Since developers built the first homes on Spokane’s South Hill, driving there in the winter has been a problem.
Early streetcars climbed with the aid of a cable that ran under the roadway. Drivers would chain up before trying to climb Bernard or Freya streets, or Grand Boulevard.
Well-equipped cars would commonly have snow tires on the rear. This helped but didn’t guarantee a successful run up the hill. Policemen on motorcycles added sidecars for stability and canvas fairings for protection.
In the late 1940s, a cord of cut firewood was $8.50, though oil, lump coal and slab ends from local lumber mills were most common for heating. Many South Hill housewives shopped downtown, traveling by public bus in all kinds of weather.
Today, the South Hill is less of an obstacle thanks to front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive cars and trucks, as well as modern snow tires, anti-lock brakes and traction control systems. But scenes like the one above still happen when too many vehicles meet slick conditions on the hill.
Among Spokane’s snowy winters, 2008-09 reigns supreme. The season’s 93.6 inches of snow eclipsed 1949-50 by one tenth of an inch.
During the winter of 1967-68, meteorologist Robert T. Small of the Airport Weather Station told The Spokesman-Review that Spokane winters varied wildly. In 1964-65, for instance, Spokane received more than 80 inches of snow, but in 1933-34, it received only 9.5 inches. After researching 85 years of records, he said, “In this time span, we can find justification or refutation for most any general statement about climatological change.”
– Jesse Tinsley
Dec. 16, 1949: Slow-moving traffic makes its way up Grand Boulevard.
Present day: Winter on the South Hill has always presented problems for commuters trying to negotiate ice or snow.
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