Storms

We had a yard of it

 ... The great blizzard in Franklin

by John Averell

I suppose my experiences during the great blizzard of '78 were pretty similar to many others. At the time I was living in Franklin, Mass with my first wife and two daughters. My son was away at college. I was working at Polaroid in the Polavision project (soon to go down in history as one of the greater business fiascos.)

That day, February 6, 1978, I was in Norwood at the film manufacturing plant, in my capacity as quality engineer using computer controlled microscopy diagnostics. We all knew a storm was coming, and fortunately the boss sent us home at noon, before things got really bad. I had a tough drive, but it was only about ten miles, not involving major highways. I pulled into the driveway at my home on Lincoln Street in Franklin after lunch, and never moved again for at least a week!

By next day, we had a yard of snow, a full 36 inches, in Franklin. The worst of the snow belt came through Worcester, south-east more or less through Franklin, and onto Attleboro where the snowfall was deepest of all. The drifts were of course much higher, five to seven feet many places. In the lower left of this picture, taken out of the front door, you can barely see the top of the car buried in snow. That day we lost our power. We had a nice fireplace in the living room, so we could huddle around and not freeze. Eating was a chore; electric stoves were out of course. Again, fortunately, we regained our power in about eight hours, unlike some towns that were out for days. It was kind of fun cooking hot dogs and marshmallows in the fireplace.

The picture at the left shows the snowbank at the entrance to our driveway. My daughter is standing at the left where the mailbox should be sticking up.



By the following day (2/8), the town plows had managed to clear Lincoln Street, which was a major road. We could plod out over the yard of snow to the street and walk to town. Some used skis to get around. It was a glorious old-timey feeling -- neighbors got together, everyone said "Hi" in the streets. We pulled a sled to town to "shop", picking up a few necessities. School was out, of course, and the governor declared that no unnecessary vehicles be on the road, for at least three days. Gangs of teenagers used the time to solicit shovelling jobs. I gave up my usual macho pride and hired them to shovel my driveway. It was way too much for one person, particularly a not very athletic computer nerd.

Life went on this way for nearly a week. Our family played card games and board games a lot more than we ever had. TV eased the boredom, of course. Neighbors helped neighbors. It was strange not to visit anyone we couldn't walk to.

Soon enough life got back to normal. If we had the widespread computer and internet technology then that we have now, I guess the isolation would not have been so striking.

Franklin was the hometown of Horace Mann, the founder of the public school system. Just a few hundred yards down Lincoln Street from our house was the "Red Brick School", built in 1833 and reputed1 to be the oldest one room school in America in continual operation. The last picture was taken on Feb. 9, showing the school embedded in snow.





1 "Odyssey in the Wilderness, The History of the Town of Franklin" by James C. Johnston Jr. (1978) Wayside Press, Medway, Mass, page 62.


March 7, 2003






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