News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Local Business Search
Stock Summary
Dow17079.57-42.44
Nasdaq4557.69-11.93
S&P 5001996.74-3.38
AEP53.320.17
Comcast54.52-0.04
GE26.01-0.12
ITT Exelis17.170.02
LNC54.66-0.16
Navistar37.83-0.17
Raytheon96.04-0.12
SDI23.14-0.35
Verizon49.41-0.02

Blizzard memories

Saturday, January 19, 2008 - 12:01 am

On the 30th anniversary of Fort Wayne's largest snowfall in recent history, The News-Sentinel asked our readers to share memories of the “Blizzard of 1978.” Here's what you had to say:

Too much snow, too much wind, too cold, no warning. Worrying about loved ones getting home from third-shift work, neighbors sharing what they had on hand and hiking to the store if needed, my husband helping shovel through a wall of snow across the end of the street days later. Driving out through a tunnel of snow higher than the car on each side and one-lane wide. Thanking God everyone made it home OK and the electricity didn't go out. - Sandy Nuttle, New Haven

• • •

A bartender and I (clerk/auditor) were the only employees for a packed hotel. For three days, I constantly posted long-distance calls while some hotel guests cooked and the bartender made a killing in tips. I could have gotten $100 for a deck of cards! I never wore those clothes I had on again. - Vinnie Nix, Fort Wayne

• • •

When the Blizzard of 1978 hit, we had no television and no telephone. In fact, we did not even know it was coming. My husband, our infant son and I slept peacefully all night as the snow fell. When we awoke, we could see that an unusually large snowfall had occurred. My husband opened our front door to take a better look. Imagine our shock as we saw the snow had drifted far above his height, leaving only a 1-foot crack of daylight below the top of the door frame. There was nothing to do but close the door and wait. We had not laid in any groceries or supplies, but our neighbor next door had managed to get a snowmobile ride to the grocery store. Even the grocery store was out of nearly everything; the truckers could not get through to deliver. Our neighbor was able to find us one fryer chicken that he passed to us through a window. A few days later, we climbed out onto the snow, my husband lifting me above his head and then the baby. Our little son could toddle easily, even though the snow had totally buried our car and fence posts from view. We sank to our hips with each step, but we still cleared any obstacles. It took us more than an hour, but we managed to get down the block to my father-in-law's home. That was a snow we will never forget. — Ben and Sandy Saylor, Woodburn

• • •

Hunkered down in the living room listening to the weather bulletins on WOWO, we watched Columbia Avenue become drifted shut with snow. The next morning, hardy souls were skiing down Columbia as others began the task of shoveling driveways and alleys. We backpacked for supplies to Redding's Grocery when they were able to open. Guarding the shoveled-out parking spots was a necessity. Our front-wheel drive car was a godsend. — Laurabelle Hibbets McCaffery, Fort Wayne

♦♦♦

The second afternoon, several residents met near our apartment building on Stardale Drive and decided to dig out. The fourth afternoon, after digging about 400 yards, we met a backhoe digging toward us from Paulding Road. It reminded me of the railroads meeting in Utah in 1869. We were free! - Bill and Patti Carlin, Streetsboro, Ohio

♦♦♦

My roommate and I worked third shift in pediatrics at St. Joseph Hospital. Her car was stuck in the driveway, so we took my VW to work that night. The next day I planned to go skiing, my first time ever, with a group from church. When it started to snow, we watched my VW gradually disappear under the snow as the night progressed. At the end of our shift, some of the day nurses were able to get in, but we had no choice anyway so we kept working. We stayed three days. I remember sleeping in one of the rooms, and when someone woke me, I went back to work. We went to the cafeteria to eat, but they didn't charge us because we didn't have any money left. We called our friend Lee (now my husband) because he had a four-wheel drive, but its clutch had just gone out, so he wasn't going anywhere either. Someone with a four-wheel drive was finally able to take us home, and I went back later to dig out my Bug. I never did get to go skiing. - Jeannette Cook,

Fort Wayne

• • •

It was during this blizzard that I met my husband. While student-teaching in the area, I lived with a couple whose grandson lived nearby. My car was snowed in up to the windows. Their grandson walked over and dug it out. We were married in December of 1978. - Barb Selking, Fort Worth, Texas

• • •

Four of us sat at the 11-mile marker on Interstate 69 through the night without heat in the car. After 20-plus hours, we were rescued by a driver of a front-end loader digging to us, followed by a captain of the Indiana State Police in a Bronco. They saved our lives because hypothermia was setting in. - Sherl Swarts, Fort Wayne

