The Blizzard of ‘78, 45 years ago

Feb. 2023.

As I write this note, here in Down East Maine, I am looking out the window watching the snow drift across my deck, the wind is  a-blowing-like-hell !  But, why shouldn’t it be?  It’s Maine, and it’s Feb.
Enjoy my previous posted blog of my  venture from Dedham to Marshfield  on the 7th, 8 th. & 9th. of Feb, 1978!

   45  years ago, that was almost  half my life ago!  I’m having my morning coffee and a freshly made blueberry muffin and watching snow being blown across my deck,  reminded me of my  three day journey home after  that blizzard.  I have done a bit of revision to a few photos and some text.

I am jumping ahead of “the kid from Seaview” in the 40s & 50s, to a 44 year old man from Seaview. I was teaching in Fitchburg, Ma., on February 6th, 1978, I was up at 5:00 to leave Seaview about 6:00 for the 90-mile journey.

Monday morning off I went, with a slight falling of snow, arriving at school at 7:55, just in time for class. I kept an eye on the much faster and heavier snow falling. School was called off at noon. I called my wife to get the latest news; she said, “It’s getting bad.” I had a room in Ashburnham, but decided to head back home,

East on Route 2 was plowed, however, slow. It took two hours to get to Route 128 – usually about 30 minutes. Approaching 128, I had to make a decision to continue on Route 2 or 128. Route 128 looked clear, so down I went. As I approached the Mass Pike, I entertained the idea of heading toward Boston.

Unbeknownst to me, at 6pm, Route 128 was at a complete jam in Canton. I did not have a radio in my truck to monitor the storm or traffic. It was stop and go for about a mile, then stop and no more go! I could see the railroad bridge in Westwood.

14 died from carbon dioxide poisoning.

After about an hour, people were walking past me. I stopped one and asked where everyone was going. That person was going to seek refuge in the St. Bartholomew Church, not far away. He told me that Route 128 was jammed solid. Not being a church going person, I opted to stay in my truck.

It was quite cold and the wind wouldn’t stop howling! A few more cold souls passed by about 10PM. I was quite aware that exhaust fumes entering the cab could do me in! I cleared the snow away from the exhaust a few times. I had my suitcase with me for my week of extra clothes, and the two sheets I would have used on my bed in Ashburnham. I usually had some leftovers and sandwich making stuff, however I left that back in the shop refrigerator. I cracked open the wing windows and the back slider for a fresh flow of air. I turned the heat to full hot and high fan, wrapped up in the sheets, and dozed off. When the heat got so hot I woke, turned the truck off, and dozed until I was cold. That went on for nearly six hours.

The sound of sirens awoke me at about 6:30 am. Two State Police cruisers were broadcasting that a bus was coming to transport any of us left. This was happening on the cleared northbound lane, now being used for both north and southbound traffic.

I was stuck within sight of this bridge in Westwood!

About 20 of us abandoned our vehicles, climbed over the guardrails, and boarded the bus. More were picked up as we traveled along. We ended up at the National Guard Armory in Dedham. They let us use their phone to call our loved ones. My wife and two kids were fine as well as Reggie, our dog. They had plenty of wood for heat and cooking.

After I contacted my wife, the guardsmen fed us onion soup for breakfast! There were four of us at the table trying to decide what to do. One local suggested  a small restaurant close by that we ended up having a lunch in, they had gas fired grills and a limited menu,  cash only!

Two of the group were from Quincy, one from Norwood, and me, from Marshfield. The two from Quincy left us. My new-found friend said he would walk home to Norwood and asked if I wanted to come along. I did.

Oh my god, what was I in for? Down Route 1, un-plowed! We were walking on a snowmobile trail with just the roofs of cars showing! As we passed Lechmere’s, the snow had drifted so high it covered the entire entrance!

We continued until we came to a Chinese restaurant, and turned right up a hill that was barely plowed. It was dusk. When we arrived at my friend’s house, the entrance was completely covered in snow!

Our shovel was a board. It took about 30 minutes to get through the door with quite frozen hands. My friend’s wife made us dinner, we did some chatting, then off to the sofa for a some well-needed sleep. The next morning: a nice breakfast, a thank you, and a farewell.

I hiked south on Route 1. Some plowing had been done to Route 27 — that was my way home. I got a ride on the running board of a wrecker into Stoughton, another ride in the back of a pickup through Brockton, and finally another ride on the step of a grader into Rockland. I headed east on Route 123 and got a ride to 3A & 123.

As I got to Neal Gate Street in Greenbush, a friend picked me up and dropped me off at my front door! Wednesday, Feb. 8th about 2pm — two and half days. Not too bad!

My wife had the deck and back steps cleared. Up I went, opened the back door and hollered, “I’m home!” My wife said that she had a feeling I’d be home that afternoon. Hugs and kisses for the wife, the kids, and the dog, in that order.

Now my wife says, “Let’s take a walk down to Fourth Cliff to see the damage!” Oh well, why not? My legs were still in motion from hiking from Norwood.

looking for the pavement on Central Ave.

Heavy Equipment Operator Ned Dubois operating a big Cat.

A week later I obtained a permit to recover my truck. I found it in the northbound lane. The National Guard had cut openings in the guardrails and dragged all of the vehicles into the northbound lane.

The next week was spent freeing the vehicles.

All was well, except all my clothing in the suitcase was gone! I suppose a Guardsman was grateful for the dry clothes!

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.” – Vesta M. Kelly

by Ray Freden Seaview/Marshfield


I later learned a friend from Needham,that had tickets to Boston’s traditional “Bean Pot ” hockey game’s at the Boston Gardens.
There was no way he could take the Tee or drive into Boston.
His neighbor had a snowmobile, Believe it or not they snowmobiled through the storm Feb. 6th, and  into Boston to the Gardens for the semi finals game between  Harvard , (4) & Northeastern,(3) .  Jack relayed to me, “the only things moving were snow machines!”

6 Replies to “The Blizzard of ‘78, 45 years ago”

  1. Oh my gosh….what a tale…you are actually the first person I've personally known who was on 128 during the storm…I remember it so well…I loved every second of it..we were one of the few who had 4 wheel drive in those days. my dad and I did a lot of rescues in humarock…..driving to get what groceries we could for was really something….never to be forgotten by those who were there..I was 23….just a pup!!

  2. I never knew this about you, Ray! Quite a tale. We lived in Hull for that storm. We lived on a little spit on the river that was high enough to be safe and far enough from the ocean that we didn’t get washed away. We were under curfew for months! Had to give our ID to National Guardsmen on the bridge before they’d let us in. After a while, most of them knew us so we just got waved in.

  3. Thanks for reminding me of that day and week Ray. The trees were still low enough that we could see Humarock clearly and watch the waves pour over the houses on the beach; nobody had generators in those days; just fireplaces and lots of wood. Thanks again. Barbara T.

  4. we lived up in Rexham & had 4 kids then. We went down on the beach- pulled & secured traps, picked up lobsters, clams, etc. walked the seawall pulling a sled to take food over to my Mom in Brant Rock. No power for a week, BUT we had a woodstove, so we cooked on it for the week, sharing with neighbors & my Mom. Our neighbor was a psyche nurse who worked in Boston. She used snow shows, to get to her M I L in Hingham & stayed there for a few days, till the National GUard allowed her husband 7 mine to drive up & bring her home for a bit. So many houses destroyed along Brant Rock, Humarock etc. have pics of the house in the middle of the river .

  5. Remember it very well. I was the Dupity fire chief for MFD an all Med sextet a Job well done an all departments worked very well together

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