In my day, we were cold.

I warn you that the following contains elements of many of my least-favorite things, including nostalgia, crotchetiness and mountains-from-molehills. But some things need to be said.

A story on the WashPost website used the word “astonishing” to describe the subzero temperatures that are expected to last two days, tops, in much of the country. That just goes to show you who took the buyouts — anyone with a memory from before 1980, or even later than that. Granted, subzero has become a rare thing, even in southeast Michigan, but the idea that it’s astonishing is silly.

By my recollection, growing up in Columbus, Ohio, every winter contained at least one bitter cold snap. Columbus didn’t get a ton of snow, but I learned the phrase “Alberta clipper” early in life, and a 10-below night or two, or three or four, was simply part of a typical winter. I remember an early meteorological observation, when they would finally pass: Jeez, 25 degrees feels practically balmy. And it did.

Then came the mid-’70s. Two of my three college winters were some of the worst in Ohio history — ’76-’77 and ’77-’78. Everyone remembers the big blizzard of 1978, and it was certainly memorable, but it bigfooted recollections of the prior year, which should not fade so quickly.

Athens is in southeast Ohio, in the Appalachian foothills, and typically features winters that are more about chilly rain than heaps of snow. Spring comes early; forsythia sometimes bloom in late February. But these two years, the conditions, day after day, were more like you’d find in Minnesota. Snow fell in heaps, but mostly, it was cold.

My early warning was sometime in November. I’d slept over at my boyfriend’s, arose woefully underdressed for the overnight snow, and arrived in my first class shivering in a cardigan sweater and clogs, of all things. But the real fun came after Christmas break. My winter-quarter schedule arrived, and I made the mistake of lamenting that the late-morning and early-afternoon classes I’d requested had all been switched to 8 a.m. sections. My father mocked me for thinking this counted as a hardship. He had no idea.

The subfreezing cold settled in by early January and didn’t let up for weeks. And merely subfreezing were the good days. Many days dawned with the temperature well below zero, right around the time I was, yes, walking to those 8 a.m. classes. I recall that was the year I gave up what was then the standard Ohio University student winter protection — hooded sweatshirt, Levi’s jacket, down vest — for a full-on parka. Everybody wore the same footwear, hiking boots from the Rocky boot company in nearby Nelsonville. You could get a pair at the factory for about $20; they came with bright-red laces. Their Vibram-sole prints were what you saw as you trudged around the freezing landscape, head down to keep the latest snowfall out of your eyes.

I have many memories of the trials of those two winters, which have become misty and water-colored, the way memories do. Here’s one: The public-works staff in Athens were stretched thin. This was highly unusual weather, and over time, snow and ice built up thick on the brick streets, like a layer of asphalt. Working late at the student paper one night, we heard heavy equipment and came outside to find backhoes and front-end loaders taking advantage of the car-free streets to break up the ice. It was a pushback of brute strength against a winter that felt like it was doing the same. The grave-size pieces were dropped into waiting dump trucks, which trundled down to the river to deposit it onto the frozen riverbed. I was taking Russian at the time, and wondered if this was how they did it in Moscow.

Here’s another: Walking up Jeff Hill, the steepest on campus, on a brilliant morning when the temperature was somewhere around 20 below. Breathing was painful, but the very air itself seemed to sparkle, a phenomenon pointed out to me by Peter King, now the big-shot sportswriter, who gamboled by huffing out great gusts of air and watching the condensation shatter into crystals.

Somewhere around that time, Frank Reynolds took to ABC’s evening news to report that some scientists feared we were entering a new ice age. Yep. I saw it with my own eyes.

All of this was endured without the many conveniences of more recent years. Cars with front-wheel drive were a novelty, and four-wheel drive was confined to specialty vehicles. Even the rear-window defroster was rare. I pushed so many stuck cars, I can’t tell you. Those were also the years I learned to attach jumper cables and how to rock a car out of a parking place. Miracle fabrics like polypropylene and Thinsulate were unheard-of, and fashion went by the wayside. It was hardly a haute couture era among college students anyway, but the weather did away with any impulse toward individuality. We plodded around campus in our red-laced boots and puffy parkas, as uniform as North Koreans.

And this, I remind you, all happened in southern Ohio. Alan, who went to school in the northwest corner of the state, recalls those winters as the ones in which his father nearly lost his feet to frostbite when his diesel Rabbit gelled up out in the country, and as the time when he had to explain (to an el ed major, ha ha ha) that no, putting a blanket on a car battery wouldn’t keep it warm overnight. A friend remembered a girl in her dorm who raced to the health center with frostbite on her earlobes, and was told that while not wearing a hat or earmuffs had probably contributed to it, her biggest mistake was wearing 14K-gold earrings in 20-below weather — gold is an excellent thermal conductor, after all.

Climate change has accustomed us to superstorms, tornados half a mile wide, a hurricane season from hell, but it has blunted the common experience of winter at this latitude. Two years ago, I saw the first daffodils starting to push through the soil in January, a phenomenon I find far freakier than a couple days of bitter cold. People my age around Detroit talk about skating to Canada when they were children. Henry Ford drove one of his cars around a racecourse on the Detroit River ice. Bootleggers routinely ran trucks back and forth across the frozen waterway. All of these things would be exceedingly rare today.

