Pat Shingleton: "Frozen Digits and Molasses..."
Miriam Johnson was our piano teacher and her three worst students were me and my brothers Denis and Michael. More interested in sports than classical music, it was a challenge for Mom to ensure that daily practices were completed. From January until "Recital Time" in May our Saturday morning lessons began with a mile walk to Miriam’s house on Spring Ave in Ellwood City, PA with all types of weather. January winter’s were tricky, regardless of how “bundled” you were for the journey. Inevitably our hands were fresh frozen when we reached the side door to her home. Therapy for frozen hands included a regimen of running cold water onto your digits, followed by warm then hot. I’m not sure if she charged my Mom extra for the water before we “tickled the ivories.” Today marks the anniversary of “America’s most fascinating and surreal disaster.” On January 11, 1919, Boston’s Daily Globe reported that “a cold air mass settled in.” By 9:00 a.m. on the 12th, , the mercury tumbled from 36 degrees to 20 degrees at 2:00 p.m to 7 degrees at 10:00 p.m. then dipping to 2 degrees. Crews from the ship Miliero pumped a half million gallons of molasses from its warm hold into tanks holding existing cold molasses causing a bubbling churn and the vibrating the tank’s walls where workers reported that the walls were groaning. This mixture activated fermentation, aided by a temperature rise to 50 degrees. At that moment the top of the 58 foot tank blew and a 50 foot wave of 2 million gallons rushed over the streets of Boston killing 21, injuring 150.
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