THE GREAT WHITE GRINCH OF 1950 ATTACKS BARBERTON

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BarbertonJournal.com

For many the Christmas Grinch is perceived as hideous green creature who arrives on the scene to wreak havoc on the Christmas season. In 1950 the grinch was cold and white.

November 23 was the Thanksgiving which held a bit of excitement for young and old alike as it ushered in the upcoming Christmas season. The weekend after Thanksgiving turkey was meant to be the time for visits to Santa, local parades and big sales in all the downtown stores.

But the unknown came to visit much of the eastern part of the country, especially to the folks of northeast Ohio. Friday, the temperature dropped to a blistery cold seven degrees, but with the cold came the Grinch’s invited relative-Mr. Blizzard.
By Friday evening nearly 17 inches of snow fell to the ground, even more in some areas of the county. Not only did the snow destroy the plans of many boys and girls for the weekend, but it paralyzed areas like Akron, Barberton and Wadsworth.

In Akron public transportation came to a grinding halt. Busses, trolleys and cars were stuck on major thoroughfares. At that time Rt. 224 was one of the major east-west highways and it cut right down the northern edge of the Magic City and moved through Wadsworth and all points west.

So, let us start this saga in the bustling city of Wadsworth. The Merchants Association planned the largest-ever-gala holiday parade, complete with floats, marching bands entertainers, animals and much more for Saturday. If you are familiar with Wadsworth then you could imagine a parade beginning in the south end of town, marching up the steep Match Hill around the square and finishing at the Central High School. Well Jack Frost, combined with the power of an angry Frosty Snowman said no way. The floral floats froze in their resting place. In other words, no parade, no Santa Claus, no candy and balloons for the kiddies. The whole celebration was a gigantic financial bust for the Business Men’s Association.

Beyond the cancelled parade was the snow removal problem. Wadsworth’s only snow grater was destroyed by a jackknifed semi just east of the square. Everything the city could find found to clear the snow was thrown in the mix to reopen Rt. 224. Meanwhile travelers were lodged in the hotel, private homes and city hall. The numerous deer hunters passing through town were given lodging in the Recreation Hall.

Akron fought the crisis with the help of the National Guard who sent out army tanks to pull city busses away, and dig out the cars of the many workers heading to the factories about town. The first issue came about on Saturday when automotive parts suppliers announced the black market of tire chains which normally sold for $10.80 were going for $25 a set. By Tuesday there were at least three deaths reported, one being a 50-year-old man who died after working from 12 to 18 hours a day loading trucks at Borden Dairy. By that same Tuesday factories were still in a lock down. Route 8 was still one lane from Canton to Cleveland.

And not to forget Barberton, we seemed to fare a bit better. Workers were back to work at the B&W by Monday’s shift thanks to large bulldozers who cleared the parking lot for employees. Schools opened earlier than most other areas who had more rural students. Emergency workers were busy with maternity calls. A mother from western Norton called the police when labor pains set in, but she was referred to Wadsworth emergency workers.

On Sunday an expectant mother in the southern area of Barberton required help and the fire department had to shovel a path to her house but a National Guard jeep got her to the hospital in time. A man died in his car which was stuck on Park Avenue, while several other men were discovered sleeping in their cars about town. The firemen also had to deliver milk to a sick baby on Hopican along with medicine to homes of ill patients.

By Wednesday of the following week the number of people who died in the Ohio blizzard stood at 55 and the damage was well in the millions. Busses were still trying to leave town. One Greyhound set out for Detroit but no word whether it arrived was known. The temperatures once again rose to the mid-thirties by Tuesday. But the cleanup continued what the Grinch left behind. Most of Ohio had a path of destruction not soon to be forgotten.

Still it could have been worse as Pittsburg had twenty-seven inches of snow.

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