"Back in the day it was so cold, we drove our model Ts across the river."


New Bern is not known for its freezes. The average high-low in January is 55-34.

One of our most interesting freezes happened on January 4, 1918, when a county commissioner and two friends decided to cross the river in a Model T.


“It has actually occurred,” an article in the January 5 New Bernian declared. “A party composed of County Commissioner T. W. Holton, Mr. C. A. Ryman and Mr. Frank Holton, of Bridgeton, yesterday drove across the Neuse River on the ice with a Ford automobile.”


They first skated across the ice and, making it from Bridgeton to New Bern and back, they went back and cranked up the Ford. We don’t know who drove, but they entered the river “a little above the Bridgeton end of the county bridge, which would have been somewhere just north of Bridge Street in town.


They put the pedal to the floor and the little T zipped off, covering just over a mile of ice in two minutes. It wasn’t a straight across ride, for instead of coming out near Johnson Street, the car drifted and came aground above Queen Street a couple of blocks away.


The ice was “three inches thick near the shore,” the paper read: so perhaps it was quite lucky that no one fell through. According to the Minnesota Cultural Resources, ice needs to be 4 inches thick to safely support people, and it calls for an 8-12 inch slab of the stuff to hold up a car. And Minnesota knows ice.


Contact Bill Hand at bill.hand@newbernsj.com, 252-635-5677, and follow him @BillHandNBSJ.

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