Snow Blower

A season of record snow accumulation in Worcester this winter has alumni, faculty and staff of a certain era recalling the Blizzard of '78, which blanketed campus and shut down everything but the fun.

By Suzanne Morrissey

RIGHT: When the Blizzard of 1978 put classes on ice, students passed the time socializing and playing in the massive snow piles all over campus. 

February marked the 35th anniversary of the blizzard that pummelled New England and New York, dumped up to three feet of snow, took dozens of lives and caused millions of dollars in damage. Worcester reported 20.2 inches of snow by the time the storm subsided Feb. 7, 1978, and at Holy Cross, the battering storm brought the campus to a standstill.  Charles A. Maccini, director of the physical plant at that time, described his department's massive snow removal effort to The Crusader, praising his crews and about 75 student shovelers who helped clear pathways across campus.

The College physician, Joseph DeMarco Jr., M.D., reported about 20 students had minor injuries in the days after the giant storm, mostly sprains caused by slips and falls. Some, however, were caused by dives into the huge snowbanks all over campus. Students, perhaps feeling a bit stir crazy after being snowbound, took to leaping out of windows into the white stuff.

Daniel A. Day '78, who now works as the director of news and editorial services at Princeton University, was an RA on Carlin 3. "Groups of us sat around watching Gov. Dukakis, in a crew neck sweater, give briefings on TV as the state assessed the damage," he recalls. "Traffic ground to a halt for a couple of days. Tom Ostronic, M.D., '78 and I walked up the ramp and onto Interstate 290. With no cars in sight, we took photos while standing in the middle of the road."

After hoofing it all the way to campus from her apartment near Clark University, Roseann Fitzgerald '78, now director of prospect research for Holy Cross, and her roommate arrived to find classes were cancelled. "We found the whole campus pretty much deserted, and I remember walking onto Fenwick 2 and meeting one of my English professors, John Mayer," Fitzgerald says. "He lived in Boston and stayed overnight in his office to avoid the storm. He looked at us with total incredulity and said, 'Don't you realize the governor has declared a state of emergency and the turnpike is closed?' We hadn't heard about this yet-this was 1978 and the main station in Worcester was Channel 27, on UHF." 

Once students knew that classes were not being held, the winter fun began. Snowball fights were inevitable, and residents of Alumni and Carlin still recall the battle royale between their halls.

Diane Medeiros Fisher '80 of Pittsburgh remembers taking trays from Kimball and using them as sleds. "No classes for days and nothing but fun! How lucky we were to be there then," she says.

In an effort to keep students occupied, administrators encouraged a snow sculpture competition among the residence halls. For Ruth Kaupp Hroncich '81 of Brookfield, Ill., talk of the blizzard brings to mind the Pete's Dragon snow sculpture in front of Beaven Hall and "hearing about broken thumbs from the trayers."

The storm brought out the entrepreneur in Lori Stasukelis '78, who now lives and works in San Francisco. "Anticipating the first part of the storm, I ran to Auburn, filled my little car with all the beer it and my wallet could handle," she recalls. "I sold beer to friends and neighbors until it was gone, and I had enough money to carry me for a good, long time."

Rev. Earle Markey, S.J., '53, who was an associate dean of students at the time of the big snow, remembers it well. "Togo Palazzi '54 was stuck in the Hart Center-his car was snowed in and could not be moved," Fr. Markey says. "So he was my guest for three days until his station wagon could be cleared and the roads made passable. He enjoyed the 'Jesuit hospitality' very much." A handful of marooned employees also took shelter with the Jesuits, enjoying a special feast that night with their hosts and the basketball great.   ■