THE BIG ONE: THE BLIZZARD OF 1978 – by GARRY ARMSTRONG

This is the time of year when big snowstorms hit this region. Thirty-nine years ago, a large winter storm began moving into eastern Massachusetts. On the afternoon of Feb. 6, 1978, thousands of people were let out of work early so they could get home before the storm.

High winds and a high tide along the shore did enormous damage

High winds and a high tide along the shore did enormous damage

Traffic was typically heavy. Snow began falling at more than an inch per hour and continued to fall for more than 24 hours. Soon more than 3,000 automobiles and 500 trucks were stranded in rapidly building snowdrifts along Rt. 128 (also Route 95).

Jack-knifed trucks and drifting snow soon brought traffic to a complete standstill everywhere. Fourteen people died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they huddled in trapped cars.


There are so many incredible scenes that remain clear in my memory from the great Blizzard of 1978.

I was smack dab in the middle of it from the beginning as one of the few reporters who could get to the station without a car. I lived just down the street and was able to slog through the snow to the newsroom. I found myself doing myriad live shots across Massachusetts and other parts of New England.

Seen from above, the daunting amount of snow residents had to dig through to get to their cars is apparent on Farragut Road in South Boston on Feb. 8, 1978. New England was hit by a blizzard with hurricane-force winds and record-breaking snowfalls the previous two days.

Seen from above, the daunting amount of snow residents had to dig through to get to their cars is apparent on Farragut Road in South Boston on Feb. 8, 1978. New England was hit by a blizzard with hurricane-force winds and record-breaking snowfalls the previous two days.

I would like to give a special shout out to my colleagues who ran the cameras, the trucks, set our cable and mike lines, kept getting 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.

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There was no traffic. There were 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 crossing right after the storm

Downtown crossing during the storm

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 generosity 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. Drank lots of coffee, ate 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. We have since had deeper snowstorms, but none which packed the punishing winds and extensive damage as that monumental storm.

One more thing. It needs no hype or hysteria.


POSTSCRIPT

And, as if in answer to this post, New England makes it’s own comment. Beginning tonight and for the next 48 hours, we’re expecting a foot (+ or – who knows how much) snow — with daytime temperatures in the mid 20s (-3 Celsius) — much lower at night. It’s that time of year again. February is the cruelest month, no matter what any poet says to the contrary.

HEARING GEORGE RAFT – BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

HEARD | THE DAILY PROMPT

Most of you who know me from these pages or my working days know I’m hearing challenged. It’s a life-long disability that’s gotten worse over the years. At this point, hearing in my right ear is all but gone. I still have about fifty percent hearing in my left ear — with hearing aids.

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I’ve had a bittersweet relationship with hearing aids. I hated them as a teenager. These were the primitive “portable radio receiver in a pocket with a cord in your ear” hearing aids. It was worse than being called “four eyes” when I wore the aids. There were lots of jokes, smirks and knowing winks at me. Oh, right, I also wore glasses.

hearing aids

I was short, wore glasses and hearing aids — and was one of a handful of black kids in my classes. I was also painfully shy.

Fast forward to college and my discovery of radio. College radio would lead to a wonderful career and brand new alter ego, the familiar TV News Guy. I turned my hearing disability into an asset. Friends pointed out diction problems, and speech therapy followed. Presto, I became the black guy with great diction. Amazing!

A few awkward social encounters convinced me to wear my hearing aids regularly. The new models were smaller and less conspicuous. Eventually, they would be invisible, all inside the ear.

My hearing problems gave me certain advantages. Court clerks would make sure I had a good seat for cases I covered. Judges would admonish lawyers to speak clearly so that all could hear. Ironically, I understood more testimony in some cases than my peers with normal hearing. Yes!

My disability provided many laughs in my career.

In the early 70’s, Boston Mayor “Kevin from Heaven” White started a new program to assist senior citizens. It was called “M.O.B.”. Forgive me, I forget what the acronym exactly meant, but it was a PR blitz for seniors. They needed a spokesman for MOB. Someone who senior citizens would easily recognize.

MOB? How about George Raft??

I got the call to interview the legendary old-time star of gangster movies on Boston City Hall Plaza. We met just after Raft had a liquid lunch with the Mayor’s people. The veteran actor, wearing his trademark fedora, greeted me with a grunt. A brief exchange about the interview, then we rolled cameras. I asked the questions. Raft grunted.

