The Great Blizzards of Our Lives

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.

snowstorm

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.

 

46 thoughts on “The Great Blizzards of Our Lives

    1. In other pics I have, my grandfather is in the pic. He was 6’2″ and the snowman has to be 3′ taller than he is. It was a big one, for sure.

      Liked by 6 people

  1. I went on a business trip to Boston once. It was supposed to be two days.

    And the April Fool’s Day Blizzard hit at the end of the first day; it was 1997. Two (it looked more like 3 where I was at) feet of snow all at once, it was a “Nor’easter” (pronounced “Noreastah”), and one of the worst on record. Now that’s hospitality!!!!

    I bought–and kept–the newspaper for that event.

    The next day nothing moved, and the second day of the meetings slipped into the third day. I was able to get out of town at the end of that third day only because one seat turned up on the flight and the two people in front of me wanted to stay together. Lots of people were stranded in Boston longer than I was.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. “the April Fool’s Day Blizzard”

      I was in Boston for that as well. Weirdest thing! The next day (or one after) it was about 65 degrees outside – with huge snow everywhere.

      “pronounced “Noreastah””

      “Naw-east-ah” – the “r’s” are almost NEVER pronounced. Like “Fie-yah” for “fire”. Crazy pronunciation!

      Liked by 5 people

          1. Oh, yes, I should clarify, for the benefit of others.

            I’m talking about what we in Colorado call the “Front Range”, the strip of cities running from Pueblo, through Colorado Springs, the Denver/Boulder area, through Fort Collins, up to Cheyenne Wyoming. Most of the population of Colorado lives here, and it’s largely between 4-7 thousand feet in elevation. Go up into our mountains, with roads all the way up to 12,000 feet above sea level and the situation is VERY different!!!

            Colorado doesn’t have a climate, it has dozens, maybe hundreds of climates, and simply crossing from one side of a ridge to another, or even from one side of a mountain valley to another can put you in a different climate, drier, wetter, colder, hotter.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I know what you mean, Steve. After moving as a teen from NYC, lived in Denver, went to high school in Boulder and college in Durango. That’s where we once saw our lives pass before our eyes as we driving over Wolfcreek Pass on a snowy, icy day.

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  2. Lovely, Daughn!!!

    I have many fond memories of winter childhood in Michigan. Dad built a skating rink every winter in our yard, laying a wood frame lined with plastic. After many nights out there with the hose to layer the ice, we had a smooth rink. The six of us spent so many nights out there, and I never remember getting cold.

    Our dear next door neighbor – an elderly widow – told my Mom she spent her evenings in the dark at the kitchen window, watching our family enjoy our homemade arena, and wishing she was spry enough to join us.

    My friend also had a rink in her yard, and the highlight of skating at her place was the raisin bread toast and hot chocolate afterwards.

    As an adult, Michigan winters were not quite as much fun. I recall a few winters where I had piled the driveway snow so high, I didn’t have the strength to toss the snow higher.

    Then I moved to Colorado. Snow in the mountains; way less here on the edge of the foothills. Suits me just fine 😊

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Alison, it sounds so perfect. Amazing the trouble our dad’s went to for us to have fun. Glorious days. You’re right, we never remember the cold.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. My enduring memory of winter and snow is sledding in the park about 300 feet from my house. At the base of the hill which is a bowl of sorts with a field halfway up on one side, is a pond. When I was really little, I can remember skating there if it was frozen enough, but usually it wasn’t and still isn’t. Anyway, every year, somebody ended up in the pond. Same thing with Art Hill in Forest Park which is not even two miles away. Somebody always ends up in the lake.

    It doesn’t change the fun or the memories, just that getting home after a dip in a halfway frozen body of water was COLD.

    Oh, and in the 70s I was the snow angel queen.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. My first couple of winters here, it seemed like there was snow on the ground for weeks, and we could sled down the streets on tire-packed snow. I remember it snowing so hard one Halloween they rescheduled trick-or-treat!

      Very different today, we’re in a dry phase and have been for a long, long time, at least 15 years.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. We’ve had more wet winters of late than not, but not always snow. We had a nasty flood in the last five years the week between Christmas and New Years. Before last week’s snow, we’d had enough rain that the ground was already saturated. Now there’s standing water in the yard. And the sun…yeah, haven’t seen it in a while.

        The big thing for us is the cold. A couple winters ago, I hardly wore my down coat. Last year, I wore it enough, it went to the dry cleaner as soon as I could get it there. This year I will do the same.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Steve – we were in the Springs for the Halloween storm of ’71 or ’72. Can’t remember which year it was.
        We were also there for 1977 blizzard. Easter, I think. Had a scene similar to what daughn has described. Snow drifts up to the eaves of neighborhood homes, with kids jumping from the roof into the drifts. One drift built up against our front door to the point where it actually pushed our front door open and dumped a ton of snow into our entry way. We had to shovel it out the back door until we could get the door closed again.

        That last one we experienced before moving was the Christmas blizzard of ’82. It literally cancelled Christmas, at least for us. Daughters had both gone to spend the night with friends in the Rockrimmon area. They went on the night of the 23rd. Could not get home until Christmas evening. Our driveway was long and steep, facing north…and completely buried in snow.

        And you are so right about the different climates in Colorado. Even the Springs can be one thing on the south side, and completely different up north – all on the same day.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Indeed.

          THe same system that dumped all that snow on our Concentrated Deplorable Patriot gave me about three inches of snow last weekend. It still hasn’t melted. Other people I know further south hardly got anything and what they did get was gone.

