The Big Snow of 1948

A violent winter storm hit town in 1948.

It was the first week of February, and twelve inches of ice and snow threatened to shut down campus.

Law Professor William Soule lived on the Wall farm about three miles north. His dirt road was impassable. As the Wake Forest College newspaper reported:

The young law school professor had visions of sinking knee deep in snow and slush, or slipping and falling every time he took a step, so he decided to do something about it.

Soule threw a blanket over the back of a farm mule, climbed on, and headed to work. The trip took exactly one hour, and he arrived just in time to teach class.

Heavily garbed in a varied assortment of warm GI clothing which included a set of fatigues, a field jacket, Army shoes, and a musette bag (a lightweight, canvas backpack used in World War II), he resembled a circuit rider on his regular rounds…. He’s been doing it every day this week and getting along famously. He leaves about four in the afternoon on the return trip home so he can make it before dark.

Promising to continue riding his mule until the thaw, Soule admitted there was a certain amount of irony to the situation. He was newly arrived in Wake Forest, having taught the previous year at the University of Michigan.

The main reason he left was to escape the snow and cold.

(Original article published in the February 6, 1948 edition of the Old Gold and Black)


  1. I wonder where William stabled his mule during the day? Down at the heating plant perhaps? Were there any real stables on or near the campus at the time? Did anyone notice in his pic that he’s holding one of those beefy volumes of the Martindale Hubbell Law Directory? That’s not something I’d like to schlep back and forth on a mule in the snow. I gather that book was used as a photography prop to make the point he was a law professor.

    1. Interesting observations! We’ve consulted here at the museum. Ed Morris and Durward Matheny believe the mule would have been tied up on campus during the day, probably to a tree but possibly to an old hitching post. As for the law book, you may be right. This looks like a professional photo, possibly taken for the newspaper.

  2. How much snow did we get? I have vague memories of a very large snowfall when I was about 4 yo. I can remember that my parents wouldn’t let me go out to play because the snow was so deep.

    1. Hi Laura! The report in the Old Gold and Black puts the snow and ice total at around a foot. Judging by the number of days Professor Soule rode his mule to work, cold temps must have kept it from melting for a while. A keyword search in the Z Smith Reynolds Library digital archives turned this up as the biggest single snowfall of that period– at least among those reported in the paper. Maybe it’s the one you remember?

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