George_RAFT_headshot

George Raft

I asked Raft about “Bolero,” a film where he displayed tango expertise which earned his keep before he was called to Hollywood. “Call me George, pal” he rasped with a smile.

I called him George and he said “What”?

I figured he was kidding with me. I tried it again.

“What, kid?” was the reply. Back and forth several times. I could hear the cameraman giggling.

“George”, I tried again, pointing to my hearing aids.

“What’s up, kid”? Then, it slowly dawned on him. Raft pointed to his ears and gestured. Cautiously, I took a look. I thought for a long moment before speaking.

“George”, I said slowly and carefully, “You need to turn on your hearing aids.”

Raft gave me a long look, then that familiar smile which typically preceded him mowing down guys with a machine gun. He snapped his fingers. A crony walked over, reached in and turned on his hearing aids.

“Thanks, Pal”, George Raft smiled with relief.

I couldn’t resist the moment. I pulled out a coin and began tossing it in the air and catching it. Raft stared. We shook hands. He smiled over his shoulders as he walked away.

Just so you know, I was half an inch taller than the guy who used to duke it out with Bogie and Cagney.

Thanks, Pal.

“What?”

CRAWLERS AND FLYERS – A FUN PHOTO CHALLENGE

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Crawling or Flying

They crawled all over the house, the grounds, and consumed every leaf from every hardwood tree in the woods. They stripped apple trees and sassafras trees to bare branches and left a forest of naked trees in their wake.

Bare oaks are really covered with gypsy moth caterpillars

Bare oaks are actually covered with gypsy moth caterpillars

And they will be back this year. They are here already, just sleeping. Why can’t we be birds and fly away … away … away …

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72-Heron in Flight 1 HP

Heron taking flight

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Osprey returning home to the aerie

Osprey returning home to the aerie

cee's fun foto chall

WE NEED TO RUN A LEVEL FIVE DIAGNOSTIC! – BY TOM CURLEY


Warning: If you are not a Star Trek fan this will probably make no sense to you. Or not …


I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek lately. Not just the original. But most of the other ones too. Star Trek Next Generation, Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

screenrant.com

screenrant.com

It’s addicting! I just keep watching. One right after the other. I admit I remember all the episodes from the original Star Trek. I’ve seen them all at least a hundred times and that’s no exaggeration. As for the other shows, I’ve found that some,  I remember. Others, I’ve forgotten. BBC America  will run an episode of the original Star Trek followed by Star Trek Voyager, then a Star Trek Next Generation episode.  I’ve never watched them all intermixed like that.

That’s probably why I never noticed there is one thing that all Star Trek episodes have in common. Something that they all do in all the episodes all the time. EVERY EPISODE! EVERY SINGLE ONE! I’m betting even the most ardent ” Trekker/Trekkie” has never noticed it!

What is it?

They run a diagnostic. At least one, often more. Any time anything goes wrong on or off the ship, they run a diagnostic. It’s the go-to solution for absolutely everything.

pinterest.com

pinterest.com

THE DIALOGUE:

Ensign: Captain, the  warp drive just went down!

Captain: Run a Level Two Diagnostic. Advise me when it’s done.

Chief Engineer: Captain! The Di-lithium crystals are absorbing too much anti-matter!

Captain: Send down a Level Four Diagnostic Team and advise me when it’s done.

memory-alpha.wikia.com

memory-alpha.wikia.com

Chief Engineer: We can’t do that Captain!

Captain: Why not?

Chief Engineer: We only have three Level Four Diagnostic Teams sir and they’re all busy.

Captain: Doing what?

Chief Engineer: Well, Team One is doing a diagnostic on the subspace communications array. Team Two is scanning the inertial dampers. And Team Three is running a diagnostic on why all the food replicators on deck three are putting “American Cheese” on everything it replicates.

americaomg.com

americaomg.com

Captain: I see. So what do we do?

Chief Engineer: Well, we do have a Level Two Diagnostic Team free.

Captain: Great! Send two Level Two Diagnostic teams. That would be the same as a Level Four Diagnostic Team. Right?

