January 16, 1967, was misty and rainy, as Ted Eul recalls. He sensed weather trouble.
“I talked about maybe we should go to Chokio and get groceries,” Ted said. They did. The weather worsened and the visibility fell. They drove slowly in an effort to stay out of the ditch.
“About half a mile before we got home, I dropped a wheel off the road,” he remembers. “Back then, before four-wheel drive, if you did that, you were stuck.”
Ted and Delores had their youngest child, Ann, with them on the trip.
“She was one or two years old,” Ted recalls. “I rummaged around and found a moving blanket, and wrapped her up in it. We covered her up and walked home.”
“About three o’ clock, I said I thought I better try to go do chores. It was really wild. The temperature had dropped, Ted noted.
“I remember that by then everyone knew the status of the stranded bus. It was being broadcast on KMRS-AM radio. They were talking about the kids on the radio. They kept emphasizing how cold it was,” Ted said. “Finally, I called and asked if they could discontinue talking about how cold it was. I told her there were a lot of people getting very worried.”
Ted said the woman he talked to was understanding and agreed to talk less about the cold.
Ted and Delores relied on KMRS to get their information on the effort to rescue the children stranded on the cold bus. “The radio kept track of what was going on,” he said.
“The guys in town (who went on the rescue) deserve a lot of credit,” he said.
After the children were rescued and brought to the school for hot food, in-town families came to be matched with children who needed a place to stay overnight.
“All four of the kids (Diane, Alan, Susan and Scott) stayed with your relations (Duane and Betty Busch). They were very glad to be together, and were treated so kindly,” Ted recalls.
Diane is quick to add an asterisk to her memories, with a footnote of “I’m not really certain when.” Yet she does have rich memories of people and situations which made the greatest impressions.
“I was the oldest in our family, about 12 or 13, I don’t really know,” she noted.
“The day of the blizzard we barely got to school and then they were sending us home. Clayton Kolling had no radio on his bus and so the school sent a teacher with him,” she said.
“The next thing I remember is a whiteout. He (the driver) couldn’t see where he was going. The bus got stuck at an angle. The snow was getting in the windows and collecting on the floor. It got really slippery,” she recalls.
“Clayton went to walk to a farm house to try to get help. He got to where he needed to be and sent out a snowplow,” she remembers. “And there were guys leading the snowplow.”
She wonders what would have happened had there not been a school teacher, Arnie Hollen, on the bus. She pointed out that Clayton could not have made his heroic walks in the blizzard to get help if there had been no other adults on the bus.
“We would have been sitting ducks if he hadn’t gone walking,” she said.
Looking back, Diane says winters no longer seem to be like they used to be. “Not even close,” she stressed.
Scott was content to let his sisters and father tell their families’ memories of the Chokio Bus Rescue of 1967. He was the youngest family member on the bus.
“I imagine I was worried, but I don’t recall too much,” he said.
Scott recalls being stuck on the bus, and bus driver Clayton Kolling walking out in the blizzard to get help. He remembers the rescuers taking the children back to the school. He remembers staying with his brother Alan and sisters Diane and Susan at the Duane and Betty Busch home.
Susan was in the third grade when she ended up on a cold school bus in 1967, stranded with siblings and other students during a fierce blizzard.
“I don’t remember being afraid; not any fear. It was a long day waiting,” she said. “I don’t remember anyone crying or anything like that. Just waiting.”
She remembers the black patent leather boots she was wearing that day. She recalls how the students sat on each other’s feet to keep them from freezing. She has not forgotten how hard it was to walk on the slippery, slanted aisle of the bus.
“The driver, Clayton Kolling, was not leaving town unless there was another adult in the bus,” she said.
Susan pointed out how winter storms of that era seemed so much more fierce than today.
“Back in the day we would get brutal storms. The power would go out. We wouldn’t have electricity. We had a propane cooking stove. It was a different life,” she recalls.
“We couldn’t see the barn. We couldn’t see in front of our face,” she added.
One change that happened in the years just after the rescue was that her parents would insist on picking up the kids at school when bad weather approached.
“Even before they called off school, my parents would call and ask that we get ready to be picked up,” Susan said.