This Week in Sapulpa History: Freezing temperatures did not stop the fun

Rachel Whitney,
Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum

This week in 1940, the Sapulpa area had temperatures ranging from -4 to 34 degrees. Just weeks prior, snow accumulated in the area, in a snowstorm. “Oklahoma’s dry soil began to absorb the moisture from a six to 18-inch snow covering today as temperatures mounted above freezing for the first time in more than a week.”

“Waynoka had seven degrees above zero. Tulsa had eight above, McAlester 13, Ardmore 10, and Oklahoma City 18…The record cold wave that sent the Oklahoma mercury as low as minus 11 degrees centered over Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio today.” The newspaper ran an eerie image of Chicago covered in ice. “Sub-zero temperatures no aid to firefighters,” as the crew ran to the scene of a potential fire, but could not get past the solid ice of vehicles in front of the building.

Ice Storm in Chicago, Sapulpa Herald, January 24, 1940

The cold front kept coming. “Oklahoma’s second storm within a week brought snow, high winds and near-zero temperatures.” In Sapulpa, it was announced that these were the coldest days in a near decade, since 1933.

Another Week of the Cold Stuff, Sapulpa Herald, January 18, 1940

“An interesting table of temperatures since 1928 compiled at the Herald office shows zero weather in January of 1928 and February of 1929. In 1930, the mercury dropped to 13 below for an amazing cold siege. Snow and sleet remained on the ground for three weeks. Low marks are recorded for the following years back:

Near Zero Temperature, Sapulpa Herald, January 23, 1940

“December 14, 1931: 22 above; December 12, 1932: 10 above; February 8, 1933: 4 below; January 30, 1934: 12 above; January 21, 1935: zero; January 8, 1936: 1 above; January 23, 1937: 8 above; January 21, 1938: 8 above; February 8, 1939: 8 above; January 18, 1940: 4 below.”

The City Water Department had some issues to handle. “The City Water Department had received 13 trouble calls during the cold spell for frozen lines and burst pipes. Children at the Liberty School who had brought their lunches today, ate them without an accompanying drink of water. The water lines were frozen and there was none at the school throughout the day. School dismissed at 2:15, earlier than usual.”

Families, children, and groups used the cold temperatures to their advantage, though. With temperatures at 10 degrees, “ice skaters here were taking advantage of the ice at Pretty Water. Many skating parties were held there over the week due to below freezing temperatures.” It was said that it had been several years since it was cold enough to freeze Pretty Water for such large groups to skate on.

Cold Temps, Sapulpa Herald, January 24, 1940

Listed in the “Society” column, a column that often shares dinner parties, club get-togethers, and family reunions, shared a regular meeting, too, had a little fun. “The Petite Debutantes met in the home of Miss Elaine Young for a business and social meeting.

“Refreshments were served by the hostess and were served by the hostess assisted by her mother and her sister, Miss Dorothy Young, after the business session and later the entire group went ice skating at Pretty Water Lake.

“The following members were present: Miss Betty Jo Hermes, Miss An Ellinghausen, Miss Jennie May, Miss Claudeen Humes, Miss Mary Routsong, Miss Frances Lea Mayes, Miss Joan Waite, Miss Patsy Potter, Miss Barbara Berry, and Miss Patricia Wilson.”

And even with such low temperatures, Sapulpans used this time to have a little fun.