Chief Engineer:  Hmm. Never thought of it that way before, but yes I guess that would work. The  problem is we only have one Level Two Diagnostic Team available sir. The other one is examining the warp core.

Captain: Oh. …  OK. How many Level One Diagnostic Teams do we have?

Chief Engineer: Three sir. But one is busy.

Captain: Yes but we still have two Level One Teams free! Send in one Level Two team and two Level One Teams.  That will give us a Level Four Diagnostic!

Chief Engineer: Brilliant sir! Why didn’t I think of that?

Captain: That’s why I’m the captain.

I’d pay money to see that episode.


Here’s the thing. My Star Trek binge started right after the election.

thecollegefix.com

thecollegefix.com

Every day, I bounce from immersing myself in the whole” Star Trek Universe” and jolt back to this one. The real world. The. Real. World.

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abc7news.com

I think we need to run a Level Five Diagnostic on this episode of life. Something’s terribly wrong.

Oh yeah. And, if you are a Star Trek Fan, from now on, you will notice this “diagnostic thing” every time you watch an episode of any version of Star Trek.

TEN, NINE, EIGHT … (SHUT UP SPOCK) …

I have watched all the variations of Star Trek, from the original with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, through Next Generation with Patrick Stewart. I also watched at least some episodes of the other Star Trek shows, although they never hooked me like V.1 and V.2. But, the thing that all the shows had in common was how they could stretch ten minutes of material to fill 47 minutes of screen time. All they needed was a crisis and a countdown.

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Whatever it was — the whosiwhatsis core is about to explode or implode and blow them all to kingdom come — or the next episode, whichever came first …


SPOCK: Captain!

CAPTAIN: Yes, Spock.

SPOCK: The whosiwhatsis core driver power module is about to turn this sector of the galaxy into a black hole.

CAPTAIN: Explain that in plain English.

SPOCK: We’re doomed.

CAPTAIN: How long do we have?

SPOCK: Eleven minutes, 12 seconds, and 13 microcars.

CAPTAIN: Not much time. I don’t suppose we have a spare whosiwhatsis we could replace it with?

SPOCK: No, Captain. Remember our last episode when you said we didn’t have time to stop to reprovision because you had a hot babe waiting for you on Euthanasia? And I said …

CAPTAIN (interrupting): Okay, that’s enough. So, what are you saying?

SPOCK: We’re screwed. All of us. As are the nearest 5 stars and their planets. Plus all intelligent AND stupid life in this sector of this galaxy.

CAPTAIN: Surely you can do something to fix it?

SPOCK: Don’t call me Shirley. I hate that.

CAPTAIN: Um, how much time do we have now?

SPOCK: Ten minutes.

CAPTAIN: Well, you’d better get cracking and fix the damn thing.

CHIEF ENGINEER: If ya’ have an old coat hanger, some duct tape, and a jar of peanut butter, I might be able to fix it.

CAPTAIN: You should do that. Now, would be good.

SPOCK: Nine minutes, Captain.

CAPTAIN: Shut up Spock.

CHIEF ENGINEER: SHUT UP, Spock.

CREW (in chorus): Shut up, Spock.

SPOCK: Nine minutes.


And so it would go for 45 minutes until in the last two minutes, before that final commercial interruption, the engineer and his clever elves slathered the whosiwhatsis with peanut butter, stuck a wire hanger through the center, wrapped it in duct tape and that gave them just enough time to save that piece of the universe.


SPOCK: Another successful countdown, sir.

CAPTAIN: Someday, we’ll have to have actual dialogue. Maybe a plot. You’d think our audience would get tired of counting down from 10, show after show.

SPOCK: They never tire of it. They love it. Sir.


We do love it. So, let’s just start counting down right now. From ten, because we have ten fingers and that means almost everyone can follow along without calculator.

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We know — because we’ve seen it over and over — if we start counting down from ten, by the time we get all the way to two, Deus Ex Machina (will vary with script, series, and creativity of writer) will save the day, the ship, the galaxy, the future of all things in this best of all possible worlds.

Of course, in  the Star Trek universe, they had the scriptwriters on their side. In this real time and place, I sincerely and passionately hope somewhere there’s a scriptwriter on our side. If the scriptwriter is with us, we won’t need The Force. 

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six …

BOOM. (Oops.)


TEN | THE DAILY POST