“This was a time when everyone pitched in to help each other…”
On January 27th, 1967, an electrical fire killed three Apollo astronauts on a launch platform in Cape Kennedy, at the very height of both the Space Race and the Cold War. The tragedy knocked the wind out of America. But folks in northern Illinois and Indiana had other things on their minds—how to dig their homes, cars, and streets out from under six feet of snow.
While the Apollo 1 accident did top our front pages, the story seemed an afterthought in Chicagoland newspapers. The BIG SNOW dominated.
I was born over a decade after the BIG SNOW, yet I feel like I (almost) lived through it. I have read and sorted through literally hundreds of stories from Indiana’s Lake and Porter Counties (aka, da Region) to the stretch of eastern Chicagoland. Those who were adults in ’67 recall it with fear and eventual relief. Kids from ’67 usually chalk it up as one of the greatest times of their lives (I wonder if the electronic-addicted kids today would?).
I’m not going to walk you through the history of the storm, since a hundred articles have done it a hundred times already. Instead, I want to share some of the many stories I’ve collected from our website’s social media, just as they were sent to me.
60 lives were lost during the 1967 Chicago Blizzard, which is tragic, but it’s remarkable to see how this disaster crippled the Region AND united it at the same. Neighbors helped neighbors. Strangers sheltered strangers. In the divisive times of today, it’s helpful to see that sometimes—not always but sometimes—the worst can bring out the best.
*I only made edits for readability.
“This was a time when everyone pitched in to help each other. I stayed at my sister’s for a couple days while my Mom was stuck downtown and my Dad had to stay with his CTA bus. Shopkeepers and restaurants gave him food and coffee and blankets to help him stay warm. All of the kids helped shovel out our neighbors’ cars and sidewalks and alleys. Walking to the HIP was a real eye opener for us.”
“My friends and I had the day off school for some reason. We were going to go downtown. Bus to Logan Square, then subway, El, subway to State street. It took me something like a half hour to walk from our house on Berwyn Ave. to my buddies house on Summerdale a short block away. We decided not to go downtown (good idea) and walked to Community Discount instead. We pushed a few cars that had gotten stuck. Then we went over to Holiday Bowl.
We climbed up that curved beam at the entrance and got up on the roof over the pool room. We jumped off the roof into the snow. I remember getting snow jammed up my nose. As we headed home, we skitched on the back of a bus on Harlem Avenue. I remember a bus that was stranded at the end of the line on Foster at Canfield. I remember my sister going to pick up her boyfriend in her ’63 Corvette I don’t remember if she accomplished that task.”
“I remember well. School closed. But the High School was open for business. I had a meeting there for college prep or something. I was in a suit. I was in my parents Fiat 500. I was driving home to Fifth Street. I saw my friends Bill Meyer and Charles White walking with their snow shovels. I asked them to get in with shovels out the window. We went to do some drift busting. Loved to ram through drifts with that tiny car
We were north of town out by the cemetery. We hit a drift and jumped onto it. I was stuck. The jumped out and started digging. Suddenly coming from the West was a plow. A huge blade in the front of a grader. They jumped up onto snow piled on the side of the road. The plow came whomp. I was buried.”
“My sister got married that weekend! My dad ended up in the hospital – my grandfather who was a hour away tried his best to get to the wedding but was unable. My dad’s boss gave the bride away. And of course the caters cancelled. Lots of food was somehow prepared in many kitchens for the reception. And the worst thing was that my mom made me wear just my slip under my coat to the church so my velvet dress didn’t get wet in the snow!”
“My brother built a snow maze under the snow in the back yard. He about killed me when I got lost sliding around under there and poked my head through the snow to see where I was! Dad was an air traffic controller and got stranded at work in Aurora for a few days.”
“Lived in Miller, only 6 at the time. I almost made it back home but a gal 2 houses from the apartment dragged me in and dried my snowsuit. I headed home after that and my folks were freaked out. My sister spent the night at school and somebody brought her home the next night. Dad didn’t make it home for a couple of days.”
“It was a Friday, I was 9 years old and at home from school with the “croup”! My Grandma was watching me and my Mom, who was a school teacher at Nobel Elementary and my Dad, who was a boss at USS, Gary Works, both, barely made it home. We sent all of our milk and boxed gelatin, up the street, to my best friend’s house, because she had an infant brother and all the stores had bare shelves by then. As a kid, who cares?!!? Even sick, I was out playing, building snow forts and sledding. Oh, for a time machine!!!”
“We lived on the south side.the trip is 20 minutes away.it took us four and a half hours to get home! Missed a week of college.professors the presidents wife etc met us at the greyhound bus stop and drove us to the dorms. My dad was parked in a one hour space under the Wrigley building for three weeks. no tickets, no where to park the car at home. He took the train downtown!what a mess!”
“I got stuck in a snow drift upside down, by jumping head first off the roof of our house! I had to get dug out by my pops. Then after I got in the house, my pops heated up my rear end real good. Needless to say, I never did that stunt again.”
“Snow drift went from our roof across the street to the neighbor’s roof. We walked in the drift to find the cars. Had a blast playing in the snow. Opened the garage door & it was a solid wall of snow.”