Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Blizzard Of '78





[This story originally appeared here, a few years back, under another title. The title was "This Story Has No Point, Nor Does It Have A Climax, And If You Look For Either You Will Be Severely Disappointed". That was not only its title, it was also a statement of fact. And now, having been warned of the possible consequences should you decide to continue, here is my first-hand account of...]

THE BLIZZARD OF '78!!!
"Sherman, set the wayback machine for Fogeyville."

"Fogeyville, Mr. Peabody?"

"Yes, Sherman. We're going to visit the site of an interminably long reminiscence that has no readily obvious reason for existing."

(Even the reference comes from Fogeyville. If you're under 30, you probably have no idea who Sherman is - nor should you. Mr. Peabody, though... It's not every day you see a talking dog who invented a time machine. And he wears glasses!)

Anyway, there was this blizzard, see? And it happened in 1978? So, like, we called it the Blizzard Of '78. It was awesome, dude! It was, like... like... uh...

It was a big snowstorm.

It was February and I was 20. I was also unemployed. Therefore, I used to go to bed at around 2 in the morning, after a healthy buzz and (sometimes) getting laid, and I'd wake up at 10am or so. That was important, the 10am thing. That was when The Beverly Hillbillies came on.

Being an out of work stoner, I was collecting unemployment benefits and enjoying the heck out of the whole experience. I think my last job at that time had been with Prudential Insurance, working in their office supply warehouse just outside of Brookline. I was probably getting $65 every two weeks in unemployment, but I was under no real pressure to get another job until the benefits ran out. My Dad, bless him, wasn't on my back for any rent, and I bought food and other stuff for the house. My remaining money went for bass guitar strings, trips to the dog track, and bowling.

(I should mention here that the trips to the dog track and the bowling were actually profitable ventures. There was a six or seven month stretch when I went to the track almost every day, with a couple of my friends, and we made considerable money. Also, I was technically a professional bowler, having entered and won a couple of small local tournaments. However, these are stories for another time, having nothing significant to do with the blizzard. I'll tell you all about them, someday, but for now it's just... Digression!)

(You should stick your index finger in the air and say that word as though you were Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof saying "Tradition!" It will be much more satisfying.)

Anyway, I woke up at a bit before 10 and ambled downstairs to grab a bite to eat. My Dad was already on the road. As a salesman for Singapore Airlines, he had calls to make. He had probably left the house around 7 o'clock. I grabbed a sleeve of saltines and a jar of peanut butter, stirred some Hershey's syrup into a tall glass of milk, and carried this stuff back into the living room. I switched on the TV, turned it to channel 38, and settled in to watch Granny whack Jethro over the head with a frying pan.

I ate the peanut butter and crackers while drinking the chocolate milk, all the time immensely enjoying Jethro's comic attempts at trying to make a success of a restaurant called The Hungry Gizzard. Then, I smoked a bone and laughed like a loon while enjoying Barney Fife's law enforcement misadventures. Returning from Mayberry, I plugged in my bass and threw some Grand Funk and Black Sabbath onto the stereo, playing along for an hour or so. After that, I felt like reading a bit. I picked up Twain's Life On The Mississippi, which I was in the middle of at the time, and traveled back to the 19th century for a while.

Understand that I did all of this without ever looking at the outside world or hearing about it in any way. All of the blinds were drawn. The telephone was connected to an answering service for my Dad's job, so I didn't answer it unless whoever was calling gave me a signal (everybody who knew us knew that the code was to ring once, hang up, then immediately call back, otherwise we would assume it was business and let it go through to the service, which would pick up after three rings.) Also, this was before cable and satellites, so unless I got up from the couch to physically change the channel, it was channel 38 all day and they had no news coverage, so...

At about 2 o'clock, I decided to check and see if the mailman had come. I opened the front door and there it was. Lots of snow. Shitloads of snow. Snow up to the middle of the storm door, which was up to the middle of my belly. Snow, which I stood gaping at blankly. So much snow that the street was totally covered with more than two feet and not a living soul was anywhere to be seen.

Far out, man.

I got dressed (I had been in nothing but a pair of jeans since I got up) and pulled on my boots. This was awesome. I went outside and plowed my way through snowdrifts up to my chest. I wanted to see if anyone else was around to enjoy this with.

