The Northern part of Wellington County is in the snow belt that develops from the westerly winds that come over the open waters of Lake Huron. Even with the modern equipment to plough roads, the snow can make serious problems for travelers. Since the students from the country depend on bus transportation, the schools sometimes have “snow days” when buses do not run.
Today, I believe weather conditions are the responsibility of the school board, who get the best information available from those who prepare information for the Weather Channel. But for many years, it was the responsibility of the local principal to make these decisions.
Eph Gray was the principal of Norwell District Secondary School from 1939 to 1969. He was known to say “The sun always shines on Norwell”. I believe this was because he often had calls from the Arthur principal asking that the students who needed to go home on the Arthur buses be sent back promptly. The snow always did seem to reach Arthur before it did Norwell.
However, I do remember an occasion when the school buses from Norwell did not get the children back home. The buses were called to leave Norwell by 11.00 a.m. this extremely blustery day in mid-winter. My husband was teaching in a portable classroom located near the playing field. When he got the notice that the students would be leaving shortly he escorted his students in through the back door at Norwell, returned to the parking near his classroom and drove home.
Late in the afternoon we heard on the radio that the buses had not been able to leave Palmerston and that the students were being billeted with the town’s citizens. Maurice immediately went back to the school and came home with five Grade 9 boys whom we fed and later made as comfortable as possible on our living room floor for the night.
Not long ago a man introduced himself to me and told me he was one of the boys who had been billeted with us that night and that he had never forgotten it. This winter I talked to a woman from a farm area not too distant and she told me that one of her neighbors had a snowmobile and had made several trips on it into Palmerston, bringing local students back to their homes. Several times I have heard stories from town students or their parents about the students they had that same night.
An event like this is not quite as likely to occur again, but it is possible with our erratic winter weather. Since public school students also ride buses to school there might be even more students to be housed safely in town.