“Where are the snows of memory?”

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?” asked Francois Villion, a fifteenth-century French poet, in one of the most famous translated lines from French secular poetry. Remember you heard it here, reading a story about early Snohomish!

The historic image in the animation is a view looking east down First Street toward the corner of Avenue B, documenting the 1916 record snowfall. The horse-drawn wagon is delivering ice! And the hand-lettered sign announces that the post office is open — located in the corner store where patrons have gathered to watch the photographer with the Snohomish Studio at work. With newspaper reports remarking on the number of photographers at work capturing the record snowfall, it’s surprising that not more images have survived.

The snow began falling on January 30, 1916, and when it was measured four days later, over three feet had fallen, setting a new record. It was pioneer druggist, Lot Wilbur’s job, as the superintendent of measurements for the city, to get an accurate measurement — he came up with 40 (official) inches. Not a record he felt, and told of getting up early one morning in January 1880, and stepping into the snow, and disappearing up to his ears! But no official measurements were recorded.

Train service came to a halt for three days, as you can imagine. The big news in Seattle was that the dome of the St James Cathedral collapsed under the weight of the show.

The contemporary image captures the first snowfall of 2012. The Blackman Building, on the left, and the Marks Building on the right are still in use today. Our current snowfall measuring only 15-20 inches, regardless of the trouble it causes us, is a feeble attempt at beating the 1916 record.

Changing the subject: Readers of these postings are invited to tumble along with me on my train trip to Memphis, Tennessee as our local blues band “Wired!” completes in the International Blues Challenge, February 1 and 2, 2012. Traveling by Amtrak from Everett, I will continue on to New Orleans for one of the first Mardis Gras parades in the French Quarter, then on to Los Angeles with a stop in Marfa Texas, where the film “Giant” was shot, plus several recent movies, but is also known for its contemporary art installations, which is why I am visiting.

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Perhaps I will miss a true record-breaking snowfall!

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