So when you’re enduring the misery of the next few days, think back to those two tough years, when the Ohio River froze (and Jerry Springer was mayor of Cincinnati!!) and a coal strike made us wonder if we’d ever see a well-lit room again (at least in coal country). Friends, we used to be stronger. We still can be. Bundle up.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events |

74 responses to “In my day, we were cold.”

  1. Jolene said on January 6, 2014 at 12:38 am

    I wrote this on the previous thread before I saw that Nancy had added a new post. Am reporting here, as I want to be sure that you all share my joy.

    Exciting news: The most horrible of all the horrible Republicans with whom we must share this lovely planet has ended her Senate race. That’s right. Liz Cheney is dropping out of the Wyoming Senate race. Can’t overemphasize how happy this makes me. I didn’t think she was going to win, but merely having to hear about her was a burden too much to bear. Now she can go back to being the mean daughter of a mean, evil man without bothering the rest of us. 2014 is looking up already.

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  2. Jolene said on January 6, 2014 at 12:41 am

    I remember those two winters too. I was in grad school in Chicago, and, damn, it was cold. One of many amazing phenomena was walking down the sidewalk and realizing that you were really walking on two or three feet of snow that froze on the unshoveled sidewalks, lasting for what seemed like months.

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  3. jcburns said on January 6, 2014 at 12:46 am

    I actually find your quick dip into nostalgia quite warming, Nance, thanks.

    I’ll add one Ohio University snippet: cresting Jeff Hill in that same bright sparkly frozenness with my diminutive roommate, only to have a stout gust of wind blow Susan backwards, off her feet, down the hill.

    Unrelated: a guy named Jeff Hill does the weather down here in Atlanta on Channel 5. And speaking of television, so far I’ve heard “brutal”, “shocking”, and “unrelenting” on what used to be responsible airwaves. Hey, it’ll relent. Eventually.

    Oh, and look at this! R. Thomas—Richard, to us—is bringing his birds inside, it’s so cold. (he’s the proprietor of the all night place where we Turner people went in the early 80s after the 3pm to 11pm shift.)

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  4. Sherri said on January 6, 2014 at 1:03 am

    I was in high school during those winters, in Clarksville, TN, about 50 miles from Nashville. I remember being out of school basically the entire month of January in ’78, because we’d get about 6 inches of snow once a week, and had no real means of dealing with it other than to let it melt. Very few snow plows, not much salt, a population spread out enough that everybody has to ride a bus to get to school, and the result was that we had so many snow days we had to make them up on Saturdays in order to get out of school at a reasonable time for summer.

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  5. Dave said on January 6, 2014 at 1:45 am

    Yes, everyone talks about the 1978 blizzard but that previous winter was c-o-l-d. I think that a record was set in Central Ohio for the most low temperature days, in my memory, there was a extended period of time where the temperature didn’t get above zero. It was nasty, the only time that I remember that no matter how far you drove, you could still see your exhaust.

    I, too, read these reports and watch these weather folks and wonder, guess that’s what age and a long memory does for you. Almost like, “Get off my lawn”.

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  6. ROGirl said on January 6, 2014 at 4:51 am

    I think it was after the blizzard of 1978, some jokers entirely filled one end of the Engineering Arch (corner of South U and East U in AA) with snow. There was a hole for people to step through.

    In more recent history, I can recall some sub zero days in the early 90s and a blizzard in 2000 (at least a foot of snow), but the days of trudging across a college campus to get to classes was in the distant past. I couldn’t get out of my driveway because my road wasn’t cleared.

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  7. David C. said on January 6, 2014 at 6:35 am

    As I remember it the blizzard of ’78 was the only big storm of that year. The winter of ’76-’77 had somewhat smaller storms, but more of them. It was my senior year of high school and we had 20 snow days. Back then, we didn’t have to make them up.

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  8. beb said on January 6, 2014 at 7:19 am

    I was surprised that the temp this morning was +20 when I left for work. I thought it was supposed to be in the single digests today and tomorrow. Apparently the cold comes in later today. But there was lots of snow. Digging out my car was a major project.

    Nice to hear that Liz Cheney has given up the fight. Wonder if it was the carpetbasgging charge or the gay fight with her sister.

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  9. Deggjr said on January 6, 2014 at 7:48 am

    I bought an aftermarket rear window defroster that plugged into the cigarette lighter or fuse box around that time. It had silver colored wires and worked pretty well. Those defrosters were not uncommon. I also carpooled and carried a paint scraper to pass around for the other windows. Those were the days.

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  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 6, 2014 at 8:09 am

    The 60s in Chicago and NW Indiana were incredible. I’ve never really adjusted to the mushy slushy mostly lumpy snows since. The first big fall off the lake covered everything in December, and while there might be shifts in the depth of the coverage, everything stayed covered until March. The layers piled up and the snow mounds by parking lots grew ever more Himalayan. And you didn’t hear much about “ice melt” and all those salty, chemical pellets you get in the carpets and your lunch in Ohio this time of year: you had thick pounded paths beneath which, somewhere, was concrete or asphalt. Scraped clean and ice-free was not even an aspiration, you just had to walk carefully, and some places they’d scatter cinders, which would get in your carpets and your lunch.

