The police department has been obliged to do this and the action of today may be taken as a warning to those whose walks are not cleaned in the future as the ordinance is to be more rigidly enforced in the future than in the past."

Other snowy areas were cleaned up with a little help from the local courts, as in this case from March 5, 1912: "Babe Strode and Levi Washington have joined the ranks of Marshal Carter's show shovelers, taking up their duties this morning. Levi pleaded guilty to being drunk and was fined in the sum of $6.50 which he did not have and was committed. He started to secure this amount with a big snow shovel."

Up-and-coming Clay Center, Kansas, apparently had a new angle on this snow-shoveling business in March 1912: "In Clay Center, Kansas, they have a way of cleaning snow from the walks that will appeal to the down-trodden householder who has been forced to clean his walk about four times a week for the past two months. In Clay Center as soon as the snow stops men are put to work with a team and snow plow and in a short time every walk in town has been cleaned at the expense of the town as a whole."

Enjoy your day -- and be glad we're not looking at that historic 19 inches! :-)

-- Sarah St. John

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

When i was a kid, it was still SOP in most small Kansas towns to have a trash barrel in the back yard and burn it once a week or so. That could be pretty nasty sometimes, depending on the direction of the wind.

100 years ago, consumerism wasn't quite the religion that it is now, and packaging was also much less, so dealing with trash didn't need to be the major weekly endeavor that it is now.

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Ken Lassman 1 year, 5 months ago

Yep; it was even moreso in the country, where I was the designated trash burner. It was important to keep those aerosol cans out of the trash too, as they scattered the burning trash and shot up in the air 20 or 30 feet if they were in the mix. Not a good thing when the grass had dried out and the wind was blowing.....

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bearded_gnome 1 year, 5 months ago

In that same day’s paper, as men and boys surely were feeling the effects of shoveling 19 inches of snow, the paper ran an article reminding everyone that the mayor had set aside April 20 as the city’s “annual clean-up day,” where the city “will be put into its fresh dress for summer.”

---so Chad/Sarah, was there also an ad in that newspaper for a wonderful patent medicine to treat sore backs? I suspect that 19-inches of snow can really give you a sore one.

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bearded_gnome 1 year, 5 months ago

the reason that global warming/climate change gets properly scoffed at here is because if AlGore had been around then, the freakish snowfalls of 1876 and 1912 would have been grasped upon to claim global warming.

not to mention that the link to anthropogenic global warming is properly termed "the greatest hoax" by a senator of Oklahoma, and was revealed by a whistleblower from East Anglia University who released e-mails.

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Ken Lassman 1 year, 5 months ago

Must be nice to blithely ignore the mountains of evidence that counteract your faith in denialism. A little blindered factoid here, an ad hominem attack there, a boiler plate FUD statement, and you're set. Any time you want to discuss reality, just let me know.

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