This is blizzard time in New England, when the biggest baddest storms hit.
Traffic was, as usual, heavy. Snow started falling at more than an inch per hour trapping more than 3,000 automobiles and 500 trucks in rapidly building snowdrifts. Route 128 (aka Route 95) became a giant snowdrift where 14 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning, huddled in their trapped cars.
There are so many scenes that remain clear in my memory from the Blizzard of ’78.
I was smack dab in the middle of it from the beginning. I lived just down the street and was able to slog through the snow to the newsroom. As one of the few reporters who could get to the station without a car, I found myself doing myriad live shots across Massachusetts and other parts of New England.
I would like to give a special shout out to my colleagues who ran the cameras, the trucks, set our cable and mike lines, found signals when it seemed impossible and worked nonstop under the most dire and difficult conditions. All I had to do was stand in front of the camera or interview people. I recall standing in the middle of the Mass Turnpike, the Southeast Expressway, Rt. 495 and other major arteries doing live shots. Nothing was moving.
There was no traffic. No people. Abandoned vehicles littered the landscape. It was surreal. Sometimes it felt like Rod Serling was calling the shots. The snow accumulation was beyond impressive. I am or was 5 foot 6 inches. I often had to stand on snow “mountains” to be seen. My creative camera crews used the reverse image to dwarf me (no snickering, please) to show the impressive snow piles. No trickery was needed. Mother Nature did it all.
Downtown Boston looked like something out of the cult movie “The World, The Flesh And The Devil”. The end of the world at hand. No motor traffic, very few people: just snow as high and as far as the eye could see.
Ironically, people who were usually indifferent to each other became friendly and caring. Acts of kindness and compassion were commonplace, at least for a few days. Those of us working in front or back of the camera logged long hours, minimal sleep, lots of coffee, lots of pizza and intermittently laughed and grumbled. There are some behind the scenes stories that will stay there for discretion’s sake.
The Blizzard of ’78 will always be among the top stories in my news career. It needs no embellishment. The facts and the pictures tell it all. It needs no hype or hysteria.
About Photographs of the Blizzard of ’78:
There aren’t many pictures of the blizzard available. You’ll see the same shots whenever the blizzard is remembered. In 1978, everyone didn’t have a digital camera and a cell phone. People didn’t have instant access to photographs the way we do now.
If you have pictures and can share them, I’d love to see different images. All of the photos I’ve included are archive news photos. I’m betting some of you out there have photographs and lots of us would find them very interesting! You would need to scan them, I guess. Hard to remember all the way back to pre-digital.
Weaving through Boston traffic on any given day can be a traumatic experience. Cars and trucks pop out of side streets, apparently without so much as a glance for possible other traffic. Vehicles stop at random to chat with a passing friend, make deliveries, or because it’s a nice day and they feel like soaking up a little ambiance. Right turns are routinely made from the left lane while traffic signs and lights are ignored. It’s common to see a policeman in a marked car drinking coffee and watching sleepily while the chaos swirls about him.
“He who gets to the intersection first has right-of-way” is the real law of the land, and woe to any driver who fails to understand this basic principle. Every once in a while, an unlucky driver gets a ticket for a moving violation, but on the whole — it’s a free-for-all.
What really gets me are the pedestrians. It’s bad enough needing 360 degree vision to watch for other vehicles — and pot holes the size of tank traps — but pedestrians are the worst.
Since most pedestrians also drive, you’d think they’d know better. By adulthood, you figure they’d know not to run out from between parked cars and to look both ways before crossing. Nope. Pedestrians have far more faith in my car’s brakes than I do and appear to have a childlike belief in their own invulnerability
Not long ago, one of the Boston papers made a big deal about punishing motorists for failing to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. As far as I can see, you can stop at every cross walk without ever encountering a pedestrian. I’ve watched presumably sane adults lurch into traffic in mid-block when they could safely cross by walking a few steps left or right to a cross walk. A motorist who hits a pedestrian is wrong no matter what. The law is clear. Pedestrians have the right of way.
Phooey I say! Time to rethink this whole issue. Let’s give pedestrians the boot! That’s right. Let’s pass some anti-jaywalking laws with teeth. Jaywalkers will be ticketed. The city will reap a bonanza like they do from parking tickets already. But how, you cry, could the city enforce the laws and make perpetrators pay? After all, if it weren’t for having to register cars, no one would pay parking tickets either.
Here’s my plan. The first two offenses are just regular tickets. Like parking tickets. Orange. Self-addressed. Insert your check, and stick a stamp on the cover and forget it. But on the third offense, a quick computer check flashes the message: Chronic Hard Core Jay Walker.
Out comes the boot, modified for a human foot. In male and female models. Attached at the ankle, the perp must now drag this 10 pound sucker for the next 6 hours. Removal requires payment of a hefty fine, and of course, can only be done by the appropriate city official.
That’ll slow’em down.
In my mind’s eye, I see a rapid changeover from arrogant, heedless pedestrians, to careful, mannerly walkers who use crosswalks, wait for lights to change, and don’t dash out into the street without looking. I see a new day dawning, when all I need fear are cars, trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles coming at me from all directions — but no pedestrians.
It brings tears to my eyes. It really does.
Not Christmas though I’ve had some fine Christmases and enjoyed them as only someone who wasn’t brought up with Christmas can. I had to marry Christmas so I could make it merry. I love it dearly. From the brightly wrapped gifts to the decorated tree to the carols piped through every shop and mall in America — I love it — though I’m always aware I’m borrowing it. Maybe that makes me appreciate it more — because I remember when it wasn’t part of my world.
I also remember some totally fabulous Passover seders with roasted lamb and all the ritual trimmings. Ceremonies, wine and song. Those were great too.
But I have to cast my vote for Independence Day. The 4th of July, America’s big, booming birthday bash. What’s not to like? Burning meat on the barbecue? Hot dogs, hamburgers. Potato salad I make myself with a side of slaw. Ketchup and mustard to douse the flavor of scorching. Everyone wearing shirts with flags and finally, watching the best fireworks. What is more satisfying than explosions in the sky?
I’ve seen fantastic fireworks at the Boston Navy Yard, along the Charles. In the sky over Nantucket Sound and old Uxbridge High School’s football field. I love fireworks. Bang, boom and the yummy smell of cordite in the air.
I remember a long time ago … the mid 1970s … a friend and I walked all the way from the house in Hempstead to Eisenhower Park. A few miles. Traffic was terrible on the fourth and there wasn’t any place to park when you got there, so … we walked. Then we lay flat on our backs on the grass and watched the sky explode.
When Garry and I were first together and lived in Charles River Park, we stood on the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge and watched the sky light up, listened to the Pops play the 1812 overture, with cannons. I later saw the celebration from the Hatch Shell, though it was less fun because Garry was working and had no one with whom to go “ooh” and “aah.”
I don’t know about the rest of you. There are lots of excellent holidays and always plenty of good reasons to love them. Holidays are great and we should take every opportunity to celebrate. Life is short and sometimes grim, so party hearty when you can. On principle. As for me, let’s send up some skyrockets and start a bonfire. My kind of holiday.
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