Snow in St. Augustine in 1951 Proved to Be Delightful Surprise; 2 Inches Fell, Creating 'A Wonderland of Gleaming White'

Article excerpt

Byline: Marcia Lane

On Feb. 2, 1951, St. Augustine residents turned out to play in the snow.

Visions of Valentine's Day cards were replaced by snowballs, snowmen and sledding.

According to the U.S. Weather Service, two inches of snow fell on St. Augustine, and it stayed cold enough long enough for people to pull out the heavy winter gear and get out in the white stuff.

For some transplants, it must have awakened a bit of maybe-not-so-welcome nostalgia. For natives and children, it was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. The last snow had fallen in 1917.

As far south as Tampa Bay, the state got a dusting of the white stuff. But, according to The St. Augustine Record, people "motored from surrounding towns" to see the two inches of snow that covered the Oldest City. Other Florida cities had snow flurries and sleet, but those quickly melted. Not so in St. Augustine.

"It was a winter novelty, of course, but the real McCoy. For four hours, beginning on Friday night around 9:30 o'clock, the snow came fluttering down until St. Augustine and the countryside were transformed into a wonderland of gleaming white," wrote The Record's Harvey Lopez.

"At least two inches of snow fell during the odd wintry trick; It piled up in yards, on rooftops, covered automobiles, and turned trees into a fairyland."

All of St. Johns County was blanketed, The Record noted, and "Elkton and Hastings reported a snowfall comparable to this city's."

UP GO THE SNOWMEN

One of the first snowmen went up in front of the City Building, put together by firefighters and policemen. A photo captured fireman B.M. Hall Jr., fireman J.V. Davis, policeman James Grisson and fireman Herbert Capo standing by their creation. Soon, snowmen started going up everywhere as children and adults got in the spirit. The St. Augustine Historical Society has a photograph of two of the Sisters of St. Joseph constructing a snowman downtown.

A front-page picture featured children armed with snowballs on Friday evening, ready to throw them at passers-by.

"Practically every person in St. Augustine threw at least one snowball after Friday night's Florida oddity," the caption claimed.

"Citizens rode or walked around the streets amazed by the snowy wonderland seen on every side," wrote The Record. "Tourists merely shook their heads, some in disgust. But to this oldest city, it was an event that happens once in a generation."

The snow started and stayed through the next day, along with cold temperatures. The Fort Green hill at Castillo de San Marcos was filled with adults and children giving sledding a try. Stuart Bridle of Charlotte Street, whose family had recently moved from Illinois, was photographed using the sled he had brought with him. …