Snow day, blizzard of 1978

Snow, snow, snow. Surely this year will set some kind of record as the year of the weekly snow closing schools, emptying bread shelves and producing smiling snowmen perched on posts.
Reminds me of the Blizzard of 1978 that hit northern Indiana.

Even in that neck of the woods with snow plows and trucks designed to salt and sand the roads, everything shut down for a day or two after the wind whipped up huge mounds of snow and the clouds dumped so much snow that the snow plows could not keep the roads clear. We literally could not drive down the street until the city’s large payloader came in, scooped up huge mounds of snow and cleared a path. After it left my husband and sons had to dig out a path for the car to reach the road, but at least they did not have to shovel the entire street.

My husband and I recalled that winter as we converted photographic slides to digital pictures last month and saw pictures of our family bundled up in winter coats, mittens, scarves, boots and mufflers standing in a row with wall of snow behind us. For me it was the best of times. My husband could not get to work. The silent lumber yard kept him from starting yet another house remodeling project. The boys could not go to school. The snow prohibited the newspaper carrier from bringing the usual bundles of newspapers to our house to challenge the older boys to tackle the snowy streets on their paper route.

And, I did not have to go to the grocery store. I made our bread during those years and always kept a minimum of 25 pounds of flour and a huge can of yeast on hand. Our basement shelves held rows and rows of colorful jars of fruits, vegetables and jams that I had put-up the previous summer. With meat in the freezer and gallons of farm fresh milk in the refrigerator, we could hunker down and wait it out.

Only we never hunkered down to wait out anything. Not on your life.
We could not do what many did – we could not watch television. We did not own one; we had too many things to do – even when a blizzard kept us house bound.

We did the obvious: made popcorn, pulled out books to read, games to play and ingredients for baking and cooking. And the older boys, 14 and 11 did the unusual, they bundled up and spent the entire day outside building an igloo. Not a wall of a snow fort, but an actual igloo with a top that kept out the wind.

They made blocks, stacked them in increasingly smaller circles until they only had a small hole in the top – to let out the smoke from the cozy fire they built inside the fort. It took them all day long to gather the snow, mound it together and build it.

From the warmth of the kitchen I watched bemused. If I had told them to go out in that weather on their paper route they would have moaned and groaned, but with no mandate to bundle up and go out, they had spent all but meal times outside and immersed themselves into the snow drifts.
Once they finished, my husband snapped pictures of them wearing hooded winter coats and mittens sitting inside the igloo at a fire. They had conquered the elements and found warmth and shelter – and a whole lot of fun on a cold, snowy day at home.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at