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A Bit Cold in Glasgow, Montana

Updated on October 6, 2016

A Common Sight In Glasgow

Where is Glasgow

Glasgow, Montana may not be the coldest place in the world. But I’d say minus 75 degrees is a bit on the chilly side and worthy of honorable mention. That’s how cold it got during the two years my family lived there.

Dad was a career United States Air Force man and in 1964 he was stationed at the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Air Force Base at Glasgow. The base was located about 40 miles from the Canadian border. Our first order of business upon arriving there was a cold weather orientation class. Everyone was issued a car engine warmer you plugged in to keep your engine antifreeze from freezing and becoming a customized popsicle.

Huge, Deep Snow Drifts

Embarking On An Adventure

Little did we realize we were embarking on an adventure we’d remember the rest of our lives. I was 13 and the middle child of the family.

Anyone who has seen this wilderness outpost knows Montana is indeed “Big Sky Country”. Besides sky, there’s nothing but rocks, rolling hills, a few trees and flat stretches of barren plains…that is, during warmer months when snow melts just long enough to see it. The rest of year is spent shoveling 12 foot snow drifts from around your front door and clearing driveways. My first job became shoveling driveways for 50 cents each. I earned $17.00 my first winter (a lot of money for a kid back then). I bought my first guitar, an old beat up thing, with my earnings. I had to learn to play it, seeing how hard I labored for it.

AKA Glasgow Air Force Base

Nothing To Get Excited About

Life in Glasgow was nothing for adults to get excited about. The place definitely wasn’t on any tourist maps. But if you were a young, thrill seeking teen, it was a winter paradise. The deep snow drifts in the hills provided perfect places for sledding. If you weren’t fortunate enough to own a fancy, store bought sled, a wooden construction ladder served just as well…or better, since 10 to 12 “passengers” could usually be seated on one.

The drifts were also excellent locations to dig out a “fort”. No shortage of ammo (snowballs) there. And if you had a sling shot, dinner was easy to come by, since the hills were full of Jack Rabbits.

Not your “cup of tea”… then what about ice skating? It was easy to make an ice rink any size you desired in minutes simply by hosing down a chunk of flat ground. Or, the local roads served equally well. It wasn’t uncommon to see kids “hitching a ride” on someone’s’ rear bumper being pulled down an icy street.

However, for the uninitiated, the extremely frigid temperatures could pose serious threats. Many young children attracted to frosty metallic surfaces, such as door knobs, flag poles etc. had their tongues immediately frozen to an object when they tried to lick it.

The school we attended was about a mile away. I remember taking showers before leaving and my freshly combed hair would be frozen in less than half a minute. You could bounce bullets off of it.

Blizzards were not uncommon at Glasgow and many a time we walked to school in one. Mom bundled us head to foot in warm clothing since any exposed skin could become frostbitten in a matter of minutes. Fortunately, Dad was able to get some “Arctic gear” for us.

Other perils confronted us also. It was imperative to remember landscapes and position of any local markers. One could easily become disoriented and lost in a whiteout.

For example, there was a deep drainage ditch on our way to school. Easily seen when no snow was present. But during a snow storm it became completely filled and level with the surrounding area and undetectable. There were horrendous stories of unsuspecting children who had fallen into it and their frozen bodies discovered days later. Conscientious minded citizens placed tall warning signs in such locations but there was always a chance some youngster could conceivably fall in.

However, if you followed what they taught in your cold weather orientation, life could be quite pleasant…at least for the kids. I recently discovered the base had been closed in 1976 from the video here. The video brought back many memories. It's hard to imagine the place as a ghost town.


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