Monday, January 14, 2008

The Great Snowstorm...

Forty-one years ago, I was a senior in high school in Chicago. Back then, they had two graduations per year, one in late January and one in May. As the secretary of the choir, it was my responsibility to arrange the chairs on the risers for the choir members. There was no school on graduation day, but I was up and dressed early. I lived out of the local district because my parents moved the summer before. As a senior I had the choice of completing my schooling at my old school. I chose to do that, but it meant a long bus ride on the CTA and two transfers.

The weatherman was calling for a few flurries so I was a bit taken aback when I opened the front door to fairly heavy snow. I didn't matter, though as I had a job to do so I tromped down to the bus stop and waited, shivering with cold, for the bus.

The morning at school passed swiftly with much to do. The choir officers were all there and between the four of us, we were finished around lunch time. The president proposed that we go up to the hot dog stand about a block away for lunch. They had the most wonderful hot dogs. All of us agreed and we went back upstairs to the choir room for our coats.

When we burst into the room, laughing and talking, Miss Johnson, our choir teacher asked us what we were up to. One of the guys explained that we were going up to the hot dog stand. She looked at us like we'd all lost our minds. "Have you looked outside lately?" she demanded.

Of course, immediately we all ran to the window and stared down in shock at the white wilderness below in the school quadrangle where the teachers parked. All the cars were buried... buried in well over a foot of snow. And it was still snowing. Miss Johnson told us that the weather forecasters were now calling for at least two feet of snow.

Back when I went to school, the girls wore skirts. The other girl and I were certainly not dressed for a trek through the snow. The guys decided that they would attempt the walk up to the corner. If they made it, they would bring back lunch. An hour later they returned with two bags of hotdogs. When the owner heard about us, he sent extra food. Wonderful food. Lukewarm, but plentiful food.

In the afternoon, we all went down to the quadrangle and the other girl and I watched the fellows make snow angels in the snow. Suddenly, the wind picked up and the snow fell harder than ever. We all went back upstairs and listened to the radio, wondering how they were going to have a graduation in the snow storm.

By evening, the storm was over. We had over thirty inches of snow. The streets were impassable and the transit lines had long since stopped running. About a third of the choir, band, and graduates showed up. It was a very quiet graduation ceremony. Afterwards, Otis, one of the guys walked me the two blocks to my friend's house.

My parents had plans to be away overnight, so I had made arrangements to stay at my friend's house. Lucky for me! Many of the people at the school ended up staying there all night. I didn't get home for two days and it was longer than that, much longer than that before many of the streets were cleared.

A deep polar freeze settled in and froze all that snow like concrete. For several weeks, walking down the sidewalks was like walking in tunnels. The snow was piled high--in some places it was piled higher than our heads.

It wasn't the last snowstorm I was in, but it was the last one I experienced in a major city. And it was definitely unforgettable.


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  1. Snow? Can't imagine it. I have only seen it in London and it was all wet and slushy and I couldn't see what the fascination was. As always, Mary Ellen, excellent blog

  2. That's nuthin. Take a trek over to Minnesota for a year. There is a reaason the locals build underground tunnels and skyways between buildings. Ever breathe in and feel your nose hairs freeze? Your lungs sting? Experience negative 60 without the windchill factored in? Oh what joys you are missing.

  3. Felt my asthma kick in just by reading your post! Very descriptive, and weren't those boys kind as to brave the weather for food and let you girls stay warm! And kudos to the hot dog stand owner/operator...

  4. Hey Anny you brought back memories of a Boston blizzard. My kids were in nursery school. I was working. Regular driving half an hour. At lunch break, I stopped and piled groceries from the supermarket nearer to my lab. An hour later the pricipal of the school called me saying they were closing. It had started to snow hard while I was in the lab, mixing solutions. She offered to drop my kids at home. I had a key at the neighbors. I spent two hours praying that I would reach home and find my kids safe. They were huddled on the doorstep, under the snow, freezing and crying, while waiting for Mommy. I never hugged them so hard. Daddy was on a business trip in Saudi Arabia and blissfully unaware of the blizzard. They close the schools for three weeks. Nope, I don't miss the snow when I look at the ocean and the beach from my balcony in Florida.

  5. Yikes! It sounds like the year I spent in the upper portion of the U.P.