Clontarf Valentine

Anne sent me this story that appeared in the January/February 1989 issue of the Swift County Historical Society Newsletter.  It might be mild now, but read what can happen…

A Valentine Snow Storm

It was a calm, mild beautiful morning with just a dusting of snow on the ground that Feb.. 13, 1923.  Sylvia Walsh, (later Sylvia Chevalier) teacher of rural school District #68 in Sec. 7, Clontarf Twp., was walking along the new road to school in high spirits.  The weather was great, she had a wonderful boarding place at the Peter Razink farm, and then too, she was eagerly looking forward to the Valentine dance in Clontarf the next evening.   School was called at 9:00 am.  Opening exercises were over, the children had settled down, and the day’s work had begun. “All of a sudden there was a thunderbolt or an explosion.  A storm had hit!  All at once, the snow came down in sheets, the wind blew with a tremendous force, and there was a blizzard so thick that no one could see anything.  Sylvia said, “Looking out the window, you couldn’t see anything except the window!”   The children immediately became alarmed.  There was no telephone at the school house.  Sylvia soothed her pupils saying, “Oh no! We are going to save our lunches and have a good time!”   “About half an hour later, in walked Oliver Goulet and his hired man.”  The Goulets lived just across the road from the school house.  The men had tied a clothesline rope to the door of the Goulet house, and then proceeded across the road to the school house.  Mr. Goulet calling out jovially, “You are all going to come with us, and you are going to stay with us.”   Not much more was said, the preparations were made to leave.  Sylvia banked the stove and then told the children, “We’ll make valentines.”  They got together all kinds of construction paper, colored crayons, pencils, scissors, and paste to take with them to the Goulet’s home.  Each one carried a lunch pail,  Sylvia and the hired man carried the valentine makings.  Sylvia locked the school house door.  The men tied the clothesline rope securely to the door knob and the procession started on the trek across the road with each person holding onto the line.  Mr. Goulet was first, then the older children, the younger children followed, with Sylvia and the hired man bringing up the rear.  The smaller children would stumble, and the others would help them up.  All of them kept their hands on the clothesline, moving slowly ahead, and not being able to see anything for the driving snow.   Finally they got to the house.  Mrs. Goulet, smiling reassuringly, opened the door and invited them in.  “And all the children trotted in with their overshoes on.”The first thing they did was to sit down and eat their lunches.  The fun started; they began making valentine.  “All the children were happy, I know that,” said Sylvia.   Mrs. Goulet made supper for everyone, and then made beds for them.  One girl said that there were six in her bed, all lying crosswise.  Everyone was thankful to be safe and warm, and besides that, they were enjoying themselves.   The storm kept on with no let up for three days.  Poor Mrs. Goulet cheerfully kept cooking.  Their newly married daughter happened to be there, so she was snowed in along with the rest.  She helped her mother take care of the 18 extra people.  Finally the groceries started to run out, but Mrs. Goulet made pancakes, and more pancakes, which everyone enjoyed.  There was no problem with the children.  They were having fun!  They played games including “Button, button. Who’s got the button?”  Mr. Goulet played the violin, and they sang songs they had learned in school.   The storm was over the morning after the third day.  The fathers came with horses and sleighs to get the children.  By that time, there was no wind at all and it was not so very cold.   Due to the graciousness of their hosts and the ingenuity of their teacher, the children had no anxiety at all.  “It was like they were on a three-day picnic.”    One little girl didn’t want to go home!   The snow was piled high and hard.  Sylvia climbed over a snow drift which was higher than the chicken coop, and started out walking to her boarding place.  No doubt she was reflecting on the experience of the past three days.   This was Sylvia’s first school and she taught there for six years.  She also taught several others schools in the county.  She was married to Oliver Chevalier and after their family was raised, she taught for twelve years in the Beaver Lake School in Maplewood, St. Paul before her retirement.   One this is certain,—neither she, her pupils,the Goulets, or the parents, every forgot the February blizzard of 1923.

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