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From the March 19, 1959, Mount Vernon Hawkeye-Record: Girls’ basketball team will remember blizzard
January 11, 2018


Editor's note: With the brutal beginning of winter hitting us here in the midwest these past few weeks, we were reminded of this story of the state basketball tournament from 1959, where a number of Lisbon girls and chaperones were trapped in Des Moines, thanks to a strong winter storm that walloped the area with a great degree of snow and ice, making travel back to the Lisbon area difficult. The story was recounted in the March 19, 1959, Mount Vernon Hawkeye-Record, as well as the efforts of locals to survive the storm, encountering power outages due to the wet and heavy snow.

Ten members of the Lisbon girls' basketball team and their chaperones, who were stranded in Des Moines Saturday while at the state girls' basketball tournament, went through an experience they will probably never forget. The girls had gone down in time for Friday's sessions in cars driven by Coach Roland Thomson, Glenn Plattenberger, and Mrs. Plattenberger. Mrs. Thomson and Mrs. Yeasley were also chaperoning.

The new storm with its snow and sleet hit Des Moines before it did this area, and after the past few weeks' battles with the elements, people have become apprehensive as soon as the weather starts churning up a new attack.

Realizing early Saturday afternoon that they might not be able to leave, Mrs. Plattenberger engaged their rooms at the Savery Hotel for another night, not having to give up one of the five rooms previously held. Although not as commodious as before, the accommodations were much better than what many other tourney-goers had.

He also called the highway patrol who discouraged travel and Supt. Seitslinger at Lisbon who urged that they take no chances.

Car doors frozen shut

Some of the group members had brought storm clothing, but those who had overshoes had left them in the cars in the Coliseum parking lot. When they struggled out in the storm they found out the doors were frozen shut and the car was covered with snow, so it was impossible to get their overshoes.

The adult members left the Coliseum during the half-time period in the final game. Only by hanging on to each other they were able to face the wind and cover the three blocks to the hotel. Snow and slush was three inches deep.

The girls made the best of the room shortage. Eight of them, who were in one room, turned the mattresses cross ways of the twin beds to make room for more. But there wasn't much sleep between the general noise in the hotel Friday and Saturday nights and the racket of city equipment removing snow early Monday morning.

Hotel jammed

Every bit of space in the hotel was used by the many people stranded by the storms. Some 300 to 400 mattresses and box springs were placed in the ball room. People crowded into the chairs in the lobby, and at 6 a.m. were scattered over the lobby floor asleep. Corridors on some floors contained cots.

Eating places were crowded, but there seemed to be ample food.

The Lisbon group spent most of Sunday in their room, passing the time eating and playing bingo, using a game Mrs. Plattenberger had bought to take home to Kay.

Nine teams who left the hotel and started home Sunday had to return because of blocked roads and wait until Monday.

The decision to remain until Monday was made after Mr. Plattenberger had telephoned the Marshalltown Police Sunday and found the roads were closed there, and they were having trouble caring for the 500 to 600 already stranded.

It was impossible to call the Des Moines police or the Highway Patrol Sunday, as neither was answering calls. Residents of Des Moines who were without heat because of power failures in the city were trying to move into the already overcrowded hotel.

Making the trip were Marilyn Morningstar, Barbara Nost, Barbara Mullnix, Barbara Crawford, Sandy Shaffer, Patsy Kohl, Melani Torrance, Mardell Mason, Gloria Greiner and Carol Streets. Mrs. Plattenberger stopped in Tama en route to Des Moines to get the players who were there for the speech contest.

When one of the Lisbon cars was dug out of the snow Sunday, it was found one tire was flat. The frozen doors made the tools inaccessible. The car was parked in a garage Sunday night.

The group left Des Moines at 7:15 Monday and returned by way of U.S. 6 to 218 near Coralville. The highway was icy in places and numerous cars were seen in the ditches.

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