Where were you when the mountain blew?

I was around 9 1/2 years old and keenly aware of the possibility of a volcanic eruption as it was being broadcast on national, as well as local news, on an almost nightly basis.

May 18th, 1980 was a Sunday. I remember playing outside before having to be drug to Sunday School when a neighbor kid came over and said, "Our friends from Castle Rock just called and said the mountain blew!"

Living in West Valley (Yakima) gave us a pretty good view of the Cascade mountains, so my dad jumped onto the roof of our house and - sure enough - he could see a plume of smoke in the air, and it was headed our way!

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Of the things I remember most about that once-in-a-century day was the hysteria I witnessed by grown adults at the church who truly thought the end was nigh.

I also remember that driving on it was akin to driving on snow. The roads were very slippery as evidenced by our old family V.W. Beetle skidding to and fro in our lane.

I won't soon forget getting to my grandmother's house, which was very close to the church, to check up on her. As a person who had learned many more survival tactics, I was impressed that she had the foresight to fill every tub and sink with water in case the supply was to be contaminated by the falling ash.

And who could possibly forget when day turned to night in just a few hours?

My "uncle" Ed Kish penned a tune about it and recorded a 45 record called "St. Helens (Queen of the Three)" with the world-renowned Cowlitz County Boys. I wish I could let you hear it but, to prove I'm not making stuff up, here is a copy of it.

TSM/Todd Lyons
TSM/Todd Lyons

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