By Jack Pickett – Red Deer, Alta.
When I was working at Jensen’s Hardware in Shaunavon, Sask., Len Illerbrun and I were assigned on March 17, 1953, to make a trip to the West Bench to set up a propane stove for Al and Beth Fernquist.
We loaded up just before noon, had lunch, then headed out on Highway 13 West. We arrived at Charles E. Steam’s place and went up past the red shale hill, where we met a couple of Hutterites from the Bench Colony.
They had just plowed out the north-south road we were to go on to get to the Fernquist’s. The road was good and we arrived at our destination about 2:30 p.m.
We set up the tanks, hood, stand, and regulator and got the stove working and tested by about 5 p.m. Beth insisted we stay for supper, which we did.
We weren’t finished supper when a very strong wind came up and it started to snow very heavily. Len suggested we get going home because he thought it looked like a bad storm, so we loaded up our tools and set out for home.
We didn’t get out of the lane when we got stuck in the snow. We had nobby tires on the truck but we still got stuck. Len got chains out of the truck box and put them on the tires. We didn’t go much farther when we got stuck again.
The chains had broken and were dragging on the axle of the truck. Len repaired the chains with hay wire and off we went again. However, we had to shovel snow for nearly 10 miles.
Almost midnight, Len said we were just about out of gas so we stopped at Charlie Steam’s, a friend’s farm nearby. The boys got us gas and off we went east to Highway 13 but we couldn’t get up the hill. We turned around and went back to Charlie’s again, this time to ask if we could spend the night.
Len and I just got settled in bed on the floor when there was a loud knock on the door. It was Gordon Speirs and Ray Traun. They had made it out by going through fields with Ray’s 50 Mercury car, so we followed Ray and Gordon and got back to Shaunavon about 1:30 am just as people were leaving the St. Patrick’s dance at the old Idelhour Hall.
Len’s wife, Gerry, and my wife, Doreen, were both working the 3 to 11 p.m. shift. We were sure glad they had called Gordon to find out where we were.
This story had a happy ending but many people lost their lives in storms back then.