Winter – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

I was surprised that a blog post on winter was as hard to come by as it ended up being.  I am certain that I remember a set of photos from the late 1940s when my father and his family traveled to Niagara Falls.  The pictures show the falls frozen and lots of snow.  But, I can’t find them anywhere.  Maybe Dad will know where they are.

But I found some pictures that were just as interesting and tell a story of a “big snow”, at least for Fort Smith, Arkansas.  I have talked about my granddad, Robert H. Dickson, Jr., previously.  Granddad took a lot of photos with his old camera (I think Dad still has that camera).  And Granddad did his own developing back in the day.  I guess he didn’t have an enlarger, or maybe only had a small one, because so many of his photos are 2″ x 2″ and maybe a bit grainy.  But, they are great fun to see, since so many of them are really candid and completely unstaged.

So, I found a few pictures that Grandmother (Susan Louise Bailey Dickson) had captioned “Robert H. Dickson Jr. in that big snow of 1940”  Digging around in climatology history web sites, it looks like there was a snowstorm that dropped 9.4 inches of snow on Fort Smith, Arkansas in January of 1940.  Looks like Granddad and, I guess, Grandmother took the opportunity to go out in the snow.  I am betting that Grandmother took these photos.

Robert H. Dickson Jr. in the snow of January 1940

It doesn’t look like 9.4 inches in this picture, but it does look like Granddad needs a jacket!  I am only guessing that Grandmother took these photos.  Robert and Susan met in June 1938 and been dating for a year and a half by this point.  They got married just a month later on 23 Feb 1940.  It’s fun to see Granddad so young.  He looks so skinny.  And the paralysis on his face sort of gives him a scowl.  Kathleen thought that he looked mean in these pictures.

But, how could you think of him as mean when you see him out in the snow in his bare feet!  His pants are up around his knees and he’s barefoot in the snow here.

Robert H. Dickson, barefoot in the 1940 snow

The last of the pictures that I found was a fun one of the house that Granddad grew up in.  I find my great-grandparents, Robert H. Dickson, Sr., and Ethel Garner Dickson, in their house at 2230 N. 14th St., Fort Smith, Arkansas by 1925.  They lived there until Robert Sr’s death.  After that Grandmother Dickson lived there for at least a couple of years before moving.  I have never heard the reason that Fort Smith decided to renumber their streets.  North 14th St. became North 29th St., but the family didn’t move.  Grandmother notes that that’s her future father-in-law, Robert Sr., on the front porch.

Robert H. Dickson, Sr. on his porch at 2230 N. 14th St., 1940

So, even back in the day, wintertime could be a good time for our ancestors.  They could be excited by unusual snows.  They could go out to play in the snow.  And they could do goofy things in the cold, just because.  That’s the kind of thing that makes sure we remember that our ancestors were all real people just like we are.


Author: Scott Dickson

I've been doing family history research since the late 1980s. Almost all of my family came into the southern colonies and worked there way across the South. Lately, I've started to look at my wife's New England, Irish, and French Canadian ancestry. My tree is online at http://wrenacres.com/genealogy.

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