Remembering the Blizzard of ’78

By John Craton

I was 24 years old when the Blizzard of ’78 paralyzed Indiana. I had just moved to Indianapolis from Nashville, Tennessee, a few weeks before the blizzard struck, and believe it or not I seem to have been less traumatized by the event than most of the locals. You have to understand that I’d never lived north of the Mason-Dixon before (19 years in Alabama and 5 in Tennessee), and when the blizzard came I just told myself, “Well, this is what Northern winters are like, so you’d better get used to it.” And other than being stuck in my apartment by myself for a few days, I simply shrugged it off as the kind of thing I should expect while living in the North. I had no idea at the time that it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Just before the blizzard began in earnest, I was driving back to my apartment from a job interview when I noticed that the snow was really coming down, making it difficult to see. I had my little AM radio in the car tuned to local station WIBC, and as I neared my apartment complex I remember hearing the announcer tell everyone to go home and stay home. When I got to my apartment I ended up not going out again for several days.

I had never seen snow like I observed from my window; but again, I wasn’t all that amazed, thinking it was just something that happens up north. Other than being rather lonely (and not being able to continue my job search which I needed to do desperately), I chalked it up to being in Indiana instead of being back down South.

During those days of isolation, I did a couple things that were rather unusual for me. For one, although I’d never been one to watch a lot of television, it became my main source of companionship during much of that time. Since Debbie and I were to be married in June, she had allowed me to bring a few of her things to my apartment ahead of time, and one of those items was a little 9-inch, black-and-white Hitachi television. Fortunately, my apartment never lost power during the blizzard, and I ended up watching an inordinate amount of television during those days: lots of news & weather, of course, but also some programs that I still remember to this day. For one, I saw a PBS broadcast of a musical, Philemon, by Harvey Schmidt that I’d love to see again (but never have). I remember also watching the entire miniseries “The Dark Secret of Harvest Home” by Stephen King. Both of those have stayed with me all these years.

Another thing I decided to do was to invite some of my neighbors over for a dinner. Since we all were entirely snowbound and none of us could go anywhere (the roads were completely impassable), I invited the two single young women who lived next door to me to come over that evening for a dinner I wanted to prepare. I’d bought a duck a few days before, but I wanted to wait until I could serve it to company before roasting it. When my neighbors agreed to accept my invitation I went all out and prepared a really big meal with roast duck as the main course. Understand that I’d originally wanted to share the duck with my fiancée and friends from church, but there was no way that was going to happen anytime soon because of the blizzard. And since neither Debbie nor I could go anyplace, I didn’t think she’d mind if I shared with my equally stranded neighbors, despite their being young and single females. After all, I just wanted company as a break from the solitude and had no romantic interests in my neighbors at all.

But it turned out that even if Debbie had had any concerns about the evening, it was all moot: About an hour before the two young lasses were to join me for dinner, they knocked on my door to inform me that they were going to walk over to a friend’s house and have dinner there instead.

I was greatly disappointed by this, not only because I was looking forward to some human company but also because the duck was already in the oven and the rest of the meal prepared. In the event I ended up having a sumptuous feast all by myself — and indeed had enough to enjoy the same meal for several days in a row. (As for my two single neighbors, I learned later that they were a lesbian couple, so certainly Debbie should have had no concern whatever had they joined me for that evening meal.)

I really only learned later that the Blizzard of ’78 was one for the books and was very atypical of northern winters. In fact, I have never seen anything else even approaching it in intensity or duration. So as we currently now face what many forecasters are saying is going to be one of the biggest snowstorms in many years, I feel quite confident in my belief that it will not be comparable in any significant way to what I experienced in Indianapolis in 1978. For starters, I don’t currently have a duck in the freezer, nor are there two lesbian neighbors to invite over for dinner this evening.

Copyright © 2021 by John Craton

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