Jan 042014

Despite all the attention southwestern Indiana received on the Weather Channel, my slice of the Hoosier state did not get what I call a blizzard Christmas week.

Thirty miles to the west of there was a State of Emergency and a small town just across the Wabash River in southern Illinois boasted a record 18” of snow.

A network so desperate for ratings that they called the storm “Euclid,” overhyped the storm in my area. At my house, we received about four to five inches of wet-pack snow.

Do you call this a blizzard?

Let me tell you about a real blizzard, way back in the winter of 1978.

I sound like my father, who reportedly walked two miles to school in three feet or snow, or three miles to school in two feet of snow.

What difference does it make?

He really took the bus, the jitney, the hack or whatever they called it back in the olden days.

The Blizzard of 1978 started on January 25, and left its mark on snowstorm history. As a junior in college, I worked for minimum wage on a student publication. Every other Wednesday was payday, and my compatriots and I cashed our measly checks before heading to some, shall we say, “eclectic” place to eat before hitting Bob’s Bottle Shoppe.

Five of us went to Mister Happy Burger in Elwood. Don’t ask me why. I can’t answer. I don’t really know.

Why do the swallows return to Capistrano? Because they can.

The drive over  took about 45 minutes. We never batted an eye at the widening gyre of the oncoming storm. As the state highways narrowed with the drifting snow, we kept on our quest in a big, rear wheel drive sedan owned by our friend B.

The five of us ordered our greasy fat food and milkshakes and ate our bi-weekly repast.

The first clue we might be in some trouble came when two people rode through the drive-up window on horseback.

Even in Indiana farm country seeing two people on horseback at a drive-up window is strange as in “four horsemen of the apocalypse” unusual.

Few cars remained outside the restaurant, only the five of us and the diner’s employees on the inside. Time to hustle back.

Back to campus in whiteout conditions, the usual 45-minute trip took a little less than three hours.

Did we return to our homes immediately? Of course not. We were newly 21 years old, and stupid. We stopped at Bob’s Bottle Shop for our most needed supplies, vodka, for the purely medicinal purpose of keeping us warm.

The winds howled and blew for several days. The snow drifted around the glass “fishbowl” entrance of my dorm. Classes were cancelled Thursday and Friday, and then for three days more the following week.

In a large dormitory across campus, the front door kept blowing open. This blew snow right up into the dining room reserved for international students. The food service transferred those students to another dining hall within the complex.

This dining hall was the one my future husband and his friends used. Our friend M didn’t want the huge lines caused by the additional 150 students eating in his dining room. He called the dining room manager and changed it back.

Not one to leave a job uncompleted, M set up two directional signs for the students of Shively Hall. As far as we know, he never got caught and enjoyed the stress-free shorter line of Hurst Hall dining.

My car was buried at the Catholic Student Center for three or four weeks. I caught a ride home about five or six weeks later, and the interstate highway still resembled a tunnel with snowdrifts on either side.

Now, that was a blizzard.

Published January 1, 2014 at BlogHer. Also to be published as an excerpt in my new book, A Piece of Her Heart, coming out in 2014.

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