    Love Rocky boots. Still the official boots of the NPS, even if they aren’t made in Nelsonville. Wife and I have four pairs between us.

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  11. Deborah said on January 6, 2014 at 8:12 am

    It’s 9 this morning in Santa Fe but the high will be 35, and of course… sunny!

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  12. ROGirl said on January 6, 2014 at 8:28 am

    My car is stuck half in the road at the end of the driveway. I called AAA (25 minute wait) and someone will come in about an hour. Luckily I’m at home.

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  13. Ann said on January 6, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I’m from the Upper Peninsula, so the cold and snow seem pretty routine to me. We had to adopt a rule at the office that anytime the Chicago public schools close so we’ll we, because otherwise I’d probably never close the office. (And yes, the schools, and we, are closed today, but I wasn’t going to be there anyway because I’m having a colonoscopy instead–lucky me). Anyway, back to the U.P. Everyone had plugs hanging from the front of their cars that lead to heaters which replaced the dipstick in your oil. When you came home in the evening you plugged your car in and that kept the engine warm enough to turn over in the morning. Turns out you can still buy them.

    Sometime in the early 60’s the bank installed the town’s first digital sign that flashed the time and the temperature. They held a contest every year to guess the first day it would hit -5. Usually early December, IIRC.

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  14. nancy said on January 6, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Someone told me that parking meters in Fairbanks all feature the female end of those plugs. Park, pay, plug in your dipstick, go about your business.

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  15. DeanD said on January 6, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Great piece, Nancy!

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  16. davidkirk said on January 6, 2014 at 9:17 am

    I attended Ball State from 74 – 77 and common footwear were Vasque hiking boots. Thirty seven years later I still wear them on winter days like yesterday and today!

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  17. susan said on January 6, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Ah yes, those late-1970s freezing-ass winters in southern Ohio. I was visiting my folks then, and it was in the -20°s, something not very usual in the Cincinnati area. Standing outside in their backyard one morning–very, very bitter cold and still and clear and sparkly–I could hear the sassafras trees cracking… Holy shit. They were freezing to death. Most of them were dead by spring. That must be the northern range for sassafras.

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  18. Dave said on January 6, 2014 at 10:01 am

    I remember a couple of winters in the 1960’s, 1965 or before, when it snowed and snowed. There was a two week period where we only went to school one day and we got out early that day because it started snowing again. I think I was about a high school freshman, which would make it 64-65. I don’t recall any such thing as make-up days then.

    Although, I must say, my thermometer right now says -14.9 F and that’s far colder than I care to be.

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  19. Heather said on January 6, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I experienced those winters, but I was just a kid so the memories are hazy. I did my best to get to work today–dug out the car yesterday and the car started right up this morning–but frozen wiper fluid plus messy conditions makes it too dangerous to drive on the highway to work. Ah well. My cat is happy to have me home.

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  20. coozledad said on January 6, 2014 at 10:42 am

    The only thing this front is bringing us is a hard freeze tonight (9 degrees). My only concern is the old plumbing in this house might not be able to take it, so I’m dragging our old space heaters out just to make sure I don’t have to do any emergency plumbing tomorrow.

    I hate sweating pipe.

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  21. MichaelG said on January 6, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Not much to say about winters here in Sacramento. This year we’ve been unseasonably warm with temps for the last month and for the forecasted future running mid 30’s at night to mid 60’s during the day. The bad thing is that we’ve had no rain and things are starting to look serious. The ski slopes are dying for lack of snow. The reservoirs are shrinking – radically. But the 49ers won!

    I can appreciate that earring story, Nance. Years ago I went to the beach with my then girlfriend. She wore a bikini with a brass ring connecting the bra cups. After a day in the sun she had a very serious circular burn right there between her breasts from that ring. She was very sore for a couple of days and very lucky not to have a scar.

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  22. MichaelG said on January 6, 2014 at 10:49 am

    If you leave a tap or two dripping it will keep a minimum water flow going through your pipes and will go a long way to prenting your pipes from freezing.

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  23. Julie Robinson said on January 6, 2014 at 10:55 am

    As I recall, the storm of ’78 was the first time the IU campus ever closed down for bad weather. I had gone to dinner at a new acquaintance’s house the night before and was trapped for two days with her and two bizarre housemates. All we had to eat was turnips, and I can’t face them to this day.

    A neighbor just posted a photo of a stuck snowplow one street over. Poor guy, as if his job isn’t miserable enough, he’s going to be ribbed mercilessly back at the office.

    No newspaper, of course. Hubby is bereft. Website is crap.

