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|Posted on January 31, 2018 at 6:45 PM|
I have a few memories of the Blizzard of 78
I lived in North Cambridge, just off Mass Ave, a couple of streets down from Porter Square heading toward Arlington.
I went to Boston State College at the time, I was 20 years old and had a couple of part-time jobs to support myself. One of the jobs was shoveling snow at St. Johns Church so people could get into church and the other was driving delivery for a grocery store (Dover Market), mostly to older folks who didn’t get out much.
I had hurt my knee at school in the fall at school and had scheduled my surgery for the middle of January. I had asked a couple of friends if they could cover my part-time jobs while I recovered. My friends had to shovel snow for both big storms, January's 21+ storm, and the Blizzard in February. I had told them to make sure you give you hours to the janitor because he will make sure you get paid well by adjusting the hours because the Pastor would only pay $5 an hour for back-breaking work (city block, many stairs, and 1 snow blower). Unfortunately, one of the other workers ran into the Pastor and gave him the straight hours – for the bulk of the snow shoveling, so my friend's real rewards we're destined to be in heaven. We did stay friends, although when we went out, I did have to pick up the tab on more than a few occasions and it took a few years before I stopped hearing about it.
Personally, the 1st couple of days after the Blizzard were spent shoveling at my house, and my neighbor's houses, mostly walkways and clearing off cars. Once we were done with the neighborhood it was time to venture out. It was probably Wednesday after the storm when a couple of my friends and I decided to walk down Mass Ave to Harvard Square. About halfway down we decided to stop at a Liquor store to pick up a six-pack of beer. We walked into the liquor store and it looked decimated – empty shelves and papers on the floor. I spotted someone who I thought was the manager or owner. I asked him if he had any beer? He started to lose it yelling at us to get out of there – he had nothing left, nothing and he didn’t know when he would have something, there are no deliveries, I said how about a soda – He said nothing, Get Out! He started calling us “Carpetbaggers – you are all Carpetbaggers, get out of my store”. He started coming toward us, red-faced, so we laughed and left. As we made our way done Mass Ave toward Harvard Square most stores were closed or in the same shape as the liquor store minus the angry owners.
At this point I thought I had a good idea – let's go down to the Charles River and see if we could walk across it. Like most of these stories, it did seem like a good idea when I thought about it. There were a lot of cross-country skiers on the frozen river making their way back and forth, so I started to venture out across the river by the footbridge. I was being cautious as I walked out and there didn't seem like there was anything to worry about until I got to the middle of the river – then the ice started to crack. Decision time, keep going and make it across or retrace my steps and go back to the same shore. There were still a lot of cross-country skiers on the ice but not where I was, in fact, there was no one where I was – my friends had waited at the shore not wanting to chance it. The only thought that crossed my mind was that the cross-country skiers might be in better shape than me because they were displacing their weight over a larger area of the ice than I was. So here I was in the middle of the Charles River, on the ice by myself, listening to ice crack. I was in the middle, so it seemed that if I kept going toward the opposite shore the ice would most likely get thicker once I got out of the middle and I would be safe. So, I asked myself what was it I was it I was trying to accomplish, which was to be able to say that I walked across the Charles River. The decision? Since I walked halfway out and I have to walk halfway back that would be good enough for me, two halves make a whole so, I safely retraced my steps to the shore and called it “The Day I walked across the Charles River”, the story I lived to tell another day
My delivery job was Thursday – Saturday. My knee was good enough to do the delivery. Now during the week after the Blizzard, you were not allowed drive anywhere unless you had a pass and because we delivered food we were given a couple of passes. So, during the week when all vehicles were to be off the road except for emergency vehicles, I had a pass to drive and drop off groceries. I also used the pass to get to and from work. North Cambridge was a great place to spend the Blizzard. We had a pretty good college-age population, lots of places to eat and drink (once they got their deliveries). We would walk down the middle of Mass Ave to get to our bars of choice, The Ground Round or the College Grille both on Mass Ave about halfway to Harvard Square. We would laugh with friends, listen to the Jukebox, play arcade-type video games or pinball machines and meet new people. Because everyone had something in common to talk about starting a conversation was quite easy. We met new people every night during that week when no one was supposed to be driving. Because I had the driving pass from my delivery job I would go home and get my 65 Mustang and give people rides (mostly girls) home. Most of those nights were spent giving rides, doing donuts in parking lots, avoiding any police that would get mad at me and find a place to park without getting towed. Good times!