Grace: “In my day …”

Grace: “In my day …”

By Erin Grace February 26, 2013 2:24 pm 6 comments

Who’s not a snow wimp?

Fred Aliano of Elkhorn is not a snow wimp. The 86-year-old told me about the winter of 1936, a particularly brutal year to live in Omaha with record or near-record highs and lows.

Let’s go back in time to a  frosty February 14, 1936. On that Valentine’s Day, Fred is an 11-year-old kid. It has snowed a foot. It is freezing outdoors. Omaha is mid-month through what is THE coldest month on record.

Is school called off?


Does Fred have a bus to ride or a mother to schlepp him to Kellom in a minivan?


Fred trudges half a mile to school, lugging his home-made valentines. As did his classmates, many of whom had a farther hike.

Fred did not tell me whether his walk was uphill, both ways in the snow. But because this is hilly Omaha, and because he is not a snow wimp, it probably was.

New accounts from the time verify that this was not weather for wimps!

The snow and cold was the big story in The World-Herald on Feb. 15, 1936, as snowfall and blowing snow idled snowplows, froze water for cows and slowed trains.  For Omahans, it was the 24th day of low  temperatures at or below zero degrees. 

The National Weather Service in Valley, Neb., backed this up. Average highs in February 1936 topped off at a frigid 5.9 degrees. The next coldest month on record is December 1983.

If you’re wondering why we’re so wimpy and people Fred’s age are so hardy, well, winters have generally warmed up since the 1970s. If you recall, the average low in February 1936, when Fred was 11, was zero or below. The average low so far this month is 19.5 degrees.

Fred was among the many readers who responded to my column about whether Omahans are hardy when it comes to winter weather.

“I’m an octogenarian, who survived the horrific winters of the ’30s and ’40s in the big O so I guess I’m qualified to offer an opinion,” Fred wrote me in an email.

In a contest over who had the worst winter and who bore it the best, I’ll wave a white flag right now.

THIS feels cold to me and I’m ready for spring.

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