Organizing Group Presentations

Using Community Photos and Commentary

A group of long-time residents started to talk about the Great Blizzard of 1958 at a public meeting on Jefferson Revitalization, and tall tales and mind-boggling weather facts were being tossed around to the amazement of all. From this, the Jefferson Historical Society hatched the idea of a get-together focused on such reminiscences.

Objective: to organize a group-based presentation on local history

We organized the event, inviting not only all members of the historical society and the general public, but also making sure to send invitations to as many Jeffersonians as we could recall who had experienced the storm. In the invitations, posters, and the press release, we requested that folks bring their photos to share, and our Town Historian, Ingrid Zeman, and society treasurer, Stephanie Ruquet, mined the Stamford Library microfiche files of the Mirror Recorder, bringing in photocopies of the old newspaper articles that were passed around to the audience. Finally, we arranged with Gerry Stoner and the Stamford Library to provide scanning and archiving of the pictures, and simultaneously projecting the pictures at the meeting on January 30, 2011.

Charlie Buck, Town Board Member and former Superviser, was asked to be the moderator of the event. He had prepared a number of questions on how farmers and their livestock survived with ferocious winds and blinding snow drifting up to 20 feet and more, and his familiarity with the town residents, as well as his personal experience of the storm allowed him to bring out many interesting details.

Several people from the audience spoke about the machinery needed to clear the roadways, and how many of the plows got stuck in the process. Charlie also got people to talk about the old-time methods of food preservation and fuel usage that meant that most folks had a good supply of canned goods in their root cellars, and wood or coal they had put by for the winter. Milk trucks were able to pick up milk from the dairies since they followed the plowing schedules and drove behind the plows. A farm family on Taylor Road, however, could not be reached for days, and the farmer’s daughter recalled making 20 pounds of butter, then sour cream cakes, then sour cream cookies—until finally they just had to dump the milk for lack of space!

The meeting was enjoyable for all—it was fun for people to look back on an extraordinary event in their lives and how they handled the hardship—and it was fun for newer residents to hear about Jefferson back in the day.

This meeting was also format that will be repeated when our historical society again mines our seniors for information and photographs of what happened in the past.

Click here for a podcast of, and photographs from, this meeting.

Carol Bodnar