When the weathermen warn us of a blizzard to come, the women rush to the grocery store, and dad’s, all over, head outside to clear drains, gutters, and check the roof. Children however, line up their mittens, multiple sets of socks, grease sleds, and dream of the snow to come.
My dad was promoted and took a job in Chicago. We had just settled into the ‘burbs when the Blizzard of ’67 hit. I was only about 5yrs old and The Great Blizzard is one of my first memories.
Historical news reports claim we received 23 inches of snow but the wind blew 50mph, creating 15′ drifts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_Chicago_blizzard
One of those monster drifts landed, as if by God’s hand, PERFECTLY, in front of our garage. I couldn’t believe my luck.
It was AWESOME sight through the eyes of a 3′ tall child.
We lived in a valley, and our house was high in the valley, with a long driveway.
We had a rose trellis on the side of the garage, and we figured out we could climb the rose trellis, pass up our sleds, and sled……. off the roof of the garage, all the way down the driveway.
It was like having my own roller coaster. Because I was the lucky kid who had the garage, God’s snowdrift, and the driveway, all the kids in the neighborhood ended up at our house. What a joyful day it was! Children don’t remember the cold. I do remember my mom made the biggest pot of tomato soup I had ever seen. There must have been 20 kids in the kitchen that day.
Of course, when we speak of snowstorms, husband lived through the Blizzard of ’78.
Husband is an EXPERT on the Blizzard of ’78 (according to him), and he regales me with odd stories of those 3-5 days at various points during our married life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeastern_United_States_blizzard_of_1978
He was a senior in college at The College of The Holy Cross. Husband was Captain of the track team and they had a meet at Madison Square Garden. They knew the snow was coming so the team hurried back to campus, landing at a local pub. The pub was open when the snow started. Yet, by the time they left, there was 3’ of snow on the ground and they had to ‘skitch’ home.
There was no school for 4 days. Governor Dukakis was in his bunker ‘managing’ the crisis in what would be his first failure. Guys from husband’s dorm took a toboggan to a local brewery, loaded up kegs, and sold beer by the glass. Husband claims they made $1000 – net. Cars were abandoned and the boys dug out families homes and stranded motorists. Over 100 people died across New England during the Blizzard. Neighbors helping neighbors was urgent.
Closer to the coastline, in Hull, where we would buy a summer cottage a generation later, the center of the storm hit. Sustained winds hit 86mph and gusts to 111mph. Hull was cut off for 2 weeks. Hull forms a peninsula into Boston Harbor and is positively spectacular in the summertime. Yet, this winter “The Gut” was completely washed through by powerful waves. The hill at the end of what would be our street took the brunt of the storm as homes slid into the sea. My neighbor in Hull was a retired Greek opera singer and she kept a ‘food pantry’ stocked with delights. As she said, “Because you never know when another Blizzard will hit.” Those New Englanders are a staunch lot.
But nothing in our family’s collective history tops the Blizzard of ’42, which hit northern Illinois during wartime. I have a feeling, with the passage of time, our family story grew, just a little bit. According to Illinois historical timeline, the storm was the third worst in Illinois history, dumping 2′ of snow, 20′ drifts, and closing down Chicago. https://www2.illinois.gov/dnrhistoric/Research/Pages/Timeline.aspx
Our family lived about 160miles west, on the banks of the Mississippi River, The Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, where it was worse (according to them). Hospitals and restaurants had to be dug out. Supplies were scarce because of the war. Neighbors who never spoke broke bread together to get through the storm.
The kids, however, never change. From 1942, to 1967, to 1978, and beyond, children love the snow. A blizzard presents a unique opportunity in the mind of a child. We can build igloos and pretend we are Eskimos. We can sled further, faster, and fly through the air. AND we can build Titans for snowmen.
Here’s a pic from the Blizzard of 1942.
The woman on the right in my grandmother. The little kid on the left, who built the Titan snowman (with help) is my dad. So, when the snow piles up this weekend, make a pot of tomato soup, drink a beer for some honorable college students, enjoy God’s snowdrifts, and revel at the beauty of it all. It will be gone, far too soon.