Buffalo, New York is famous for the Blizzard of ’77, a huge January storm that practically shut down the city for several days. I remember how eerie it was to accompany my father to visit his hospital patients, driving through deserted streets as a result of the driving ban. Physicians visiting patients were exempt.
Although I was only ten years old, I was starting to develop a case of cabin fever, so I begged to go with him. Before we pulled out of the driveway, my father loaded the car with blankets and a box of Bit-o-Honey candy bars, just in case. It was by no means the first time that city was hit with nasty winter weather, though.
In the winter of 1975, a freak ice storm wrecked havoc on our community, damaging power lines and cutting off heat to thousands of homes. On our street, the odd numbered houses lost power while the even numbers stayed connected. It was not a good week to live at number 199.
The first night was the worst. Everything outside was in a deep freeze, and the temperature in our Depression-era house kept plunging. All winter long, our golden retriever Pucci slept on my bed protecting me from the chill of the uninsulated outside wall. With the power out, however, even Pucci’s heat couldn’t keep me warm. Not only did I have my Oma’s featherbed from Germany on top of my Hudson Bay blanket, I was wearing long underwear and a ski jacket, along with down mittens and a green and gold striped woolen cap to bed. Oh, and a nightgown and socks, three pairs to be exact. I looked something like a cross between a deranged Pippi Longstocking and a nine-year-old bag lady lost in the Arctic.
Somehow we got through the night, but the situation in the morning wasn’t much better. Cereal, milk, and fruit were fine for breakfast, but there was no power for cooking, and driving anywhere was out of the question.
My father made a fire in the living room, but it really didn’t give off that much heat, unless you were sitting practically on the hearth. I soon grew restless, and I imagine I drove my mother nuts. She made a quick call, then threw some things in a bag for me and took my mittened hand as we slipped and slid across the street and down the block to my classmate’s warm house. She left me there for three days, until our power was restored.
I guess my older brother handled the cold better, because he got to stay home with my parents, but at least I was warm. Still, I was relieved to finally go home and sleep in my own bed, minus my ridiculous ski attire