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  24. Jeff Borden said on January 6, 2014 at 10:57 am

    I remember that crazy cold 1977 winter vividly. On one of the coldest of the cold days, I attempted to start my 1974 Plymouth Satellite and found it utterly dead. My pal, Bud Wilkinson, had one of the few cars running that day and, unbelievably, it was one of those cheesy second-generation Mustang II’s he was wheeling. Jumper cables didn’t stir the Plymouth, so we were off to a discount store to buy a new battery. It was so freaking cold it must’ve taken me a couple of hours to replace the battery because I kept having to run inside to warm up every few minutes. I had a good parka, but not good boots. These days I’m rocking fleece-lined Sorels that must weight five pounds each, but good lord, they are warm.

    Our car started yesterday, but the alleyway is so packed with unplowed snow that it would get hung up on the frame if I tried to pull out. I don’t mind being housebound, but it’s tough on Cosmo. He’s taken up his station at the front window and appears to be dozing fitfully.

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  25. Connie said on January 6, 2014 at 10:57 am

    I was in grad school in Ann Arbor for the 78 blizzard. Just yesterday I learned that it was the first time U of Mich had ever cancelled classes.

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  26. Joe K said on January 6, 2014 at 11:07 am

    In Alaska in the days before engine block heaters, the bush pilots would drain the oil out of their engines before retiring for the night, in the morning they would warm the oil up in a pan on the stove, then pour the warmed oil back into the engine.
    Them boys was a hardy lot.
    Pilot Joe

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  27. annie said on January 6, 2014 at 11:10 am

    I guess we southern Californians have to hang our heads in shame. It’s been in the low to mid 70’s here for weeks.

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  28. Deborah said on January 6, 2014 at 11:13 am

    As I said before we have this icy frozen lumpy fuck on the gravel driveway in front of our garage, it’s on the north side of the two story building, so always in the shade. We’ve had many sunny days up in the 40s near 50 but that stuff will not melt. We’ve tried salt, even tried pounding it with a sledge hammer to break it up. It’s as hard as iron, the sledge hammer barely made a dent. I’ve thought about pouring boiling water on it but I’m afraid it’ll just refreeze at night and make it even more slick. It wasn’t like this last year for as long. It would get icy but then melt. The sunny and shady areas here are like opposites, if you stand in the sun it’s dazzling and warm, just a foot away if you’re in the shade it’s cold and dark. Whenever I have to walk on the driveway, to get mail or take out the trash, I look like a constipated penguin, walking with mincey pincey steps, leaning forward looking down at my feet.

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  29. LAMary said on January 6, 2014 at 11:27 am

    I lived in Colorado in the seventies and I remember lots of really cold days. My Toyota always started even when the cars around me were dead. At one point I lived in a newish apartment complex in Golden. It was one of those places with a clubhouse surrounded by five or six two story apartment buildings. The clubhouse had a pool and jacuzzi, which was standard for the seventies, a pool table and party room, and a nice laundry room. On a particularly cold Saturday I schlepped over to the laundry room and put in a load of wash, went back to my apartment and took a shower. I had very long hair then. After the shower I ran back across the parking lot to the laundry room to put my stuff in the dryer. It was -14 and windy outside. My hair froze sticking straight back.

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  30. Charlotte said on January 6, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Northland College had those plugs in the parking lots when my brother went there in the 1980s — posts with electrical outlets every 2 spaces (2 plugs per post). At Beloit, none of us had cars, but I remember one winter taking to my bed, in my underheated dorm and typing all my papers from there. Part of the reason I never went back once I came west –first winter in Telluride, on the top of the mountain in February, when there was sunshine and blue sky and dry crunchy snow. Never Going Back.

    Liz Cheney is a coward. She started this debacle, she should finish and take the massive whomping she deserves. Enzi’s no prize, but compared to her?

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  31. nancy said on January 6, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I hope MichaelG kissed his girlfriend’s bikini booboo. Many times.

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  32. Judybusy said on January 6, 2014 at 11:54 am

    That ’78 blizzard was amazing. Electricity was out for 3 days, which on the farm meant no heat and no water. I remember sharing beds to keep warm, and staying there during the day, talking and talking. When the snow stopped, it was brilliantly sunny and we kids had the best winter ever, digging in 10 foot snowbanks, creating forts, and sledding. I’ve also been freaking out about the mild winters, and the lack of snow. My world is tilting.

    Today, the WC here is -43 or so. The dog is pretty quick about getting her business done. It isn’t too awful taking her out–I have a very effective Columbia jacket with very good wind resistance. My car started, and I let it run. I can work from home today, and I’ve never been more grateful for my employer’s flexible work arrangement. I cooked up a storm yesterday; tonight we’ll have tortilla soup!

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  33. brian stouder said on January 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    I was ready to say Deborah is winning the thread with her “we have this icy frozen lumpy fuck on the gravel driveway in front of our garage” (I’m still chuckling at that turn of phrase – for whatever reason), but LA Mary’s “My hair froze sticking straight back.” now has me laughing, too. I bet she looked like one of those (very cool) hood ornaments on a classic Dusenberg or Cord.

    Regarding Frank Reynolds/new ice age – I specifically remember the cover of a contemporaneous Newsweek magazine that screamed something like “A NEW ICE AGE DAWNS”.