I trudged through the snow towards River Street, which was the main drag two blocks away. My street wasn't plowed, which was no surprise. The city of Boston sometimes never plowed Caddy Road, it being a side street off of a side street off of a side street. I reached Monson - nope; not plowed. Sturbridge? The same. And as I approached River Street, I saw that it was only slightly navigable. It was a busy street and cars had probably been on it, off and on, since the snow started, but it was still a mess.

I was enjoying the bejeezus out of this winter wonderland. I spotted a couple of my bowling/racetrack/unemployed buddies and made my way towards them. We exchanged amazed words as Mike lit up a joint that we shared. It was obvious that there wouldn't be any racing for at least a few days, so that was a bummer, but we had enough dope to last a while, so no problem keeping a steady buzz while we waited for the streets to clear.

After a bit more conversation, I made my way back to the house. After shedding my boots and wet clothes, I turned on the radio to get some news and see what the prognosis was. The word was that there had been 28 inches of snow and the city of Boston was pretty much shut down. Many people were stranded wherever they worked and would be staying there overnight. A state of emergency was declared by the governor, and there was talk of bringing in the National Guard to patrol the streets and keep down looting, etc., and everybody was advised to stay off of the streets except for emergencies.

I put Ted Nugent on the stereo while wondering if my Dad would be stuck someplace. I doubted it. My Dad was one of the all-time great snow drivers. If anybody would NOT be stuck, it would be him. If he had a Volkswagen Beetle at the Arctic Circle and had to be in Anchorage the next day, I wouldn't have bet against him. Downtown Boston to Dorchester, in 28 inches of accumulation? The only way he wasn't going to be home was if the authorities physically wouldn't let him drive.

The house was well-stocked with food and drink. I had plenty of cigarettes. The electricity was on and there were plenty of sitcoms and cartoons to watch. I had no problem with this storm. Other people weren't as lucky. My neighbor, Stephen Murphy, was stranded at his job. He was a shoe salesman. What in the hell did he do to amuse himself in a shoe store for 48 hours? You can try on only so many pairs of pumps before it gets boring.

(It was a woman's shoe store.)

I heard a motor gunning outside. My Dad plowed his way down the street, slowly, fishtailing wildly but determined to get his big boat of a Chrysler into our driveway. After much maneuvering, he got it into position to go straight onto the slight incline by the side of our house. He rocked the car back and forth for about 25 minutes, while I shoveled, and he damned well got the car into the driveway, where it stayed for the duration of the snow emergency. He was one of the few who could have gotten around the city if he needed to, but he wasn't averse to taking a few days off while his bosses were under the impression that he couldn't drive in these conditions. We both settled in for a slothful couple of days.

And that's about it. I told you there was no point to this. After a week or so, the snow melted and everybody went about their business as usual. Some folks weren't as lucky as me, as some 90+ people actually lost their lives due to the blizzard. The total of property damage was somewhere above a billion dollars, I believe. Beyond those grim statistics, though, the Blizzard Of '78 seems to have existed only so that, whenever there's a storm these days, someone old (like me) can say, "Hmmff. You call this snow? Why, I remember...", and then go into the song and dance above while everybody rolls their eyes and tries to think up an excuse for leaving.

And you? You sat through this whole thing voluntarily, even after I told you what was coming. You poor soul.

Soon, with more pointless old-fart rambling.

39 comments:

Pearl said...

:-)

I think we might have dated...

Pearl

p.s. DIGRESSION! (Love it)

OldAFSarge said...

Personally I enjoy pointless old-fart rambling. I do a lot of it myself. Why I remember this one time...

Oh wait, this isn't my blog. Who are you people?

Same as it ever was,

Same as it ever was.

Sausage said...

Stranglehold?

Sausage said...

How about a Scottish link to the left here?
If it's not Scottish its....
Cheers.

messymimi said...

What!?! Old fart rambling entertains me. Okay, so i'm weird, so sue me.

Ami said...

Heehee... I was going to be on time getting out the door to work this morning but clicked on your blog instead. Digression is my middle name, and digression happens to be one of the ways I get off. :)

Since my New Year resolution was more orgasm. No, wait. Sarcasm.. never mind. I'm going to be late, gotta go.

Craig said...

I remember this; thanks. We had a Blizzard of '78 here in Michigan, too (I mentioned it here), but it wasn't the same as yours; ours was a week or two earlier, in January. It pretty much shut down the southern half of the State of Michigan for a couple days, and the following October, the local birthrate was 30% higher than normal ('cuz, you know, you can only play so many games of Monopoly). . .

