Tag Archives: Martha Potter

In the Deep Freeze

Martha Potter's snowy State Street home, Bowling Green

Martha Potter’s snowy State Street home, Bowling Green

A blizzard paralyzed the East, temperatures dropped to zero, and the storms even brought Bowling Green down to a teeth-chattering 3 degrees.  It was February 1934, a month of wintry weather for the record books.

“Snowing this morning, great flakes, the kind you like to catch on a piece of black velvet and study the crystals,” wrote Martha Potter on February 21 in her weekly letter to her children.  By February 28, the snow had subsided, but 65-year-old Martha, while spared the necessity of driving, felt the lingering effects of the storm.  After the snow came rain, then a plunge in temperature that “set the whole works” into crusty heaps.  “I attempted to walk to church,” she wrote, “and the cars that went by threw ice balls down my collar and into my pockets.  I finally just stood still when I would see one coming and duck my shoulders.”  That Sunday was the worst day, as “the ice broke off great branches from the trees, impeding traffic and pulling down wires, so that lights were out and telephone connections in some places disturbed.”  Some people feared “there was a fire as it sounded like twigs cracking and burning.”

Martha also related the attempt of a friend and her husband to pay a visit on that “icy Sunday,” thwarted because “nobody could get up the hill on Main Street.”  A full week later, they were still trying to pass along roads filled with tree limbs and other debris, leaving their car “mired to the hubs.”  After an extraction that took two hours, they suffered the same fate the next day . . . and the next.

Fortunately, wrote Martha, a thaw was on the way.  As the temperature climbed to a balmy 38 degrees, the retreating snow started to make “big noises leaving the roof of the house and sliding down the gutters,” closing another memorable chapter in Bowling Green’s winter history.

Martha Potter’s letters are part of the Lissauer Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  For other collections documenting weather and storms, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Kiddies and Confusion

Christmas was a busy time for Martha (Woods) Potter (1868-1963), but as a lifelong diarist, letter writer and journal keeper, the mother of four always found time to record the hubbub of the season in what she called her “Christmas books.”  Today, they offer us a detailed look at the activities of a Bowling Green woman during every holiday season from 1912 to 1954.

Martha usually began each year’s account with a summary of her “family status,” particularly the whereabouts of her children as they grew up, went to school, married and began lives of their own.  She continued with notes on every aspect of the holidays, including the weather, her charitable and church work (she was the longtime choir director and organist of the First Presbyterian Church), gifts given and received, the comings and goings of family and friends, entertainments, decorations and food.

In 1936, with her children grown, Martha reflected on her Christmas record-keeping in a manner familiar to many mothers.  “When I read back over all these busy Christmases,” she wrote, “it makes my head swim and my back ache to think of the work I did . . . .  Now Christmas is so quiet and restful, but I miss the kiddies and the confusion.”  Her subsequent entries betray increasingly quieter times, but when Martha finally ended her last Christmas book, she did not forget that “on its sacred pages is recorded forty-two happy years.”  Nor did she allow the vagaries of winter weather to darken her spirit.  On one of her greeting cards was a summer-like photo and the caption, “Here are roses from my garden / To brighten your Christmas scene / Ice and snow may be holding sway / But roses reign supreme.”

Martha Potter's Christmas photo

Martha Potter’s Christmas photo

Martha (Woods) Potter’s Christmas books are part of the Lissauer Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  For more collections relating to Christmases in Kentucky, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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