    Anyway, prepare for the onslaught of fly-monkeys-mouthing-mantras about how this weather disproves “global warming” – as if simply abolishing the EPA and allowing every damned polluter to dump whatever the hell they want into our environment would be just ducky

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  34. LAMary said on January 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    My coat for the extreme cold back in my Colorado days was one of those military surplus snorkel jackets with the wolf fur around the hood. They came in navy or olive green. Still have mine and my son wants the weather here to get cold enough to wear it.

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  35. Pam (the sister) said on January 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Bill went to Kroger’s yesterday about 4:00 pm to get some small items (he loves Kroger’s) and then called to say that Kroger’s had run out of food. Seriously, there was a run on the grocery store and they were out of bread, ground beef and milk among other things. I told him to go check the Pepsi aisle. If that was empty, then there was truly a run on the store. A run on the grocery store is called “Goin’ all John Fraim”. He reported (radio) so strenuously on the weather back in the mid- ’70s that it caused a run on the grocery stores in town. Now, that kind of reporting is commonplace. He must have been trapped in his studio during the blizzard of 78. Ohio State is closed today which is surprising, they never close.

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  36. nancy said on January 6, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    I always do my grocery shopping on Saturday, and I went early, anticipating the rush. I was pleasantly surprised to find everything I needed and a reasonable parking place to boot. Of course, when I got home I realized I’d forgotten a couple things — always happens — and stopped in after the gym on Sunday. They had what I needed, but few people are shopping in a snowstorm for Italian sausage and prunes.

    (Making this and that.)

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  37. Connie said on January 6, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Not only does Nancy’s post make Deadline Detroit again, commenter Sherri is quoted as well.

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  38. Dexter said on January 6, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    I enjoyed the history of the Bobcat Winters. Thank you.
    I was living a mile from work when I got married in 1977 and thus became a seventy-five mile commuter. Sixty-eight miles round trip and about seven miles running errands.
    About all I remember outside of constant runs of horrible cold days up until the 1978 blizzard was spending a lot of time making sure I had full tanks of gas, light-weight oil, full spare tires, an emergency kit of candles and matches and a pint of ginger brandy stashed under the seat.
    I always liked to chain myself to a bar stool, but the night before the ’78 killer storm I couldn’t find the key to escape and by ten o’clock that night I was in no shape to drive in for my graveyard shift, so I called in sick. Next morning,I grabbed the kid’s rail-sled and hiked three quarters of a mile to the IGA store for…beer, what else? My wife was really disappointed, and sent me and the kid right back for some grub, bread and pork chops I suppose. Days later we drove over to get my paycheck, and my little niece went along with my wife and I, and US 6 was so bumpy from ice , the kid ralphed all over the console. Oh boy…such memories.
    My friend Dallas from work told me, a month later, how sick he was of seeing all the mounds of snow still piled everywhere, deep into late March.
    I found a Facebook page called “Kendalltuckians Unite”. It’s really for folks who have memories of childhoods in Kendallville, Indiana, and I grew up outside the town and went to another school, but anyway, these folks post a lot of photos of the Blizzard of ’78”.
    My beer drinkin’ buddies from Garrett, Indiana were hardcore sports fans…that’s where I went to drink when I needed to talk some serious sports. The night before the ’78 storm hit, six of them piled into a car and drove to watch a Notre Dame basketball game . ( Notre Dame sports and Garrett, Indiana, are linked tightly) They exited The ACC (renamed Joyce Center 27 years ago) and began driving back to Garrett. They had a six-pack already in the car for the drive back home. The guy who drove told me, “We saw that snow coming down and I white-knuckled that steering wheel for four and a half hours until we hit the Garret city limits, and nobody even touched that six-pack.”
    Right now my wife is still in Columbus, as my daughter has been discharged from the hospital there but is still too weak to properly care for our grand-toddler. There is no way she could get into her parking spot anyway. My two vans are mired deep into drifted snow. I was digging for twenty minutes until my Thinsulate*d fingers began to freeze. Damn snow, damn winter.

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  39. Scout said on January 6, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    It’s in the 70’s all week here in Phoenix. Sorry. It makes up for all those days that we’re over 110 and stuck in our air conditioned houses under ceiling fans while you all are enjoying outdoor festivals and barbeques. (I know, I know, first world problems.)

    I remember the the late 70’s winters well – I still lived in South Central PA and we got so much more snow than usual. I worked at a TV station situated on top of a hill and didn’t make it in to work sometimes due to the fact my little orange Ghia couldn’t make it up to the top. I also recall several terrifying sideways rides down that hill when things had iced over while I was at work. No thanks. I’ll bake.

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  40. Dexter said on January 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    My Facebook pal Andrew “Big A” Gold is a livery cabbie in NYC. He’s all over Manhattan and goes out quite a ways on the L.I.E. when called. He was involved in the traffic blockade , waiting while this little airplane landed on the Major Deegan Expy.