Brighton Pensioner said...

Perhaps one day I'll tell you the story of the 1987 hurricane. And that's a threat!

Michelle H. said...

We might have had a blizzard of 1978 here, but I would have been only 3 years old so I wouldn't have remembered (does that make you feel old to know you were 20 and I was 3?) Anyway, I like old fart stories like this that don't start off as, "When I was your age, I had to walk 50 miles in a blizzard..."

joeh said...

My Dad could also drive in snow like noone else. He could rock a car through anything, no need to push.

I remember that storm, I was trapped in a NYC hotel put up by my Co. I staryed with several potheads and had my first real experience with the Weed. I think it might have been laced with something.

Teriffic rambling from a young "Old Fart."

Uncle Skip, said...

I miss Sherman and Mr Peabody, though by 1978 I was far too old to be anything but a responsible adult (and father of three children).
I think I will go channel surfing to see if I can find them again.

Jeni said...

Oh boy! Did this bring back some memories for me of that winter! (And of a couple other snow stories in my lifetime too, for that matter. Just in time too because I've been having a huge slump in ideas of what to write about, stories to tell, ya know!) That blizzard that year also was the one responsible for freezing the main water line to the entire village here and we were without water for almost 2 weeks! The rest of the story to come provided I remember to write about it on my blog. Ah, the trials and tribulations of advancing senility, ya know!

Daryl said...

that was the blizzard that snowed out my birthday ... being born in february means having a lot of birthdays snowed on .. after a while you stop being upset and begin to look forward to 'my' storm ...

Buck Pennington said...

In keeping with today's recycling theme...

Buck 1:55 PM, January 21, 2011

Heh. There are Ol' Farts and then there are OLD Farts. We need to stick together, coz few outside our circles appreciate just how GOOD it was back then. I think my Dad useta say that, too, but he really WAS a boring old fart (no caps). We are different, of course.

I remember all that you mentioned here, save for the blizzard, which is a function of where I was at the time. But I DID drive from South Bend to the NoDak/Montana/Sask border in a blizzard just before Christmas of '77. Only one lane of westbound I-94 was open between Minneapolis and Jamestown, NoDak... and the two lane roads from Jamestown to my final destination were sporty, indeed. I'll not forget THAT experience.

And I most certainly DID do my best Tevye when you did the "Di-GRESSS-ion" thing.

sandyland said...

I remember one too but long beofre that dayt blessings your way /

Hilary said...

I enjoyed trudging through the white stuff with you. I do remember this from when you first posted it. Pointless or not, you're always an enjoyable read.

Joanne Noragon said...

Only the director of mfg and myself got to work most of that week. Fools. I only made it because I had ten boxes of special tractor greenbar (you'll think back to that stuff) in my little Dodge Colt wagon. Much of our business was Europe and Asia, and they called al lot to be sure they would still get their stuff when it was over.

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

I love it when you kids do your old-fart impressions
...and when you digress

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Okay, enough stalling, it's time for the bowling stories (I fondly remember the dog track one about the fake rabbit or whatever you said it's called).

Juli said...

One of the guys at work had to abandon his car in the middle of Route 3 and WALK to his MIL's house (20 miles away) where he was stuck for a week. He had no clothes, no toothbrush, etc. His car is now completely stocked at all times with a case of crackers, a packed overnight bag, and two cases of soda. He says if he's ever stuck again, he'll just stay in his car. And seeing how we work on 'dis side of 'da bridge and he lives on the cape, stranger things have happened.

Friday's storm is falling on the anniversary... and I am more convinced than ever that they have no idea how to predict this one either.

I, on the other hand, was 4. All I remember was rolling snowballs in the front yard that were too big for my mom to stack, so we made "snow dogs" instead. :) My Mom remmeber looking out the windows and having snow up over the car.

The Broad said...

Hey, I remember that storm! I was living in Washington, DC at the time -- lots and lots of ice -- it was terrible. It was also during the immediate aftermath of that storm that I met my husband! You were lucky not to lose electricity though. I grew up in more rural parts of New England and losing power was always part of the deal...

I just love it when you ramble on ... and on ...

Janet said...

I remember this post, although I will admit I was a bit lost until I got to Tevye and "Di-gres- SION!!" We got a bit of that storm, even as far south as we were. We were out of school for a whole week, which in my depressed "I-hate-life-but-especially-the-high-school-part-of-it" 15-year-old mind was a greater gift than the snow which we so rarely got in Nashville.

