John Blanding/Globe Staff
The Globe’s call last week for reminiscences about the Blizzard of ’78 resulted in a veritable flurry of stories from our readers.
While the storm was deadly and destructive, it was 40 years ago, so for many people who responded, memories of the storm were memories of youth.
People wrote about confronting Nature’s power, enjoying strangely carefree days off from work or school, and helping each other out.
Drinking beer was also a major theme, as well as jumping into snowdrifts and being caught in the storm at the Boston Garden during the Beanpot.
Check out all the stories here.
Here are excerpts of some of the stories that caught our eye:
■With all kinds of people thrown together because of the storm it’s no wonder that some new relationships were forged. Several people reported that they had met their future spouses during the blizzard.
I met my husband during THE Blizzard of ‘78. We were both teachers of Special Needs. He worked with my college roommate and stopped at her house while out on x-country skis. Work had been called off for the week, so we spent time hanging out with friends. Kept running into each other day after day and I finally took matters into into my own hands and asked him on a date. We will be married 40 years in 2019! — Mandy Gees
I was a freshman at Simmons College. On the first night of the blizzard there was a massive snow ball fight on the Quad. Boys from neighboring schoos were visiting. ... THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT HAPPENED TO ME DURING THE BLIZZARD OF ‘78 was after that snow ball fight on the first night, a young man named Bob asked me to go to his Fraternity’s Valentine’s Day Party, I accepted. Eleven (yes thats 11) years later we got married. We raised our three children, ages 25, 23 and 21 in Carlisle, MA. Now two out of them live in Somerville and ... sorry to say, I wish them a “BLIZZARD” EXPERIENCE” of their own. I know a lot of terrible things happened during that storm but for us, in our little world - it was a once in a life time wonderful thing. — Beth Clarke
My wife and I met during the blizzard and married the following year. We’d been living in the same condo complex in Melrose for two years and had never run into each other until the blizzard. We’re now retired in coastal North Carolina where it snows every ten years. — Bill & Peggy Neeb
■Stranded at a movie theater, a teenage usher saw helicopters bringing in supplies, including his favorite, beef stew.
I was 17 years old and worked at the Showcase Cinemas in Dedham. The cinemas became an official Red Cross shelter. People stranded on rte 128 stayed at the cinema for multiple days/nights. Helicopters (I assume National Guard) brought supplies. I especially liked the canned beef stew. :) Showcase ran movies in a couple of the theaters so people had something to do. I remember this because I worked as an usher at the theater. Myself and some of the other employees slept on the projection room floor for a couple of nights and helped out. We shoveled out the emergency exits, did general cleaning, made popcorn, etc. We helped the Red Cross. — Mark Dickson
■In Framingham, a son saw his father, normally a quiet man, lose it.
My dad was a patient and quiet man all his life, but this blizzard tested him big time: he couldn’t work, and he was stuck in a house with two teenage girls, and me and my mom. About a half block from our house coming back from Stop and Shop, the sled tipped over and the groceries fell onto the road...and my dad’s quiet demeanor abruptly changed; he totally lost it, tossing cans and boxes into the adjacent yard and shaking his fist and yelling to the sky things I don’t remember. It wasn’t me he was yelling at but was he sure angry. He stomped off. … My dad lived another 30 years after that - and not once before or after did I ever hear him yell or raise his voice. — Peter Themistocles
■A man was forced to leave his puppy alone for days his apartment ¬— and got a surprise when he got home.
I was living in a small, second floor apartment in the Beachmont area of Revere at the time, and driving a Checker Taxi around Boston the night of the blizzard. … My sister lived around the Columbus Ave area so I stayed with her for 2 or 3 days. I was quite concerned because I had recently got a puppy, which was trapped in my apartment but it was impossible for me to get out there, and I didn’t have a phone number for the building super, even if there was phone service. … After the doggie love-fest of a reunion, I looked up and around to find every inch of the wall to wall carpeting completely ripped and torn to shreds - man, what a beautiful sight that was! – Kevin
■Some people told tales of unusual alternative transportation.
I spent that week stuck in New Haven, CT. When I finally got home and was shoveling my driveway, I heard this strange noise coming down the street - had no idea what it was. 20 minutes later I saw the National Guard tank with a 25’ piece of steel welded to the front as a snowplow coming down the street. The main gun was pointed down the middle of the street. Following were two of the town’s trucks - looked like a mother hen followed by her chicks! — Ed Rosenberg
Lived on Bay Road in Stoughton at the time. About 2 feet of snow. nothing plowed at that point in the storm. Looked out my window and saw 2 horses and a sleigh coming down the street. Not Santa but quite an unexpected, delightful site. — Jim McGowan
■Wise choices weren’t always made.
The next day we got a call from the Amvets post, they were open and partying. So with our beer brains we headed out. I tied trash bags to my legs,there was snow to above the stairs (5’ + ) the slush was slowly moving down the street so we walked on top of the snow banks, I slipped off into the waist high moving slush, of course the bags filled up, dragged me down the street under water, I panicked, crawled out and clawed my way up the snow bank. Just then lightning hit a transformer nearby and it exploded into a massive fire ball. I scurryed on my hands and knees thru the snow. I don’t remember much after that until I was back inside. I remember thinking God just sent me a message to get the hell out of there. — Ed C.
