Friday Essay – Big Blizzard 1977

blizzar1One of the biggest blizzards to hit the eastern part of North America in the 20th century blew in the winter before I turned five.  In January 1977 a massive blizzard hit southern Ontario, Ohio and New York state.  All I really remember of this is the snack I had a daycare, going home early and that my great-aunt and my mom’s friend from work had a sleepover at our place. I remember the snack because I remember most of the ice cream I’ve had especially when it was a daycare snack.  I don’t know how many of you went to daycare but I went to one of those daycares that served a lot of healthy stuff so having ice cream for snack was pretty memorable.  I don’t recall being afraid or of any of the daycare workers saying anything about a big storm.  I expect they were trying to keep us little ones from getting scared.  The ice cream may have been part of the scheme to keep us from freaking out.  I remember being surprised that my dad came so early to get us, but I was glad he arrived after the ice cream.  My brother must have been there, too but I don’t recall (sorry).  I went to daycare at the local university where my dad was studying and my mom worked, two of my aunts worked at the library there.  My mom’s sister-in-law must have gotten home with my uncle, but we brought my great-aunt home with us.  We also collected a colleague of my mom’s when we got her.  That’s pretty much all I remember about that day, but I remember it because people were talking about the big blizzard.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me that this had been a particularly big bad blizzard until a few years ago when my daughter asked me about a bad blizzard in Ontario in 1977.  I said there was a blizzard I remembered and she told me about the album ‘Crisis’ by Alexisonfire which had a lot album art related to the blizzard of 1977 and the title track was about that blizzard. I figured it must have been a much bigger storm than I recalled if a popular Canadian band had dedicated an entire album to it.  So, when I started really looking into it I discovered that the blizzard of 1977 is on record as one of the biggest storms the Great Lakes area has seen in a century.  However, where I lived – London, Ontario – the blizzard didn’t as hard as it did towns closer to Lake Erie – so, I don’t recall being trapped in my house or super crazy snow banks (I was five all the snowbanks seemed high).

I find memories fascinating.  What I remember of the biggest blizzard of the decade is that I had ice cream for snack and got to go home early.  What others remember is that the army was called in to clear the roads or that they were trapped in their homes. This blizzard had such an impact on at least a few individuals that they wrote a song about it and dedicated an album to it. I am particularly interested in narrative and storytelling.  I am interested in how people and cultures frame important  and mundane events.  In the voice of her main character, Kinsey Millhone, Sue Grafton captured my sentiments perfectly:

“There’s something inherent in human nature that has us constructing narratives to explain a world that is otherwise chaotic and opaque.”

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I find the idea of narrative powerful.  I wouldn’t be a writer and historian if I didn’t.

Be Lovely to Each Other,