Let me set the scene…It’s January 1975 and our farm in rural Troy, MO had just gotten one of the heaviest snowfalls in years. In fact in Minnesota this storm was the “Blizzard of the Century”. Living in the country a little snow fall didn’t necessarily mean school was canceled. If the school bus couldn’t make it down our gravel road, we’d have to meet the bus were the gravel road met Highway H, about a mile and a half away. Our neighbor, Mrs. Witte would give us a lift if Mom or Dad couldn’t. And School closings, that’s a whole different story. I can’t remember for sure but I don’t think we had school closings posted on TV. We didn’t have cell phones with text messages in 1975! We had a rotary dial phone that took five minutes to complete dialing the number! We’d have to call the school and see if there was a message that school was closed.
It was supposed to be the first day back to school after the Christmas break and I was so excited to show off my new clothes. Especially, my purple crocheted vest and matching purple hat.
I woke up bright and early and got all dressed for school and then looked outside. My heart sank, snow snow snow and more snow. I woke up my parents when the school bus didn’t show up at 6:50 am. The school bus not coming didn’t mean that school was canceled either. I just knew we were still having school and I begged my Dad to drive me in. Mom wasn’t buying it and insisted that school had to be closed with all this snow. But I being extremely persuasive (whinny) convinced my groggy Dad to clean off the car and drive me into Claude Brown Elementary on that fateful day.
In the infinite wisdom of an 8-year-old, I decided that since I was wearing my new sweater vest, I didn’t need to wear my winter coat. Mom was still in bed and hadn’t seen my choice of attire or she would have corrected that. My Dad was the easy-going kind and in a house full of women (I had three sisters) he learned not to make direct eye contact and ask too many questions when it came to girls plus the poor guy was half asleep still.
The roads were snow packed but not bad to drive on and soon he was dropping me off in front of the school. I quickly got out of the car, waved goodbye and watched as my Dad drove away on a gray snowy morning. I ran up to the double doors in front of the school and to my horror not only was the school closed, they had chained the front doors together. I looked around and didn’t see anyone, not a maintenance man, school staff, or passerby. I ran to sidewalk and my Dad was long gone. I went back up to the stairs in front of the school and started to panic. With no coat or gloves, I was beginning to feel the crisp cold air and I needed to figure out how I was going to get home. I didn’t know anyone that lived by the school and I couldn’t just go up to some strangers house and ask to use the phone. Yes, they had stranger danger back in 1975. At least my Mom was very skilled in training us to be leery of strangers.
I told myself, “Think Kathy think!” And then it came to me.. like a board across the head. A nice man who lives down our gravel road owns a shop on the corner of Cap Au Gris and 3rd Streets.
Of course I didn’t know the names of the streets then, I just knew how to get there, so I began to walk the mile and a half from the front of the elementary school. It’s really only a 10 minute walk but for an 8-year-old it seemed like 5 miles! I kept telling myself just get to the store and it will be alright, just keep walking. I finally ended up getting there frozen, shivering, with tears streaking my face. My kind neighbor didn’t hesitate to take me home, closing up his shop. He called my parents to let them know. My Mom was mortified and so upset with my Dad. The statement “It takes a village to raise a child” is so true!
I learned some incredible lessons that day that have stayed with me my whole life. I know that my Guardian Angel was helping me. Most kids would have just sat down on those stairs and just started crying for their parents waiting for someone to find them. That idea never even crossed my mind. I found myself in what seemed a hopeless situation and worked the problem and found a solution. I’m so grateful to have learned this at such an early age. Life is constantly throwing situations at you everyday and I believe it helps us to stay on our toes.
I wish I knew what happened to the kind Shopkeeper to thank him today because he truly saved my life!