Blizzard Stories Rise From The Chaos

Author Cathie Pelletier’s new book features man stuck in Bar Harbor snowbank for 60 hours

Carrie Jones

BAR HARBOR—As the snow trundled down outside, Maine author Cathie Pelletier spoke of her new nonfiction book, Northeaster: A Story of Courage and Survival in the Blizzard of 1952 to an enraptured crowd in person at the Jesup Memorial Library and on Zoom Thursday evening. The event was co-sponsored by Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop.

The creative nonfiction book details the stories of many Mainers as they dealt with the storm, which killed six in the state. Travelling from town to town during her Maine book tour, Pelletier picks and chooses the stories in her book that most closely respond to the locations she visits and then shares pieces of those stories before answering questions.

“It’s the drama that happens to ordinary people, ordinary towns,” that make the footnotes of history, she told the group about the stories. “What rises from the chaos deserves memory.”

She also gave a couple of kudos to local author Earl Brechlin who helped her with research on the Bar Harbor story that’s included as well as to Sue Godley, whose father is also featured in the book for what happened with him on Branch Lake in Ellsworth.

“I became friends with the children of all of these characters. It was as if I had them riding shotgun with me,” she said of writing the book. She asked 1,000 questions of one of the character’s descendants via email. “They seem like parts of my own family now.”

via BDN,

One of the characters her book discusses (and yes, this is a spoiler) is the story of Paul V. Delaney, a 20-year-old seaman who went on a date at the Criterion. When he headed back to the base, the car he was driving became stuck in what eventually became a ten-foot-snow drift on Ireson’s Hill between Salisbury Cove and Hulls Cove. That’s bad enough, but Delaney was trapped under the snow for 60 hours before he was found by then Police Chief Howard MacFarland, John MacFarland (his son), and Officer Alfred Reed. His survival made newspaper headlines.

The Great Blizzard of 1952 is mostly famous not for those smaller stories or the individual perils within them, but because of the wreck of the SS Pendleton, which required a Coast Guard rescue of legendary proportions involving four men rescuing 32 mariners off the tanker, which had snapped in half. They used a wooden boat in the storm. That boat was meant to only carry 16.

via New England Historical Society

This is Pelletier’s thirteenth book. Her first was The Funeral Makers (1986). The 70 year old told the Bangor Daily’s Jessica Potila, “Writers aren’t ballerinas or baseball players. We don’t need young and physical bodies to write, to keep up our profession.”

The award-winning author been fascinated by the blizzard for years and had saved old newspaper clippings. Another nonfiction book about Einstein happened before she finally took the blizzard on, using her imagination and firsthand accounts and information gleaned from newspapers and descendants.


Pelletier’s book on Amazon

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