• • •

My (now) wife and I headed back to Indiana on Wednesday night after taking a class in Washington, D.C. Along with 40 other students on a chartered bus, we got stranded in Zanesville, Ohio, on Thursday morning and spent that night at the bus station, then spent Friday night in a nearby motel and Saturday night at the Columbus bus station. We finally made it back to Huntington on Sunday evening. - Russ Baker, Fort Wayne

• • •

I was a teenager living in Columbia City when the blizzard hit. We were caught unaware and needed a few items from the store to get through the blizzard, as did my father who lived in another part of town. Due to the state of emergency, the city only plowed north/south in the northern half of town and east/west in the southern half, where my dad lived. My two stepsisters and I had to crawl up and over 8-foot high drifts. We walked from a mile west of the courthouse to my dad's trailer to Kroger, a mile north of downtown, and back. Amazingly, we traversed the entire distance with only one broken egg.

The one most memorable sight I saw in the ensuing week of recovery was going by one of the snow drifts we passed on our trek that was at least 8 feet high with a man on top whittling it down with a snow blower! - Marcia Carver

• • •

I remember during the Blizzard of '78 that Channel 55 was a fairly new station. Since they were trapped at the station by the blizzard, they decided to stay on the air for the duration. I remember watching a young Happy the Hobo entertaining us as well as all those wonderful old musicals like “Anchors Aweigh” among many others. We enjoyed sitting in our warm home working on crafts and being blessed by the staff of Channel 55.

-Marcia Carver

• • •

There were 67 people who I cooked for in the (General Electric) cafeteria from Wednesday to Saturday. I sent the ladies to the dispensary to sleep in shifts, since that was the only area in the plant with beds. I was the last to leave on Saturday in a tow truck. - Billie Whitlow, foreman in Section 15 General Electric

• • •

I worked at Kmart West on Illinois Road, and we were doing inventory. I ended up staying one night with my daughter and son-in-law at Wildwood Apartments and two nights at Kmart before I could get back home on Carroll Road. - Betty Heck-Dennison, Fort Wayne

• • •

Root's Camp 'N Ski Haus' business was snow skiing, so we liked it when it snowed. Using my name and voice, we broadcast the skiing conditions over the WOWO radio station. If I was out of town, I would call our store, get the conditions, compile the report and do the report over the phone.

My wife, Luanne, and I were at the Astrodome in Houston for the National Sporting Goods Show. I called the store on Thursday at 3 p.m. as usual and all I got was a recording. I could not believe it. I called the WOWO newsroom to tell them I couldn't get a ski report from the store. The newsman laughed and said, “Jack, we don't need a ski report, we have a blizzard here and nobody is going anywhere.” That was the only day I missed giving my ski report. - Jack H. Root

• • •

I just remember the snow blowing. We lived on a farm and I would go upstairs, look out and not even see the road. The county plow could not get through and sent a Michigan loader. I missed about the whole month of February from school. - Rodney Delagrange

• • •

The Blizzard of 1978, I was a senior in high school at Huntington North. My family lived about six miles from town. We had a lane that felt like a quarter-mile. Whenever the power went out, my parents, David and Mitzi Mitchell, would nail canvas up to the kitchen doorway and then turn on the skelgas stove to give us at least one room heated. We kept our cars at the end of the lane because we would never get to the road if we didn't. Today's kids would freak if they knew we took water from the back of the toilet tank. Yes, we drank it! We listened to old transistor radios. And got a recipe for WOWO's beer bread. My brother, Kent Mitchell, kept telling our mom that he was going to walk to town (Yeah, right!). When our landlord, Dick Anderson, was finally able to plow us out with his tractor, we had the biggest snow pile to play in. I am now 47 years old and still love a good snowfall. (Beer bread is made with one can warm beer, 3 cups self-rising flour and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Mix and place in an ungreased glass pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes and then rub butter on top.) Mom, Dad and Dick are all in heaven now. No more blizzards for them. - Tamara S. Mitchell, Columbia City

• • •

My teenage brother and I finally managed to get the car out and headed straight to my addiction: Taco Bell tacos. After gobbling down my share, I asked my brother if he was ready to go in for more. He gave me a disgusted look and said, “You have hamburger in your hair.” - Missy Sprunger, Fort Wayne