The Ottumwa Courier

April 6, 2013

Memories of a spring snowstorm


OTTUMWA — Thank you, Mark Newman, for jogging my memory about late snowstorms.

As a lad of 16, I was offered a summer job at the Kranz Greenhouse, located on the 600 block of Hamilton Street. The greenhouse was on an entire city block. It was owned by Mr. C.C. Kranz and his wife, Amelia.

My job started just a few days before Memorial Day in 1943. My dad, who was the foreman, gave me a list of things I would be doing, such as filling urns with different kinds of blooming plants for delivery to local cemeteries for Memorial Day.

Two days before Memorial Day, we loaded the back of a flat-bed truck with many flowering urns to be delivered to various gravesites at Ottumwa Cemetery.

I was elected to drive the truck, and Mr. Kranz would follow me. So over the Jefferson Street Viaduct we went. It happened to be a very chilly day and light mist. Halfway over the viaduct, big snowflakes fell on the windshield. On came the windshield wipers. By the time I got my Jefferson Street, to what I called “hump,” at Fifth Street, it was snowing so hard it was difficult to see. Thank goodness the street was only wet. Going down the slope, there were these beautiful peony bushes growing down to the ground, all covered with snow. The peonies were on both sides of the street for two blocks.

After some slow going, Mr. Kranz and I finally arrived at the Jefferson Street entrance to the cemetery. Mr. Kranz knew where all the graves were located, so I followed him in the truck (still snowing hard). We would stop at a gravesite. He would remove the snow and beckon me to bring one of the urns to that site. I would shake all the snow off the flowers and set it down. After about two hours, we finally got all the urns set in their proper sites.

It was time to get back to the greenhouse. As we both were ready to head out, suddenly the snow stopped, and the sun came out as beautiful as could be. By the time we got to where the peonies were, some of them shook off the snow and were standing upright. What a beautiful sight.

By mid-afternoon, most of the snow had melted. Quite an experience for a 16-year-old kid.

John E. Buretta