Petula Clark’s classic “Downtown” …
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
My favorite place for shooting at night is downtown and it’s perfect if there has recently been rain. A light sheen of rain will reflect the neon and the street lamps. This is Boston’s theater district on a Sunday night.
This time of year, going anywhere can be hazardous to your health, mental and physical. Everyone who has a driver’s license takes it out of the drawer, dusts it off, and hits the road. The weather is dicey. The drivers are not necessarily sober and way too many of them are using a mobile device instead of paying attention to the road.
So be careful. Be safe. Be smart. Drive defensively. You may know what you are doing, but who know about those other drivers?
And now, for a few pictures that have nothing to do with the election except that some of them were taken on Election Day.
It is a peculiar, beloved symbol. It’s an old friend for anyone who follows baseball. It’s a landmark to everyone who lives in or around Boston.
You can see it from miles away and follow it to the park.
Visitors recognize it no matter where they come from. Yet it’s nothing more than a giant neon advertisement for a gasoline product you can’t actually find in the area anymore.
The product may have left town, but no one is moving the giant Citgo sign over Fenway Park.It has been an important — dare I say iconic and bizarrely beloved — part of the Boston skyline since 1940.
It is held in particularly high regard by Boston sports fans. Red Sox sluggers are enticed by the so-called “C-IT-GO” sign as they blast home runs over the left-field wall. Runners in the Boston Marathon welcome its sight as the 20th mile marker. Its pulsing flash in the night sky has been used by mothers-to-be at nearby Beth Israel to time contractions.
It is an important piece of navigating the twisting roads of Boston. When you see the Citgo sign, you know you’ve found Kenmore Square. And Fenway Park. As soon as it comes into view, you are no longer lost. If you are on any of the high points of land looking towards midtown, you can see it, that bright red triangle.
Kenmore is a particularly Byzantine area of the city, so while you may see Fenway Park, actually getting to it can be surprisingly tricky. But no problem, really … if you just follow the giant red and white sign.
They tried to take it down some years back. Bostonians and baseball fans erupted in protest. What in any other city might be an eyesore is a beloved symbol in Boston. Maybe you just have to live here to get it.
If, perchance, you’re on your way to see the Red Sox, you’re home.