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  41. DellaDash said on January 6, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    -11 in Bettendorf Iowa…-24 with the wind chill. It’s supposed to be a tad warmer in the Mississippi river valley…but it’s not much of a valley, and there’s nothing to stop those artic winds from gathering enough momentum as they bluster across the plains to slam into us full force.

    Filled up the bird feeders yesterday. There are cardinals, chickadees, finches, sparrows and mourning doves who have stuck around and are staying fat. A pair of opossums, with their long naked tails, were snuffling their fleshy pink snouts in the snow outside my ground-level window a few days ago.

    Although a suburban, slightly overheated, wall-to-wall-carpeted condo in the Midwest is the antithesis of my chosen lifestyle, I must say that Mom and I are snug. And well-provisioned. Started to make a grocery store run for a few incidentals a few days ago when it had been snowing all day, yet still in the ‘balmy’ twenties…but turned back around before turning onto an unplowed main street. Unnecessary risk.

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  42. Deborah said on January 6, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Brian “Icy frozen lumpy fuck” is a term I learned from Wendy McClure in her book “A Wilder Life” about Laura Ingalls Wilder, which a couple of commenters here have read. Wendy McClure is a Chicagoan. She had a hilarious website called Candyboots that featured her comments about her mother’s weight watcher recipe cards from the 70s

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  43. Brandon said on January 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Hilo temperature today: 76/63

    The early morning is coldest.

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  44. MarkH said on January 6, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Wow, Pam @35. Never, EVER, would I have expected to see John Fraim’s name show up…HERE? Let alone outside old-timey nostalgia radio blogs. For you non-Columbusites: for, what, 30 years(?), he was a morning radio legend in that city, #1, mostly at WTVN. I spent 8 years working radio in central Ohio and could never understand it. That is no exaggeration from Pam on his influence, even with the personality of a bed of kelp.

    Liz Cheney. I am struck by how affected non-Wyomingites are by her political intentions, and really, arrogance. Yes, because of her name, support for her father and frequent media appearances, she’s news. But that’s it. “Didn’t think she could win”, Jolene? Try this: she had 0(ZERO) chance from day one. Outside of the hard-core stereotypical tea pertiers in this state, her exclusive source of encouragement to run, there was no support. She was approaching a 50 point deficit in the polls and she finally read the tea leaves. And I can assure you the recent gay-marrriage kerfuffle had almost zero to do with her lack of popularity. That was just icing on the cake for the haters. Among the publicity-generating no-no’s with Wyomingites she pulled: She cleared her campaign with no one in the state republican party, let alone Mike Enzi. She moved here (to Jackson Hole, ensuring further resentment in the rest of the state) less than two years ago to establish (not re-establish) residency. She claimed five-generation Wyomingite status, when you can barely trace that through three, on her mother’s side. She was born in Wisconsin and only went to part of elementary school and one year of junior high in Casper before moving away permanently. She lied about her residency (claiming ten years) to obtain a fishing license, then blamed the tackle store clerk. Finally, completely inexplicably, mother Lynne got into a public spat with Alan Simpson over his refusal to endorse La Liz’s candidacy. At a gathering in Cody, in front of not a few people, she told Simpson to “shut up”. I know I’ve posted this before, but Liz Cheney was not to be taken seriously as a political contender. At least not now. And cowardice accusations aside, Charlotte, why should she hang around for further humiliation when she finally came to her senses? Arrogant, yes, but she’s not that stupid. All she did was anger people throughout the state, including this non-supporter. But, it’s over. She’s gone. Except for the renewal of her Fox contract.

    Nancy, further to Brian’s point, why single out Frank Reynolds? Beginning around ’75 or ’76 I remember numerous news reports claiming scientists were predicting a new ice age, including that Newsweek issue. I lived in Pickerington in winter ’78 and at 3:00AM the night of the blizzard was convinced my poorly built rental home was going to come off it’s foundation and carry my girlfriend and me up to Jeff(tmmo)’s back yard in Licking County.

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  45. MarkH said on January 6, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Here’s a good WaPo assessment of the Cheney campaign:

    The “health issue” is a red herring, unless something happened to Dick, yet to be revealed.

    -10 deg. at night, +15 and sunny during the day all week here. Not as dire as Michael G’s part of the country, but we need snow, LOTS of it.

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  46. Hattie said on January 6, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Greetings from Hawaii. It was 64F in the house when we got up. (We have no heat.) Such hardship. It’s a pleasant 70 degrees now with brisk trades and bright sunshine.
    But we deserve it, because we were in Madison Wisc. in the 60’s. It got down to -29F once.
    There was a blizzard that shut Chicago down, too, during that time. My husband was on the road then between Chicago and Madison and the car broke down. He had to wait until a trooper showed up. No cell phones in those days. He could have frozen to death. We took the train into Chicago to pick up our car as soon as the streets had been plowed.
    We also had no garage parking (This was student housing.), so he had to bring the battery in every night and re-install it so he could drive to work.
    And I will never, as long as I live, forget the sound of one of those razor scrapers scraping the frost off the windshield. Ugh and shudder.