The Geezers said...

Hmm. 1978 for you wasn't all that different than it was for me, 'cept I was living in a big ramshackle house with 3 other reprobates, not with my old man. But the haze was very much the same.

Eddie Colbeth said...

Great post Jimmy! Speaking about Singapore Airlines, I'll be getting on one of there planes in just a few hours. I think I was 13 during the '78 blizzard. Two weeks off from school, jumping of of the grocery store roof into snow banks and not being able to see pavement for a month.

Hopefully, ya'll don't get another big one, I'm headed to the land of everlasting warm. No more cold for me.

Be well!
Eddie

Barbara Shallue said...

Sounds like heaven to me! (As long as there's enough food and you're not freezing, of course!)

Matt Conlon said...

I was still about a year in the making, in 1978. I have seen pretty awesome (in the literal sense of the word) pictures though.

Craig said...

I remember a pre-Christmas blizzard from around that time. . . From Kalamazoo to the Indiana line, on our way from MSU to Chicago, my buddy and I drove about 25 mph, where all we could see was the tail-lights on the car about 10 yds ahead of us. . .

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

I was only 5-ish at the time but I do remember sledding off the top of my grandparent's garage the next day (or a couple later perhaps, the mind tends to speed things up after so long) because luckily we managed to make it out of our coastal town unscathed. We'd been living on the South Shore and apparently from what I've been told my mom was holding my sister on her lap in the passenger seat while my dad & I were going to take a walk up to the seawall to see what was going on when a huge wave crashed over the wall. The two of us hauled ass back to the car and my dad was pulling away from our house just as water was starting to creep into the vehicle. My mom pretty much tells it the same way so I believe them both. Plus the 6+ feet of water in our basement when we got back from our vacation in Arlington would lead me to believe it wasn't a bunch of hooey.

It was a shock they made it as far north as they did and we were lucky not to have gotten stuck on 3/93/128 (don't know which way they went) like a lot of people did.

Maggie May said...

Theres me thinking it was only England where everything stops after a snow fall. Though yours seemed deeper than anything we would ever get.
Maggie x

Nuts in May

Jackie said...

The only Blizzards we have we purchase from Dairy Queen.
And...I had to Google "smoke a bone" to see if you were cooking black eyed peas and ham hocks or what...? OK. Now I know.
And...I'm so proud of your Dad's ability to navigate the streets in that kind of weather.
Stay warm and safe. I see from the weather forecast that snow is in your immediate future.

lime said...

well i must be an old fartress for sitting through and also thinking it
s been a long damn time since we've seen a real blizzard.

Joanna Jenkins said...

I was about 20 too the winter of that blizzard and lived near Cleveland. We had TONS of snow. And I remember the "rocking" and shoveling to dig cars out. Oy! It was cold!
jj

Shammickite said...

The Blizzard of '78 eh? Well, I was living here in Canada in '78 and I don't really remember a specific blizzard but if you say it happened, then it probably did. We are having a blizzard here right now. Snow blowing past the window horizontally, -10C, high winds, I'm not going anywhere today. The weather people are having a field day predicting a snow disaster.... they haven't had a good snowstorm to complain about for years!

Shammickite said...

Are you snowed in, Jim?

Joan said...

Hope you and yours made it through ok. Katie has sent me a few photos. :)
She and Scott had reservations at an inn in Vermont and then were going to the Husky Works Mushing Co on Saturday. They left Thursday night instead of Friday. :) All turned out good. They had a beautiful day on Saturday.

Bear Walker said...

I'm late with this but have to say I also have vivid memories of the Blizzard of 78. Being stuck at home with family, I had to go in my snow covered car to smoke cigs. Brother and I listening to Charles Laquidara on BCN since he was stuck at the station and was on air for a couple of days, I believe.
When the driving ban was lifed, friends and I headed out to RT 1 to find an open bar as I was just 18. We weaved past abandoned cars and did manage to find an open bar.

Good times.

NoRegrets said...

Dammit. If you're an old fart, I'm pretty close. I was 12 at the blizzard time. Had to walk a whole mile away to get some food, where they had made a huge mound with front loaders, which I climbed to the top of. Wearing my charlie brown coat.

Unknown said...

miss hearing from you all good??

Suldog said...




just resting.