A Cold Day in Roswell

January 11,1962

Walker Air Force Base, Roswell, New Mexico

Temperature High: 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Low: -19. (The local paper reported the low at -24 on the day.) Average for the day: -4.25. According to several sources I have searched it is the all time coldest day on record in Roswell, NM.

This was the day I came into the world.

My dad says they barely made it to the hospital. Not because of a precipitous labor. Nothing like that. When Mom went into labor they had to drive from their off-base housing about three miles to the base hospital. But because of the frigid temperature the coolant in the engine block and radiator was frozen and just as they got to the hospital parking lot the radiator hose blew up. The car abruptly halted in a riotous eruption of steam. It was barely after 2:00 AM. Weather Underground historical data shows it was about minus ten degrees at the time and falling. It would bottom out about 5 hours later. Steam was billowing from under the hood of their car that wouldn’t go another foot. They abandoned it right where it had died and walked through the sub zero temperature to the building entrance.

Here’s my father’s description: “The car was Mom’s 1953 Mercury 2 door sedan, stick shift on the steering column with “Overdrive”, two-tone light green color that she bought when she was working at the VA hospital in Oakland in 1959. The coolant, which had anti-freeze, had frozen solid in the engine block and radiator, and hoses-which we did not realize as we drove the three miles or so to the Walker AFB Hospital. We knew it was very cold, but did not know that it was -24 degrees F., the coldest day on record, which still stands today. We looked it up this morning and the official recorded low temp is stated to be -19.8 deg F., but the local newspaper reported -24 at the time.. The coolant in the engine block must have thawed as we drove, but the coolant in the radiator must have remained solid preventing flow of coolant through the block. The pressure built up and it blew off the top radiator hose just as we turned into the hospital entrance, spraying coolant all over the engine and totally fogging the windshield and the engine died. So we got out and walked the rest of the way to the hospital entrance. Once we got inside we were told that the hospital heating system had failed. There’s more!

Luckily, before being posted to the 6th Armament & Electronics Maintenance Squadron in Roswell, my dad had been stationed at Thule Air Base, Greenland where the average daily low for January is -19 degrees, coincidentally the same as the temperature this day. So even though he was a kid from the East San Francisco Bay area of California, he had seen this kind of cold before, and not too long ago. But the young woman in labor had never. As a comparison, the low temperature on the day my sister was born, seventeen months before was 71 F., higher by 90 degrees. On this morning my parents had left her in the care of their friends and neighbors, Bud and Mary Lowe.

My mom says things were not much better when they got inside. “Why is it so cold in here?”, Mom wanted to know. A nurse explained to her that something was wrong with the furnaces and the heat wasn’t working. Add to that that this was an era when fathers were not allowed into the births of their children. So young Bonnie and Daniel were separated by the staff. My dad was not allowed in as was the custom of the time, but there was a group of medical students observing the labor. Mom was all alone. Had anyone asked if this was alright with her? Was this part of her “Birth Plan”? Who was going to coach her with her breathing through the contractions? Forget all that. This was 1962. In an Air Force Hospital. Suck it up!

At 11:00 am the Mercury had just risen above zero for the first time that day. I was born 14 minutes later. The first thing Mom says she heard after delivering her baby was the doctor saying, “Oh my god! Would you look at that! I’ve never seen anything like this before!”, or some equally unprofessional, thoughtlessly negligent utterance. What? What was it? What was so out of the ordinary as to provoke such a calamitous sounding exclamation from someone who was supposed to have been through this a thousand times.

It was this: and in providing the answer the doctor did nothing to assuage the anxiety of the new mother, “This umbilical cord is tied in two knots! I’ve never seen a baby born live with two knots in the umbilical cord!”, addressing the students and not bothering to reassure my poor mom that everything was ok. What a Bozo!

Eventually it all settled down. Mom got to hold the baby. At some point later Dad was permitted entrance and we were all united. I was the firstborn son of the firstborn son. For what that’s worth. My Dad is Named for his father and grandfather, Daniel Henry Hudson. He is the third. As Mom and Dad tell it there was considerable pressure to to pass that name along to me. But my parents wanted me to be my own person, with my own name.

My mom would celebrate her 23rd birthday a month, to the day later and my dad 5 months and change after her. They were just kids. They grew up across the street from each other. They first met in the sixth grade. They married at 20 and are married still and living in the house I grew up in in Ben Lomond, Ca., only about 10 miles from me.

For me it is cool to be able to say I was born in the UFO Mecca of the US…but nowhere as cool as it literally was on that cold day in Roswell.

This was meant to be out on my birthday as a sort of 60th celebration. I guess a week late is not too bad. Cheers to all!

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