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  47. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    A good reminder for us all of days gone by:

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  48. Dave said on January 6, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    MarkH, my family, except for me, was camped out a scant four miles from you in 1978, gathered around the woodburning stove fireplace insert my parents had bought and installed the previous year. They cooked on it and everyone slept in the living room.

    All my relatives used to talk about the 1950 blizzard, which I was there for but don’t remember, being only about seven months old. I know that my father didn’t get home from work for a couple of days. There was the “Snow Bowl” at Ohio Stadium which, I think without looking, OSU lost.

    Seeing John Fraim’s name is no more surprising to me than seeing, “Call Mr. Edwards”, a number of months back. Seems there are enough of us who’ve connections to Columbus and Central Ohio that make these entries not all that surprising. Spook Beckman, anyone? Ah, Flippo? Casper the Camel? Surprising what you can find on YouTube. But, I digress.

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  49. Suzanne said on January 6, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Cold, wind, ick. At least we have power although I can’t imagine how much gas this is sucking just to keep the house habitable.

    I was at IU during the blizzard of ’78 and remember walking up Fee Lane in knee deep snow. I also remember eating some strange meals in the dorm because they had to fix what they had on hand. But we survived…

    The Christmas of ’83 (I think) is the coldest I remember. Temp of -20 something. Not wind chill, temperature. Your nose hairs would freeze the minute you stepped outside. I was younger then, and not as inclined to stay in, but I do remember that when it warmed up to near freezing, it seemed so super warm!

    My Lord! This wind simply does not stop!!

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  50. Suzanne said on January 6, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    I forgot to mention that, at least on Facebook, the global warming deniers have been out in full force.

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  51. Kirk said on January 6, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    John Fraim was also one obnoxious, drunk asshole.

    Speaking of assholes, one of my memories of the blizzard of ’78 is of Gov. James A. Rhodes, urging all Ohioans to pray for relief from God, “because he’s the only one who can help us now.”

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  52. dull_old_man said on January 6, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    I think part of it is the trend to hysteria about the weather fomented by the Weather Channel and by the local news.

    To inform gardeners about whether a plant can be expected to survive the winter in their yard, the country is divided into zones. One doesn’t expect a plant rated at a higher zone to make it through winter in a lower zone. Chicago is zone 7, which means the lowest temperature in a typical winter is 20 below. Typical, not astonishing. They have been ootching the zones upward–some sources have Chicago at 6b now–minus 15. It hadn’t been below zero in five years at my house, and I am trying to sneak in some fruit trees that are rated zone 6. I’ll see if they are alive come spring.

    I have been remembering the ruts on the streets in January ’79 in Chicago, frozen like rock. Sometimes I couldn’t get my ’74 Corolla out of the rut to turn down an alley.

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  53. LAMary said on January 6, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    This is the coat I wore in the seventies. Not this exact one. Paul and I are not the same size.

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  54. Joe K said on January 6, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I checked that page from k-ville. Also clicked on yours and see your friends with my brother Dave. I probably know the guys in Garrett that were at that game. One had to be Duke Davis.
    Small world.
    Pilot Joe

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  55. ROGirl said on January 6, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    When I brought global warming at work a few weeks ago, someone said that it should be called global weather instability. It makes a lot more sense, because it takes into account the extreme and unusual weather situations throughout the entire year, whether in winter or summer.

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  56. kayak woman said on January 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I grew up in the UP and I remember walking to high school in -25 weather in a mini-skirt, nylons, a “fashionable” little fake leopard skin coat and I forget what else. I was not warm. I am amazed that I didn’t get frostbite in that crazy getup. I am the Queen of Layers nowadays. But you’re right, we can still be strong. That said, I telecommuted today but that’s because I can and why add another vehicle to the mess if my physical presence isn’t needed at work?

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  57. Kirk said on January 6, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    A big water main broke in downtown Columbus just before rush hour, creating a fairly substantial mess. It’s at 4th and Gay, for those who know the city. They have delivered port-a-pots and bottled water for us here at The Dispatch.

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  58. coozledad said on January 6, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    it should be called global weather instability
    Yes. And the polar vortex shift, however temporary, shows what the shutdown of the Greenland pump would look like for Britain and points northeast. They’ll be under a sheet of ice.

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  59. paddyo' said on January 6, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Not astonishingly, it has been cold in Denver, but no, not Midwest cold. A balmy 19 right now, and it was 10-below late last night and 4-below this morning. We typically get a dozen or so sub-zero overnight readings each winter, and occasionally a spurt of several days running where sub-zero lows never rise to above-freezing highs.

    As a West Coast child, I never encountered real cold until my seminary novitiate year in Ipswich, MA, winter of 1970-71, Nor’easter included. A year or two after I quit the seminary, I was in college back home in Reno, and we had a full week of sub-zero nights in January that just flat killed my old 1959 Morris-Minor 4-door sedan. With my dad co-signing for the loan, I bought a brand new VW Beetle for the princely sum of $2,199 or so. My snow bug. Always started. Went everywhere.

