Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Of Blizzards and Model Airplane Glue

February 5, 2008.

Thirty years ago today the Northeast was struck by the Great Bizzard of '78. I am a survivor of that storm. I had only been living in the Boston area for seven years at that time. I had already seen some of the winter storms that hit here in those seven years. The Hillbilly blood running through my veins had not adapted well to those previous ones either.

Had it been released two years earlier, a hit single written by Randy Bachman of Bachman-Turner Overdrive would have been apropos: You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet.

We had already received a foot of snow on the ground from the previous Friday, the 2nd. The fast moving storm was predicted to pass through the Boston area around late morning/early afternoon and deposit a dusting to an inch or two! No big deal for New Englanders!

I was dutifully working at my post at the trading desk on the floor of the Boston Stock Exchange that Monday. At that time, securities trading was dictated by and operated under the influence of the New York Stock Exchange. Trading began with their opening bell at 9am and continued to the final bell at 4:05pm.

As the meteorologists had predicted, it passed quickly through the Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York areas. Those metropolitan areas received about six inches of snow. Inexplicably, when that fast moving storm reached the central coastal areas of Massachussetts, it came to a screeching halt and idled for nine hours!

With New York virtually unaffected by the storm, trading of stocks and bonds was not interrupted. The NYSE remained open until its normal closing time. Thus, the Boston Stock Exchange remained open.

As it turned out, the 4:05 closing time didn't really matter. It was too late. The commuter trains and subways were paralyzed and shut down completely by 2pm. Anyone working in Boston, and anywhere in a circumference of nearly twenty miles in some areas, if they hadn't left work by 1pm, were not going to make it home that evening.

Those of us on that trading floor needed only look over at the 15-foot high windows to know that it was no ordinary snow storm out there. We were witnessing a blizzard of historic proportions, though we didn't know it at that time. It wasn't long, however, that reports starting coming in from news reports, phone calls from friends and family, and even notices on the NYSE ticker board just how bad the storm was.

By 3pm, all surface traffic in downtown Boston had ceased. There were no cars, buses or taxis on the streets. The streets were impassible for vehicles. News reports told us that even the Expressway and Turnpike were shut down and people were either stranded in their vehicles or were abandoning them altogether.

All available hotel rooms were filled two hours before the Stocket Market closed. Restaurants and bars, their staffs also stranded, made the best of it and remained open. Lord knows that in the Financial District there were hundreds of people in the Securities Industry unable to go home.

I've never been to an honest to goodness ghost town, but walking the abandoned and desolate streets of Boston that night, I feel confident that I learned what it would be like to be in one. The conditions were so bad that even the muggers and thieves had not ventured out that night.

Such is the life of brokers and traders and the back office people of the financial firms, that most of us found comfort in our perspective favorite watering holes. I was fortunate that my friends and fellow workers found a place where the owners had decided to close out the cash registers and to place everything in their kitchen and at the bar - on the house! I guess it was George and his partner's way of giving back something to all of us regular barflies who had been his bread and butter over the years.

It would be safe to say that the thirty or so of us who had taken up residence there that night, in the end, literally ate and drank his profits for a week in a space of about six hours. It's one thing to walk drunk out of a bar on a hot sultry evening and feel like you walked into a brick wall. It's quite another to stumble out almost legless into a winter wonderland of two feet of snow and sustained 40+ m.ph. winds.

Through our various work contacts, the thirty of us was disbursed into the city's financial district and found shelter in the offices of nearby brokerage firms. Some were lucky to find couches in executive offices or ladies room lounges. Some slept on floors, desks, or upright in office chairs. Some even managed to find intimate spots to be - intimate.

(Nine months later here in the Northeast, area hospitals reported a noticeable spike in the number of births the conceptions of which were traced back to the first week of February. I wonder why that was?)

It would be three days before many of us could get home. I was among those that were told not to go home, as we were considered important and our positions critical for the operations of our respective companies. The next two nights of being stranded in Boston were more bearable as our company put us up in hotels that by then had vacancies. The expense accounts and vouchers weren't hard to take either.
Although I have seen the following joke and variations of it on the Internet, it was also a joke that Bobby the cook of the barroom told us that first night while we ate and drank all of the place's supplies.
Fred and Mary got married but couldn't afford a honeymoon. So they go went to Fred's parents' home for their first night together.

In the morning, Johnny, Fred's little brother, gets up and has his breakfast. As he is going out the door to go to school, he asks his Mom if Fred and Mary were up yet.

She says, "No."

And Johnny asks, "Do you know what I think?"

His Mom replies, "I don't want to hear what you think. Just go to school."

Johnny comes home for lunch and asks his Mom, "Are Fred and Mary up yet?"

She says, "No, they're not."

Johnny says, "Do you know what I think?"

His Mom replies, "I don't care what you think. Eat your lunch and go back to school."

After school, Johnny comes home and asks his Mom, "Are Fred and Mary up yet?"

His Mom says, "No, they are not up."

He asks, "Do you know what I think?"

His Mom, finally exasperated, says, "Okay, tell me what you think."

He says, "Last night Fred came to my room for some Vaseline and I think I gave him my airplane glue."

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Liquid said...

Great post!

I am screaming, laughing at the ending humor.

Thanks! I needed a good laugh today.


Skunkfeathers said...

LMAO at the closer.

My memories of 'great blizzards' is replete widdem: 1962 (South Dakota) 1970 (Iowa) 1973, 1982 (the most infamous), 1983, 1987, 1991, 1998, and the second most infamous, 2003 (Colorado). This year, we've had spit for snow in and around where I live; in the SW mountains of Colorado, they've had enough snow this year to keep Califorlornia supplied with water for the next 10 years.

Badabing said...

Well, I know why that storm just stalled when it got to Boston...the @#$ damn traffic. ;-)

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I didn't know you were such a Big Shot! Wow! I love living close to the top....

Serena Joy said...

Oh, man, what a blizzard. I've seen very few blizzards and have luckily never been stranded.

Love the parting shot.:)

Blue said...

Great story! I remember some decent snows, but none of them quite like that.

Jack K. said...

We got several inches of snow the night of Feb 5.

The next morning I was awakened by a benevolent neighbor who is always looking for an opportunity to use his snow blower.

His price? A glass of nice wine. Or was it a nice glass of wine? Time will tell. lol

I can accommodate him.

Keep warm and dry.

Mushy said...

Loved the history, but the joke was hilarious!

Hale McKay said...

Liquid, Skunk, Serena, and Mushy:

That closing joke was kind of gripping, wasn't it?

Hale McKay said...


WERE - is the operative word.

Hale McKay said...


Our worst storms pale in comparison to the storms of those places you mentioned.

Hale McKay said...


Our worst storms pale in comparison to the storms of those places you mentioned.