By Linda Emley
I know “Spring is in the air,” but I have one more snow story to share before we put away our snow shovels for the winter.
On Jan. 8, 1962, the Richmond News headlines read, “Second Heavy Snow Hits County.” The article told about the 8 inches of snow that Ray got a few weeks ago and now there was another 10 inches of snow.
The picture you see here appeared on the front page of the Richmond News on Wednesday, Jan. 17 with an article titled, “St. Bernard in a Jeep.”
It’s easy for me to tell the story about how this WW II Jeep saved the town of Richmond because this “St. Bernard” is my father, J.B. Martin. I rode many miles in that jeep and remember it like it was yesterday because it would bounce you all over the place.
Bob Yoakum wrote, “Ray County’s modern St. Bernard might be the title given to J.B. Martin, local one-man jeep patrol. Martin, who by occupation is a mechanic at Wollard Motor Co., drives a beefed-up 1945 Army Jeep, has taken children home in a snowstorm, a doctor to a snow-bound rural home, his family for bobsled rides, and in two days got around 60 cars started.
“The jeep that Martin drives is an unusual vehicle. Martin has worked the transmission over, so that it is geared lower than most jeeps. The top of his jeep is a 1933 Plymouth four-door sedan cut down so the back doors are the front doors in the jeep.
“Another problem that Martin ran into was the small wheels on the orginal jeep. He bought four 15-inch car tires that had extra wide tread.
“Martin began his jeep service in 1957 as a hobby, but said that it takes between $25 and $30 a week to keep the jeep up now, when you figure in the repairs for broken axles and general overhaul. Martin explained that there are two things that he wouldn’t do without, his pickup camper and his jeep. He said that in the summer you take the doors off and go hunting, crowfoot picking, mushroom hunting and just go where you want.
“The Martins towed the jeep to Wyoming last year when they went deer hunting, and said that once there, the jeep came in handy for deer hunting as well as for sightseeing. While in Wyoming, Martin tried to mountain climb in his jeep, but said that he didn’t have it geared low enough at the time and he didn’t do much good. In the last big snow, a girl didn’t catch the bus, and as she lived on a bad road, Martin had to take her home: then a few days later the same family turned their jeep over and he broke an axle pulling it.
“Martin said that by March he would have a jeep that he is building now that will be almost like his present one except that it will be made for rougher travel and will be better all the way around.”
I asked my dad about this article and he had a few more details to add. He said Howard Hill, the publisher of the Richmond News took this picture. Howard knew first hand how rough it was to ride in this jeep because J.B. had to pick Howard up and drive him to work.
J.B. would start his day at 4 a.m. and clean off the 3 Richmond school parking lots first. Then he would hit the grocery stores, Orschelns, Wollards, Thurmans, Jacksons and a few other stores before going to work at Wollards.
After work he would plow until around 9 p.m. and then head home. He had a customer book that he kept in the glove box of his Jeep. He said he got paid $20 for each parking lot and his goal was to make $60 an hour. If he ran into a car that needed to be pushed out of the ditch, he would bolt a wooden board on the front of his snow plow and shove them without damaging their car.
One of the funniest stories my dad remembered was when he had to go south of Richmond and pick up Harold Whitmer, a co-worker at Wollards. He said they were headed back in to town when they found a big snow drift in the road. He thought about plowing it over, but decided to go around it. This turned out to be a very wise decision because when they drove around it, they found out that there was a VW Beetle under the snow. It might have been more than a broken axle if the guys had decided to try and move that mountain of snow.
This Jeep was very unique, but the story behind it is even better. It originally belonged to Forest Lee Trindle. When he went off to serve our country, he signed it over to my dad with the agreement being that he would get it back when he returned. All he had to do was keep it maintained, which any good Wollard mechanic could do. J.B. Then took the title up to Ruby Frakes at the licence bureau to get his name put on it. She asked how much he paid for it and didn’t believe him when he said nothing. They finally made up a figure of $50 and J.B was then the proud owner of a used WW II Jeep.
A few years later, Forrest Lee returned from the Navy and the Jeep was transferred back to him. J.B.’s next Jeep was purchased for $50 from someone at Stet. After it was fixed up, J.B. sold it to Benny Tippins, who used it to plow his gas stations. With the money he got from the sale, J.B. bought a 1959 4-wheel-drive truck and contiuned his snow plowing service.
I remember begging my dad to let me go with him on one of his snow routes. We got up at 4 a.m., jumped in this truck and drove all over Richmond moving snow. A few hours later, I was ready to call it a day, but there was no way I was going to admit it was not as much fun as I expected it to be. Looking back now, I wouldn’t trade this experience for any amount of money because I appreciate the road crews that work long hours to keep our roads cleared.
While I was out plowing snow with my dad, some of the children of Richmond were having a lot more fun than I was. I know this because the Jan. 15 Richmond News told me all about it.
“Mrs. Elmer Rogers, 216 S. Shotwell St. today announced a “vote of thanks” on behalf of neighborhood mothers for city authorities who have roped off West Royle Street as a place for children to slide on their sleds.
“Mrs. Rogers said that the area roped off, which included the west slope of Water Tower Hill, had made it possible for youngesters to use their sleds all day long.”
I’ve driven down that hill many times on my way to and from the museum and I must say, it would be a great place to sleigh ride. I always avoid that road when there is snow on the ground, so maybe we can ask to have it roped off after the next big snow.
Things were a lot different in 1962, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the cost of paying to remove all that snow. Richmond News, Jan. 17, 1962: “Snow Bill. The snow removal bill for Ray County is still climbing, the county court judges told the News today. So far, bills receivied for bull dozing work alone totals $6,000. At one time, this bill alone was $1,000 a day. They spent $3,000 to $4,000 more in bills before the first of the month.
“None of the time cards have been received for extra men who have worked at night.Tuesday only two extra bulldozers were working moving drifts out of county- maintained roads.”
I wonder how many years it’s been since a bulldozer was used to clear off our Ray County roads?
The winter of 1962 wasn’t over yet because the Richmond News headline on Jan. 15 read, “Ray Sags Under Third Big Snow.” There were a few more pictures, but not much was said becuasue everyone was getting tired of hearing the same old thing over and over.
I also found an article about a train with a blade on the front that was used to clear the railroad tracks. This special train jumped the rails and had to be lifted back up on the track.
And if the snowstorm wasn’t bad enough, everyone was still talking about the earthquake that hit on Christmas morning in 1961. The Richmond News on Jan. 5, 1962, “Quake Center Believed in Ray Near Lawson. Northwestern Ray County, especially the Lawson area, now seems to be the center of the Christmas morning earthquake, Dr. Louis Dellwig, assistant chairman of the geography department at the University of Kansas, told the news this morning. Dr. Dellwig said he and a team of graduate students visted Lawson, Rayville and Vibbard in Ray County yesterday to discuss with people of those communities how they reacted to the two tremors that occurred at 6 o’clock and 7:30 Christmas morning. Dr. Dellwig said he belives a movement in the Earth’s substructure occurred about 10 miles below the surface, causing the tremors.”
I know it’s been a long winter, but at least we haven’t had any earthquakes.
You can write Linda at email@example.com.