|SIDE STORY– The Blizzard of '78
By February of 1978 Lorry and I were living in our loft at Blue Door Studio downtown on Bromfield Street. The building in the North End where I had been a super in exchange for an apartment had been sold so I was out of a job. Now I was devoting all my time to song-writing, promoting Tracks and getting "Brakes On You" out into the world. Lorry was still self-employed as a housekeeper and was our sole source of income other than the meager bucks we were getting from gigs and record sales.
The Boston winters had always been harsh. During the height of the season it wasn't unusual to get a snow storm on a weekly basis. Having to dig your car out and deal with snow or ice covered roads had become routine. So, as we had our coffee on the early morning of February 6th the radio announcement of yet another storm heading our way hardly registered. Lorry wasn't about to give up a day's pay to save herself the hassle of driving out to the northwestern suburbs and back in snow. Besides she was working her favorite and most profitable gig that day with Mrs. G. Mr. G. had been kind enough to sell Lorry one of his late-model company cars for $1 just so Lorry could have dependable transport out there. Lorry was a great driver (I had taught her) and had a solid car so neither of us were concerned.
|Tracks...the Wild Ones|
|Route 128 - Over 3,500 vehicles were stranded along the highway, but Lorry Doll managed to make it back to Blue Door Studio
Photo: Boston Globe
|She thawed herself out in front of the electric heater and told me of her adventure as I boiled up some soup on a hotplate. Where she got the skill and determination to survive that whole horrendous trip is still beyond me.
The only roads they were even attempting to clear at this point were main arteries for fire trucks and ambulances. All other traffic in the city was prohibitted with the threat of arrest for any motorist foolish enough to venture out. And still it snowed. All through the day and that night. The power went off and on a few times, and every couple hours we had to go downstairs and shovel out the doorway, the only way in or out of the building. There were lots of commecial businesses on Bromfield Street. A bunch of taverns, pawn shops, fast food joints and other stores. They were all dark and deserted. The snow had now drifted so high that the cars on the side street were only discernable by the tips of their radio antenaes. Except for the howling wind, the heart of Boston's business section was eerily silent. And still it snowed.
When it all ended, the sun shown brightly and the amount of snow was unbelievable. I guess the official tally was somewhere below three feet, but looking at it, I would have guessed closer to six with drifts up to ten or twelve feet. So we were stranded at Blue Door. It was kind of fun being alone and not having to deal with work or anyone else. We quickly found ways to entertain ourselves.
But a couple days later, we had run out of food and drink, had little cash on hand and the roads were still closed down for the foreseeable future. The above ground transit system was of course useless. It was time to go foraging. We found a bank off of Washington Street that the state had forced to open, saw other people for the first time in days, cashed a check and found out that S.S. Pierce on Tremont Street was the only food store in the area that was open. We made our way down there. It was a scene out of a disaster movie. There were lots of shoppers but not much left on the shelves. They couldn't get deliveries and had long ago run out of bread, eggs, milk, vegatables and the only fresh meat had turned green from the power being out. We grabbed what we could carry back: a package of hot dogs, some canned food, Cokes and for medicinal purposes a bottle of Bicardi from their (thankfully open) liquor section.
|That only held us for a few more days and Boston was still closed down. Plus it had gotten cold in the studio. The heat was never good at the best of times. The building wasn't a legal dwelling so its manager never bothered to send anyone in to keep the furnace fired up, or it had simply run out of fuel. We had a small electric heater for our living section of the loft, but it didn't help all that much so the rum turned out to be a good source of temporary warmth, as did each other. So out we went into the snow again. There were only three or four shoppers in Pierce now. And the place was filled with the aroma of the decaying meat which still hadn't been thrown out. We looked at the shelves and saw only some baking goods. Salt, flour, sugar, spices. No cans of anything left except maybe pickled onions and olives. There was Coke and Pepsi. No cereals or canned vegatables. Neither soups nor snacks. No ice cream, frozen dinners or candy bars. Light bulbs aplenty. Plus twine and bug spray. Soaps and shampoo. Just nothing to eat. Then Lorry discovered two boxes of Duncan Hines cherry chip cake mix hidden behind a big bag of Gold Medal flour. We also found a container of Betty Crocker chocalate frosting. We grabbed those, some Cokes and another bottle of Bicardi.
We didn't have a stove in the loft, but Lorry figured out a way to bake up a batch of hot cupcakes in our toaster oven. They tasted devine. And along with another batch or two, they managed to sustain us for the next few days as Boston slowly began to open up again. Thereafter, every time we had a party at the studio, chocolate-frosted, cherry chip cupcakes were served.
|The Boston Globe - 10,000 people were housed in public shelters, hundreds of shore homes damaged and 54 lives lost|
|Off Lorry went and I busied myself with answering mail orders and correspondence. When I had my mid-morning cup I switched the radio back on to reports of school and airport closings and the seriousness of the developing blizzard. The windows at Blue Door had been blocked off for soundproofing so I took a run downstairs to have a look. Yeah, it was snowing all right. Big old snowflakes whirling around in the wind and sticking to the ground. A few inches had already accumulated and it had that look of indeed being serious. I thought about calling Lorry to have her head back early, but our only phone source, The Gay Community News office across the hall, wasn't open. That was unusual. The dykes who ran the place were a hearty bunch who had seemed to love coping with especially nasty weather. I climbed upstairs. Kris Kreitman, a painter I had gone to the Art Institue with, wasn't in. Neither was Don Shambroom, who did murals of industrial vehicles. They both lived in their studios, but apparently had known more about this storm than I did, and had found other places to stay. Up I continued to the top floor looking for Peter Sunderland, a burly hippie/biker lawyer. He was gone, too. The building was deserted. I found a shovel in a maintenance closet, went back downstairs and cleared out the snow that had drifted into the entranceway and was partially blocking the door. It looked like another couple inches had already stuck to the ground.
As I turned on the TV and nervously watched report after report of stranded motorists, Lorry's employer had urged her to start the twenty-five mile trek back to Boston. The highway was unplowed and visability down to twenty feet or so, but Lorry maintained steady, if slow, progress down the road. All along the way, she saw one car after another that had skidded off the highway and were impossibly stuck in drifts or simply abandoned. She slowed it down some more and steadily trudged ahead. By the time Lorry reached the outskirts of Boston almost two hours later, snow was visciously scrapping against the car's undercarriage and the ice encrusted wipers were just barely able to etch out a small forward view. The snow covered side and back windows had long failed to provide any other clue of what was happening outside and she couldn't chance stopping to clear them off. Lorry spotted a road off the highway that had been cleared at some point and slowly plowed her way through Boston to the parking garage under the Commons. She got a hot coffee at a vending machine there, then bundled herself up and headed out on foot. It was still snowing harder than ever. Stumbling through the long blocks of drifts and piercing wind like a snow-blind, crazed Artic explorer she made it to Blue Door. Boy was I happy to see her.