It was the week before Christmas and it just kept snowing every day! After all the snow, came the wind and the cold. This created quite a challenge for Yalecrest residents and the entire city of Salt Lake. What was it like here 100 years ago???? Here is a glimpse from the papers:
The City hired extra laborers to help with the snow. Unemployed men, and those looking for some extra cash, got work shoveling downtown. Wagonloads of snow taken from the sidewalks and gutters of the business district would first get deposited on State Street between 100 and 200 South. Later that snow would be hauled off and dumped into a canal near 13th South or transferred on freight cars to North Salt Lake. The snow wasn’t removed from the main part of the roads. The expectation was an upcoming thaw would allow them to “flush” the streets later. Snow plows drawn by horses went over the sidewalks in residential areas.
Thaddeus Naylor (the guy that sold us land for Uintah School, whose half-brother would later live at 1715 Harvard Ave) wasn’t very happy with all the snow and congestion in front of his shop on State St. It made it more difficult for him to sell studebakers. He threatened the City with injunction proceedings.
Herbert Auerbach (remember Auerbach’s store?) came to the rescue. He offered his field just north of the City County Building as a big dumping ground for the snow. This saved the City a big chunk of money… and made business owners on State Street happy.
The long and steady snowfall resulted in the streetcar rails becoming slippery with ice and snow. By Dec 21st every streetcar line in SLC was experiencing difficulties. It was becoming the worst storm the City had seen in 42 years. Initially, the snow was wet and heavy. Precipitation got lighter, but a full day of winds averaging 30 mph didn’t help. Huge snowdrifts developed. The tramway company’s plows and sweeper cars couldn’t keep up. Travel slowed. Derailments occurred. You couldn’t make it up the hill. Yalecrest’s 15th East streetcar line went out of commission. Same with the line to Fort Douglas. Emigration Canyon reported drifts between 15 and 40 feet deep.
They say automobiles contributed to the streetcars’ problems. As soon as a sweeper car would go by the autos would jump on the tracks, seeing them as their only thoroughfare. The auto tires would push more snow onto the rails and then pack it down to form ice which could lift the streetcars off the rails. It was sometimes hard for the sweeper cars to get around the derailed cars.
Yalecrest resident Edward Ashton and a couple other builder/realtor guys approached the City Commissioners insisting that the City help fix the streetcar problems. The Commissioners wanted to help, but they weren’t sure they could use taxpayer money to aid a private company. They needed time to look into the matter. Eventually they did loan City equipment because they believed mass transit was vital to SLC. One called it “the poor man’s means of transportation.”
It wasn’t until Jan 5th that the City could begin clearing the streets in the neighborhoods… because they had loaned their equipment to the Utah Light & Traction Company. Even with half-loads on their horse teams, coal distributers said they had an especially hard time getting up the hills on the east side, but said the public was “very charitable in the way of criticism.”
In Utah and across the country people were talking a lot about problems with coal delivery and the fear of a shortage. The issue in SLC had a lot to do with the recent weather. It increased demand and caused transportation problems for trains bringing in the coal and for the dealers delivering it. Some citizens struggled for heat. Poor people couldn’t afford to buy a lot at once, they had no reserves. Some wealthier folks didn’t have an immediate need but kept ordering and hoarding it, according to some dealers. Dealers also blamed the railroads and producers for not giving them enough. Producers blamed the railroads. The railroads in turn blamed the dealers saying the dealers got their coal but weren’t distributing it properly. People were complaining and pointing fingers everywhere… which brought in the State Legislature. Was the problem with the railroads, the coal producers, the distributers, the City? How can this problem be avoided in the future?
On Tues morning Jan 9th, Uintah Elementary kids were told to turn around and go back home because there wasn’t enough coal to heat the classrooms. A truck hauling 4 tons of coal had gotten stuck in a snow drift not far away.
About a week later, the East Bench experienced a blizzard that canceled school for the Uintah
kids and created a very dramatic scene over at East High. Yalecrest resident and math teacher John Cathcart (1555 E 900 South) along with other teachers and the stronger schoolboys formed “rescue parties” that ventured out into the freezing wind and snow to save the lives of those struggling across two blocks on 13th East between the stalled streetcars and the school. Part of East High was converted into an emergency room. Doctors were called to the school. The doctors phoned the police asking them to “Send out some whiskey. The children are freezing.”
The cops rushed to the school. Other teachers and students were put to work rubbing snow on the hands, feet and ears of the frozen rescued students.
OUR WATER SUPPLY
The City’s water supply began to dwindle after too many nights where the low was in the single digits. The City Commissioners contemplated a $500 fine(!!) for those caught wasting water, leaving their taps open to prevent their pipes from freezing. Mayor Ferry put out a proclamation begging good citizens to use water sparingly and not waste it at night. But two of the City’s reservoirs, including the one on 13th East, went dry because of frozen canyon streams and all the water wasting. Almost a quarter of the City was without water, homes on East South Temple and in the higher elevations.
If the pipes were empty where you lived, you needed to open your hot water taps to allow steam to escape. If not, you could have an explosion in your home. The latter is what happened to Yalecrest resident Royal Wight (932 S. 15th East) when he was building a fire in his kitchen stove and the heat from the fire forced steam through the frozen water jacket. Royal was temporarily knocked unconscious when a part of the stove hit him in the head during the explosion.
Photos: Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.
- Studebaker Bros Co on State St, Mar 1917.
- Jeffery Distributing Co coal trucks, Dec 12, 1916.
- Wasatch Coal Co teams in yard, Feb 1917.
- Reservoir on 13th East, Nov 1936.
12-20-1916, Salt Lake Herald, “Snowfall Boon to Jobless of City”.
12-21-1916, SL Herald, “T.W. Naylor Protests”.
12-22-1916, SL Herald, “Street Cars Impeded by Heavy Snowfall”.
12-25-1916, SL Tribune, “Traffic Is Delayed by Furious Storms”.
12-27-1916, SL Tribune, “Storm King Hits City Another Knockout Blow”.
12-27-1916, SL Telegram, “Snow Dumped in Field”.
12-28-1916, SL Herald, “Salt Lake Shivers at Six Above”.
12-29-1916, SL Herald, “Mountain of Snow in Auerbach Field Testifies to Storm”.
12-29-1916, SL Telegram, “More Car Lines are Operating; Better Weather Clears Tracks”.
1-1-1917, SL Telegram, “Snowfall Heaviest Since that of 1874”.
1-5-1917, SL Tribune, “Clearing of Snow is Costly to City”.
1-9-1917, SL Tribune, “Snow Holds Back Coal Deliveries”.
1-9-1917, SL Telegram, “School Closed as Fuel Runs Short”.
1-16-1917, SL Telegram, “Corps of Doctors Rush to Aid of School”.
1-17-1917, SL Tribune, “Coal Jams Yards, Railroad Man Says”.
1-17-1917, SL Tribune, “Snow Blast Traps 200 at East High, Students Escape Death in Blizzard”.
1-17-1917, SL Telegram, “Wasting of City Water Deplored”.
1-17-1917, SL Tribune, “Four Hurt when Frozen Pipes Burst”.
1-18-1917, SL Telegram, “Scarcity of Water Imperils City”.