Swanzey, New Hampshire

I was the opportunistic type and would pull cars out of snow banks near my apartment in Mansfield, Mass., which was conveniently near both 495 and Route 95. I'd get whatever the market would bear, which was sometimes pretty good, for extra money. $40 was a lot of gas in 1978. I did all this with a 1974 International Scout, which was the real predecessor to the 4x4 SUV. It was like a little tank since it was really marketed to those already buying farm equipment from International. Farmer needs a vehicle for hauling bags of grain during the week and fishing on the weekends was the apparent market. I got it used since I'd owned a couple of MGBs and a 1955 Ford flatbed truck, none of which were particularly good in the snow. I just got sick of getting stuck. I carried chains, a nylon tow rope, gloves, a good flashlight, and sometimes a change of pants for crawling around in the ditch under a car. The Scout could pull out most anything.

WPRO's commemorative bumper sticker, 1978
Radio station WPRO issued "I survived! with 63 WPRO" bumper stickers to commemorate the storm. This one was spotted on the basement wall of a Rhode Island home in 2022. (July 23, 2022).

That night the storm didn't seem all that bad and I headed out with my young wife and three year old. Sometimes after a big 'haul' we'd go to the DQ for a snack before calling it a night, so having them on board wasn't unusual. On Route 95 I found a guy broken down and in much distress about getting to his mother's house in Providence with his 'computers,' whatever those were. Oh, I'd heard of them but they meant nothing to me, but he eagerly offered $50 if I'd drive him to Providence. We put his mystery machines in the back of the Scout and headed off, sure we'd be back home in a couple hours at the most. We didn't see home for two days. We got stuck on 95 north off Route 126 somewhere. I could still move alright but all the other cars made it tough. There was another truck, a Ford F250 that was well set up, and he and I moved cars out of our way for most of the night to get a few feet distance. The wind was blowing so hard and the sleet stuck to everything that night. I had the heater on full blast, but it barely melted the ice off my face when I got back into the Scout from playing Chinese checkers with the other vehicles. We advanced up to Smithfield Avenue after almost three hours. The last move was a tractor trailer with an empty box that we pulled enough out of the way to get to the off ramp. At the top of the ramp was a ProJo delivery truck almost tipped over. We went up 126 to Route 1 and found a McDonalds open taking people in but not serving food. We spent the night there, not sleeping much and watching transformers blow up in the night and that awful wind knocking things around. The next morning they served breakfast, and since it looked relatively safe at McDonalds, I left my family and headed out on some reconnaissance to find a way out of the city.

I was able to move some on the roads and found a gas station where I was stopped by Providence's finest and told to either volunteer or get off the road. They paid for my gas and my new gig was now getting doctors, nurses, milk, and bread up the hill to Miriam Hospital. I did this all day and into the night, stopping in at the McDonalds occasionally where my wife was going quite batty. I took her and our son with me up to the hospital and continued making runs. I got cornered by a nurse or EMT or someone, and they subsequently kidnapped me to a warm room where I could shower and get into scrubs (no johnnies please!). I'd been wet so long I had dishpan body and a wild look with no sleep. Housekeeping washed and dried my clothes, and I worked through that Tuesday night delivering whatever was needed. One guy got his legs crushed between two cars and needed transport. Someone else had carbon monoxide poisoning, but a jeep took them up that hill. The city paid for my gas, and when I had a full tank I bid adieu to head up Route 1 to Mansfield and another four days of 'volunteering' in my home town. I had many more adventures there for another blog.

All in all a very memorable time, and I truly feel God Blessed we didn't have a much worse time of it.

Received via email, February 5, 2014.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 20:41