It was a bright and blustery blizzard. Although it has been widely reported over the years that most people were caught off guard by the storm and thus were ill-prepared to withstand it, I remember things differently.
There were reports in the Boston media that a storm was brewing, and after all, it was February in New England. How bad could it be? We were used to rough winters.
This storm would prove itself to be a far cry from your ordinary Nor’easter though. I can still clearly hear my mother’s voice saying “I’m off to Brooks Market to stock up on essentials. This is going to be a bad one; I can feel it in my bones.”
Now those of you who remember my mother, Barbara Liscomb, may also recall that for several years she worked at Danvers’ first licensed psychic reader. That career was still years in the future from 1978, but I suspect that her arthritis was advanced enough that she literally did feel the coming weather system in her bones.
At the time, however, being a 14- going on 30-year-old, I knew it all and was sure she was over-dramatizing the situation and ignored her warning. Had I paid full attention, I would have been certain to remind her to stock up on soda and snacks.
Knowing Mom though, I suspect that she probably came home with jugs of spring water, canned goods, peanut butter crackers, candles and matches, and flashlight batteries, along with cat food and litter and toilet paper.
The images most people remember are of the cars stranded on Route 128 and of the National Guard vehicles out and about, a seldom seen vision in itself. The snow continued to fly and snow drifts rose like fluffy white mountains appearing in random arrangements that caused Danvers to look as if it were an alien planet set down slightly askew. It was beautiful.
The winds were ferocious and it was either a brave soul or a fool who ventured forth during the peak of the storm, but when the fury was over, many a Danversite stepped forth (provided they could open their snow-covered doors), and blinked in awe as their eyes adjusted to the glare.
Slowly, smiles appeared on our faces as we watched through the windows and saw people glide on by our Hobart Street home on cross-country skis, snowshoes and sleds. My folks and I chose to remain insiders looking out and I did not venture to dip so much as a toe into the waist-high accumulation.
Governor Michael S. Dukakis had ordered cars off the roads, but that was a rather moot point because cars couldn’t have moved through the deep snow if drivers had tried. Feet were the main mode of transportation, or if you were young and light enough, you were pulled along by your siblings or parents on a sled.
In my mind’s eye, I can still picture the succession of folks moving toward Danvers Square. Perhaps the Corner Store might be open; or The Paper Store where they could possibly get a Boston newspaper.
Surely, if they could make it down to High Street, they might have found Dunkin’ Donuts open and offering hot coffee. Or, knowing the business ethics of the Brooks family, even Brooks Market might have been open. Provided that my mother hadn’t cleaned them out of stock before the storm hit!
So you see, I do not know whether these intrepid snowshoe walkers, cross country skiers or sled pullers and passengers ever did find any businesses open in the aftermath of the Blizzard of '78. My parents and I were tucked snuggly inside our house with enough books to read (I always had an ample supply), canned goods, peanut butter crackers, candles, flashlights, batteries and toilet paper to last us until spring.