          We got a bit more yesterday, too, and again, those people got nothing. I know this because I was visiting them and there was a stark line on the way back where suddenly–the roads had patchy packed snow on them, and another sudden transition to completely covered in packed snow (slow down!).

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Every snow fall is so different with so many factors that make them different. First snow fall you always love, last not so much. Being the first to tracking through pristine snowfall is often as close to God’s awe as you can get or seems such. From massive neighborhood snow ball fights from inside snow forts always fun. Even bumper skiing when you get older if you can find the right spot.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. daughnworks247,
    Fun article !

    Brings back my juvenile delinquent memories ,”they had to ‘skitch’ home”, growing up on the South Side of Chicago we called grabbing the car bumper and squatting down for a ride on a snow covered street skeetching.

    My friends and I would skeetch rides from drunks leaving the neighborhood tavern. The tavern was on a side street that wasn’t plowed as often as the busier and politically connected side streets. We were around ten years old and weighed about 75 lbs. When 4-6 of us (300-450lbs) grab the car’s bumper, the driver can feel the rear springs and shocks plunge.

    The drunks were entertaining. Many would slam on the brakes and swerve to try to shake us off their bumper. Some would get out of their cars and attack us (bad move). We always had an arsenal of homemade frozen snowballs we carried for the violent drunks. We would bum rush them and pelt them with our iceballs.

    On one occasion my friend took a beat down. We’ll we knew the drunk would be at the bar the following day…so we filled up his car’s exhaust pipe with potatoes so it wouldn’t start…I always wondered if he took his car to a mechanic and the look on his face 🙂

    Later we found a demographic that was too dam easy to provoke and gave us side splitting laughs.

    A lot of blacks drove down a particular side street through my hood. We would hang out by the stop sign and wait for heavy set black women who drove big, big cars ..Olds, Cadis, Lincolns etc.

    Some of the black women would take us on CRAZY rides !
    Some would slam on the brakes, open their door and trip out , chicken neck and all.

    When I started driving, I had my share of “skeetchers” jump my bumper. As a fellow skeetcher alumni , I gave them solid rides…memories 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  6. IIRC, January 25, 1967 was the Saturday after the Friday that the snow first started falling by the wheelbarrows full. That was to be the date of our wedding, except that when we told my mom of our chosen date months before, she put her foot down and was unrelenting that we should wait till Spring.

    She was concerned about the potential of snows and concerned for all the invitees coming from Chicago. We gave in and scheduled for April Fool’s Day, two months later.

    On that Friday I drove my mom to work and went to my sister’s home where I was making my wedding gown. Her husband was downstate on business, so she was all alone with my 3 month old niece.

    By noon, my car was almost invisible by the curb because the snowplow sloshed snow up to the windows on the street side, and the drift on the passenger’s side was up to the roof. My sister and I kept taking turns between shoveling and watching the baby. We used my white borgana jacket because we thought, why get another coat wet. (It shrunk because we hung it bythe furnace.)

    We listened to closures on the radio. Yes, and wedding postponements. Mom was right.

    It also was a good thing I was with my sister. I literally crawled across empty lots on my belly to get to the neighbor for milk which they shared with us for the baby.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Our daughter also wore my wedding gown. Hope my granddaughter will want to also, but, if I’m still around, it will need massive alterations. She’s about a size 4 and 3 inches taller than our daughter and me.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Daughn! You truly tell the best stories. Thank you for posting “escape” threads–It is healthy and much needed in these high stakes days of politics and deep state shenanigans…
    Last big snow we had was 3/5/2015. Two days after my Grandbaby was born…He was coming home that day and my daughter asked me to pick up rugs for the front door and other odds and ends for his first homecoming.
    I headed out and marvelled at the snow and the LACK OF CARS on the road. Stopped at Costco to pick up the items she requested and wondered aloud to the cashiers How I got the store all to myself. “Because,” they said
    “The Gov. has declared a state of emergency and asked that everyone stay home–unless its critical.”
    oops!! Got them all home safe and sound. I was so excited I didn’t even realize I was just about the only car on the road…

    Liked by 7 people

  8. For us, it was the Blizzard of 1966 in Rochester NY (Jan 30,1966). Over 100 inches of snow in 3 days.

    Our house was so blocked in, only I could fit through the snow drift. I shoveled until my dad could get out. I looked around and I realized I was the first out. So I went and started shoveling pathways into my neighbors’ homes. Kids started popping out left and right. We got paid. Yes we did. And off school for a week. And we dug snow tunnels which was very cool.

    Here’s what it looked like

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Waving!! Hi ED!!! LOVE that you posted here today!! 100 inches!!! cannot even imagine!!–I am so impressed that you posted that video…I cant post anything but a copy of a tweet !! LOL!!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories.”
    — a quote from the movies, “An Affair To Remember” and “Sleepless In Seattle”

    Many great memories of my early years while growing up in Michigan. Some are of lake-effect events that would dump several feet in a short period of time. I remember a winter in 1963 while living in Charlevoix where the snow was plied so high, some people were digging tunnels from their houses to get to out the street.

    It was tempting to build snow forts in the high snow banks. A kid down the street had one collapse on him while he was playing alone. A passerby happened to see his boots sticking out of the snow and dug him out. He survived.

    Then there was exploring the ice caves of the massive ice mounds on Lake Michigan…

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Ive only seen it snow 3 times. Ive actually been in snow three times. But 1 time it actually snowed here in socal about 3 years ago and it was in the valleys. Never take your weather for granted. The good and the not so hot. ☺

    Liked by 3 people

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