Like a lot of folks, I had a hair-raising experience during the Blizzard of '78. Yet it melts in comparison to my most lasting recollection.

Okay, I'll start with the hair raising. At the time I was Managing Editor of the Boston Evening Globe. However, on the day of the storm, so few writers and editors were able to get to work in the afternoon and early evening that I helped get out the Morning Globe, then -- for some strange reason - decided to drive home to Topsfield in the dark of night while the blizzard was still raging. Most everyone else stayed at the plant and slept on desks and cots or trudged to a motel a mile away.

Figuring the major highways would be my best bet and figuring that I would be traveling when most everyone was either home or stuck in a snowbank, I left Dorchester, crossed the Central Artery and headed up Route 93. The drive was difficult but not impossible until I got onto Route 128. At that point the snow was so deep and so many cars were buried in 5-foot drifts along the inside and outside lanes, I had to maneuver along a narrow middle-lane path through a foot or two of snow. My car in effect was a plow.

There was one other problem. I couldn't see. The wind was blowing the snow sideways in front of me. It was a whiteout in the dark.

The only way I could be sure I wasn't driving into a meadow or into someone's back yard was by driving with my left-hand door open.  I held the door ajar with left hand, looking down as I went rather than up ahead in order to stay on course by following quickly-disappearing tire tracks, mostly from plow trucks. I steered with my right hand, virtually pulling my arm out of its shoulder socket. How did I get home? Surely The Good Lord was in the passenger seat. It took me 2 hours longer than normal.

When I got home, I tucked my car into the driveway just off the street.  

In the morning all but essential personnel were banned from driving, a condition that lasted for five days. I never liked the expression "power of the press" except for those few days, because I was able to get my car out and drive to the Globe without being contested every day. It wasn't a normal commute. Each morning at about 5 a.m. I would pull up at the Howard Johnson Motel in Dorchester and pick up as many news personnel as I could fit in the car, then drive them to the Globe. I shuttled back and forth till I got them all (about a dozen as I recall). But even then I wasn't finished.  

In driving down Morrissey Boulevard on each trip, I would see several men and women walking south, bundled from head to toe. I realized they were nurses and other medical personnel from Quincy Hospital, which was several miles down the road. So I would make a few shuttle trips in that direction, then returned to the Globe to put out the Evening Globe. The presses started at about 10 a.m. that week, as I recall.

    The hiss was now becoming a roar--the whole world was a vast moving screen of snow--but even now it said peace, it said remoteness, it said cold, it said sleep.
    From "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" by Conrad Aiken, 1932.

My most pleasant recollections, however, were of the editions we published those next several days. Instead of putting out a traditional newspaper, we decided to turn Page One into posters.  The Poster Page consisted of the Boston Evening Globe masthead, one or two blown up photographs and a piece of poetry from someone like Robert Frost (the first one we used).

Even though home delivery was out of the question, the trucks were able to get newspapers to stores around Greater Boston. As the expression goes, they sold like hotcakes. Every day our circulation was double what we normally had. It would have been triple had we been able to produce and distribute more copies. People hiked, sledded or skied to their nearest store.

Later I made a framed copy of each Page One. Unfortunately I gave away all but one to co-workers.

This was a visual story, a piece of history more than a traditional news story. It was a time when headlines weren't really needed. Everyone was a participant, everyone struggled through, and, despite the magnitude of the battle, New England came through it all, unbowed.

March 7, 2003

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