At this point I thought I had a good idea – let’s go down to the Charles River and see if we could walk across it. … I was being cautious as I walked out and there didn’t seem like there was anything to worry about until I got to the middle of the river – then the ice started to crack. Decision time, keep going and make it across or retrace my steps and go back to the same shore. There were still a lot of cross-country skiers on the ice but not where I was, in fact, there was no one where I was – my friends had waited at the shore not wanting to chance it. … So, I asked myself what was it I was it I was trying to accomplish, which was to be able to say that I walked across the Charles River. The decision? Since I walked halfway out and I have to walk halfway back that would be good enough for me, two halves make a whole so, I safely retraced my steps to the shore and called it “The Day I walked across the Charles River”, the story I lived to tell another day. — Mike Kelly
■The snow created some eerily beautiful scenes.
The most surreal experience of my life was driving my motorcycle on deserted snow covered streets, delivering prescriptions to housebound seniors. I had called the police and offered my services. They issued me a permit to operate a vehicle during the ban. Pharmacies would call and I would deliver. People were as blown away to see me as I was to be doing it. It seemed like the world had frozen in time and I was slowly observing it zen like fashion for days. — John Korzec
We were living in Watertown, and I remember how quiet it was once auto traffic was minimal and muffled by the snow. When I stepped outside, instead of the distant rumble of the Turnpike, I heard the snap of the porch’s frozen floor underfoot and the bark of a distant dog in the clear night. — Sheila McElwaine
■People helped each other out.
Joe McManus, Greg Sikes, Annie Porzio, Jeannie Fazzino and I were volunteer living-in staff members at Haley House, a soup kitchen in Boston’s South End. … As the snow piled Anne and Jeanie approached a homeless man who we knew well who lived outside in the school yard next door. (Currently the McKinley School) He always refused housing, but Anne and Jeanne saved his life that night and he came to live at Haley House (although he would only sleep on the soup kitchen floor) for a couple of years. — David Manzo
■And, while many got the day off from school or work, some did not.
My husband, Tim, worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers in Waltham and was put in charge of snow removal in Providence. When he approached the RI state line, in a Corps vehicle with an additional placard saying “emergency snow removal team,” the RI state police stopped him saying the state was closed to all vehicles. They said he would not be allowed in until the snow was cleared. When Tim said the snow would not be cleared until he got there, the troopers still denied his passage. Tim put the car in geared and slowly pushed through the troopers and continued on to Providence.
I was a conductor working on intercity trains between Boston and New York on Amtrak. Although regular service was disrupted , Amtrak ran trains between Boston and New York right through the storm while all other forms of transportation were suspended. Amtrak was literally the only way in and out of the city for the whole week and we were never acknowledged or given any other recognition. — T. Driscoll, Amtrak Conductor, retired.
The fact that everyone but me it seemed was playing in the snow while was working the whole week, keeping the heat going on my buildings (I was the chief engineer at Charles Park at the time). The first night we kept experiencing rolling power failures. Every ten minutes or so there was a failure and all the heating pumps would drop off and had to be manually re-started before the pipes froze. If that had happened we could have lost the buildings. My normal night crew (one guy working alone) was there fortunately and kept chasing around the complex restarting pumps. He used a bicycle before the snow got too deep. Eventually several of my crew made it in to help. They received full pay until Friday night when the roads opened up. — Richard Usen, PE.
I was a second shift manager of a computer plant in Burlington. I lived in Georgetown. We weren’t expecting such bad weather but as the evening went on, it became clear it was bad. So, I sent all the employees home but then stayed to shut down a number of systems that could not be left running. Some needed cool down to be safe. By the time all that was done, it was late. Nobody was on Rte 128 and 95. Visibility was about zero. Fortunately I had a CB Radio and was able to keep in touch on my progress. A 40 minute trip took 2 hours. When I got to Georgetown, there was a car in trouble on the over pass and I stopped to help. At that point, the wind was really strong. With the blizzard conditions painful. So, I managed to reach the police on the CB and then continued home. — Geoff
■The storm also had an impact in rural areas.
Grew up on a farm in Groton. We had over 150 cows that were just entering calving season. The herd was located in 3 different locations across the town. With the wind howling and drifts piling up, we had drifts so high that fences disappeared, roads to get to the cows and their calves were nearly impassable. Water supplies were freezing and we had to use blow torches and hair dryers to thaw them out. There was a real sense of worry and major risk that newborn calves would freeze to death. We couldn’t just sit inside and watch the snow fall and the wind howl. …. I was 13 at the time. Will never forget how cold I was when I was out feeding them in the middle of that storm. – Rich
■For some, the snow inspired creativity.
I was a student at BU and attended the Beanpot (my future husband was playing for BU). … A bunch of art students carved a VW Bug in snow on Baystate Road and the city tried to tow it away - should have seen the tow driver’s face when it cracked in half! — Susan Marden
■And, of course, there was the partying. One broke out, aptly enough, on Beacon Hill’s Joy Street.
On Joy Street on Beacon Hill, we had a block party in the middle of the closed street. Everyone put their hibachis on the snowbanks, somebody had a boom box, and we had a blast. The scout that we sent down to the Stop & Shop on Cambridge Street took a long time to get back with the hot dogs because they had no power and were doing all transactions by hand, in cash. We were all used to being car-less all the time anyway! — Joanne
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