Harrowing hailstorm leaves him with lasting memories

From our October 2012 issue

By Vic Henry – Salmon Arm, B.C.

I was about eight years old in 1930 and I remember we had a really good crop to bring in on our farm near Coronation, Alta. It was unusual for that time because it was the beginning of the Great Depression and crop failure was the norm.

I recall so clearly helping dad fix up the old binder. It was a Saturday. We put on the canvas, greased and oiled where it was needed, and tightened up any loose bolts. It took well into Sunday to get everything ready, a day that was supposed to be a day of rest.

Dad got the horses ready and he made one round on the field, just to make sure everything would be perfect for taking the crops off on Monday. By late afternoon Sunday, the sky clouded in and the wind came up. You could see white streaks in the sky.

No one mentioned hail, but I think it was on everyone’s mind. It started to rain hard so we all headed for the house. The weather got really mean with thunder, lightning, rain, and wind. It seemed to stop, only for a moment, and then it came on again with fury.

I’d never heard a storm like that before and have never heard one so bad since then. All of a sudden, the hail came. It was about the size of a large marbles. The wind was so strong, the whole house shook. Dad yelled, “all the kids in the cellar!”

Broken glass, shattered hopes

To get in the cellar, we had to lift a hatch in the floor. The hatch was left open so mom and dad could make a quick exit down into the cellar if the house was to go.

Peaking out through the hatch, we saw my parents grab the blankets off the beds. They were holding them over the windows on the west side of the house. By the time they did this, most of the windows were already broken. Flying pieces of glass were all over the house.

It must have been horrible for mom and dad realizing all the crops and the entire garden would be completely gone. This was one really big storm. I don’t think it lasted very long, maybe only 15 to 20 minutes. The wind soon dropped and the clouds disappeared.

We all went out to survey the damage. There were piles of hail all over the place and the leaves were gone from the trees. The garden was pounded into the ground, the crop devastated. It was a terrible sight.

Several birds lay lifeless under trees and a few of our hens never made it back to the henhouse. Some of the cattle got into the barn while the hail pounded the rest. I don’t remember what happened to the horses, but I know they had been out in the pasture when the storm hit.

Crop never recovered

We hunted for the old sow and three partly grown pigs, but to no avail. An hour or so later, the old sow and the three little pigs came out from under the granary. They seemed to be okay.

Another granary was blown to pieces. One section of it was blown through the windmill, landing right next to the house. It must have been a real blow for my parents when the realization hit that their entire livelihood was gone.

They would have to wait for another year. The one good crop we had was gone. After that, the Depression hit the area with full force and we never got a decent crop after that.

Though I was just a little kid at the time, the memory of the storm is as real today as it was way back then. I can still remember the sound and the feel of that storm.