Grandpa’s advice never forgotten

From our March 2012 issue

By Sue Frissell – Wainwright, Alta.

Some good advice came to us from my grandpa back in the early 1940s while we were living in the country near Windsor, Ontario.

One summer afternoon had been very sultry, the kind where the hours seem to hang heavy in anticipation of something about to happen.

There was no breeze, just silence except for the buzz of an odd bee or pesky fly. This was the ‘calm before the storm’.

Our grandparents owned a small fruit farm in their senior years and provided fruit and vegetables for sale at roadside stands. They looked after me and my younger brother while our parents worked. I was seven years old.

Suddenly our grandparents summoned us and grandpa asked us to look into the distance toward Windsor to see if we could see anything different. Sure enough, we could!

We spotted what we thought was smoke rising in the distance. Grandpa spoke slowly and softly so as not to alarm us, saying, “No, that’s not smoke – that’s a tornado.”

Told to look carefully

We had never heard of a tornado. He explained that it was a funnel-like storm and we must look at it very carefully with our sharp eyes to see whether we could see it move.

He said that if we could see it moving, we’d probably be alright. However, if we couldn’t see it move, we’d have to seek safety in a hurry because that meant it was coming straight toward us.

We studied it closely for a few moments and told grandpa, “Yes, we can see it moving slowly” and pointed to the east.

The funnel cloud was moving slowly and seemed to be pulling up dust, twigs and shingles as it travelled. Actually moving upward were trees and buildings!

A short time later the sky grew very dark and was followed by a terrible thunderstorm that added to the disaster and disrupted power for three days.

Because of downed lines and no communication during the night, my parents were unable to travel to their home or learn of the fate of their family. They had to wait until the next day to hear that we were all safe.

Ran for their lives

The owner of a fruit stand on Huron Line had just left our place with his truckload of produce but was never given the opportunity of a sale.

Barely reaching his home, he grabbed his wife and they ran for their lives to the deep highway ditch and lay flat as the winds almost pulled them into the funnel.

Their lovely home, truck, fruit stand and many other buildings were gone, as well as some other homes and buildings in the area. My family was thankful that we were kept safe.

We have never forgotten grandpa’s advice that day: If you cannot see a funnel cloud moving to the right or left, you’d better scramble to safety because it may be coming straight toward you.


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