    Today an old friend and ex-McPaper colleague of mine reminisced on Facebook about the time in the early/mid-1980s when he was in Yuma, AZ reporting a story on winter snowbirds (because every USAT story in those days was like we had just discovered the topic, since the paper hadn’t existed before September 1982).
    Chuck remembers it was a Friday, and our boss called to say he had good news: Chuck would be writing Monday’s page 1A Cover Story. The bad news and reason for the call: The dateline would be International Falls, MN, legendary coldest-place-in-the-USA most years. Minnesota and Michigan were in the path of a cold front said to be the worst in 40 years.
    Chuck, a South Dakota boy, knew what to expect. But still: He left 84 degrees in AZ and landed in 28-below in MN. He said they had to jump-start his rental car, and as he began to drive out, the tires went clunk-clunk-clunk, having frozen into blocks.
    Dressed in his AZ clothes, he clunk-clunk-clunked to the nearest Gibson’s for cold-weather gear, and that night went out with a cross-country ski club in 35-below. Still later that night, he hung out at a hotel with a big Detroit carmaker’s team of engineers and designers. They were doing cold weather testing on batteries and other components, and the wires from their devices snaked out the door of their room to cars parked outside.
    “Every time the thermometer went down a degree,” Chuck said, “they’d cheer.”

    I eventually got to taste the extreme stuff myself. I was assigned a Money section story about Sub-Zero, the high-end refrigerator brand that was becoming all the rage with rich folks in the 1980s. Their HQ happened to be in Madison, WI, and when I arrived, it was sub-zero, indeed: 25-below. I was astonished, I have to say, that when I reached the Holiday Inn, I had to plug in my car (the electric cord/plug was sticking out through the grille). That was a first.

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  60. Dexter said on January 6, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Joe, not Duke that time. Bill Seigel and Cork Smith were two of the guys I am sure you knew. Cork passed away a couple years ago…sad news that day. Nobody ever knew more about Indiana high school basketball than Bill Seigel and Bill Myers.

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  61. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 6, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Joe K, one of my Christmas presents was a reprint of a biography of Noel Wien that I loaned out too many times in my earlier copy. A great story (and no, you can’t borrow my new edition, but it’s for sale on His approach to flying and risk is inspiring and thought-provoking: a bush pilot who was known for saying “I don’t like to take risks.”

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  62. MichaelG said on January 6, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    No, I didn’t kiss her circular burn. It was really serious, all swollen and blistered and everything. There were plenty of other spots to kiss, though.

    Mary, the Air Force used to have those parkas. Maybe still does. The Army didn’t have anything like that, at least that I ever saw.

    I almost feel guilty about the weather here. Almost.

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  63. LAMary said on January 6, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I thought it was air force but wasnt’ sure. They were considered hip for a while in the seventies. It was a very warm coat,that’s for sure.

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  64. Jolene said on January 6, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    I grew up near a big Air Force base in ND, and we used to see those parkas all the time. Though there was no shortage of warm things to wear, those parkas were definitely cooler than anything we civilians had.

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  65. Dexter said on January 6, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    I was never stationed at a cold weather army base, but I think we were issued some big thick winter coat that I wore when I flew home from San Antonio to a frigid ORD on the way to FWA for Christmas. The Air Force parkas were the shit, no doubt.

    And for the record, I think the lowest windchill I ever experienced was -33 with -22 temps, many years ago here in Bryan. We now are at -38 with minus 15F temperature. I also just heard from my brother that a friend called him from Auburn and Auburn, Indiana is dark, all power lost.

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  66. Deborah said on January 6, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Kayak Woman, when I went to college in Nebraska I wore shortish skirts and panty hose in frigid weather, I had a crappy coat and I was from Miami, FL. I can’t believe I didn’t freeze to death. I have two really cozy down coats now and one down jacket that’s not quite as warm so I wear that when it’s not so cold. I always wear earmuffs even when it’s only about 40 degrees. My down coats have hoods and I have a few wool caps that I only wear when it’s bitter cold.

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  67. Joe K said on January 6, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Auburn currently at -13f with no power.
    My edition is actually split between two power company’s,house next to me to the south has power, house next to me to the north does not, I have power due to the fact I installed a generator when I built this home, it was expensive but is paying for itself right now.
    Pilot Joe

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  68. MichaelG said on January 6, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    I remember below zero temps when I was a kid in the Chicago area. But thank goodness we didn’t have wind chill in those days or it would have been colder. No lake effect snow either and no black ice. Just plain ice. We had it easy.

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  69. Sherri said on January 6, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    I suppose the Deadline Detroit writer has no idea that those of us who comment on this blog come from so many different places, but it still feels a little odd to be living in Washington, telling a story about winter in Tennessee, and being quoted in Detroit.

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  70. Minnie said on January 6, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    Going down to 16 here in SE Virginia. Wind chill 0. No likey. Stay warm and safe, y’all.

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  71. DellaDash said on January 7, 2014 at 12:43 am

    It’s astonishing how one layer of nylon pantyhose could retain enough heat to keep your legs moving. Even equipped with a youthful internal combustion engine, the worst part of walking (or sliding) to classes on an ice-glazed Iowa State University campus, was all those painful mini-thaws as you navigated through various heated buildings en route. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

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