I am lucky enough to be off today the coldest winter day since “05” in the Boston area. I think back to when I was a kid and loving every flake. It was wonderful coasting down Franklin Place in Revere even if the Rice Brothers who lived at the end of the run put ashes on their driveway. This was to prevent us from crashing into their garage. Actually I think they put them there because they did not like us as I don’t remember hitting the garage doors.
Who can remember before there was 4 wheel drive?
We all had rear wheel drive and mostly stick shift cars back then. Many of us gathered at the top of Walnut Avenue and Franklin Avenue. We were cheering those who could make the hill in the snow and getting behind the rest, to help push those who needed to be pushed.
Looking out my window and seeing Dexter Gruber shoveling out his father’s driveway no matter if there was 3 inches or 3 feet of snow. He just did it and better than anyone else could have.
The winter fire at the Lobster Cabin in Revere when I saw Revere Deputy Chief Eydenburg take a header on the ice and break his ankle. Then I heard my mother use the word “asshole” towards a neighbor who gave her a hard time about where she parked the car in the snow. Boy was I proud of her and never knew she could swear till then.
I had every type of sled there was except the kind that someone would pull to get me to the top of the run. In the 4th grade of school we had 4 ½ days off from a huge snow storm I could not see over the snow drifts. Roger Cohen and I built a snow fort in my backyard. The City had to hire bulldozers to clear the roadways. We never had a snow blower and I doubt they were even invented in the late 40s and 50s?
We had a long driveway and always hired someone to shovel it as I was either too lazy or my mother thought I was too weak, probably both.
At noontime when school was cancelled we would watch WBZ-TV and their storm coverage. A photographer would always have the shot looking through the windshield of their vehicle travelling behind a plow. Yes I have also made that shot many times.
I tried skiing for the first time in the early 70s. Bought everything that was needed except the skills to be able to do it. My first run was at Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire. I took the lift to the top of the easiest hill, got in position and tried skiing down. It was like I had glue on my skis. Pointing straight down the hill I did not move a foot. How was I to know you had to wax your skis before you use them?
There was a big storm in the late 60s and I had gone to a Bruins game. While I was travelling home, I could not get off Route One because the ramps were full of snow. Finally I went through Revere and got to the Malden-Revere line at the Salem Street exit and I was able to get off the highway. That was a good thing as traffic northbound on Route One came to a halt right there and the cars were trapped for hours. Back then there were just not enough plows to keep up.
Work is another issue. I started in 1966 and there was nothing more exciting than covering a snow storm. I don’t remember my first news storm but I remember going out there and everything you needed to see was right in front of you. You could not miss getting a good picture and not everyone had a camera or a cell phone with cameras or even cell phones. In those days you just had lots of dimes to call the office and real cameras.
At the newspaper photographer Carroll Myett would go to the Copley Plaza hotel in Copley Square every March. There were two lion statues at the entrance to the hotel and if it snowed he would title his shot of the lions “March Roared in Like a Lion.”
Blizzard of 78
There was the “Blizzard of 78” one of my biggest disappointments as a news photographer. I had had an emergency operation on my Achilles tendon in January and although I was using crutches I could not go out on the street to take pictures. I reported to the office everyday and just hung out.
With my right leg in a full cast I was able to drive after my friend and auto mechanic Alan “Doc” Kagan got a left foot gas peddle adapter from an auto parts catalog and rigged it up for me. I still don’t remember how I got my right leg into the front seat but there I was driving as needed.
On the day the storm began I left work early and went home to Roslindale, staring out the windows for several days and constantly calling the office with police and fire call updates for their coverage.
I did get out in the storm one of the nights as my friend and National Guard PR person Chip Hoar brought a National Guard truck to the bottom of my street and several National Guardsmen came to my door and had to drag me through the unplowed snow to their truck and we went out and covered the storm.
I had a portable scanner with me and we went to two fires, one in Dorchester one in Hull. There I was on crutches taking pictures with the National Guard guarding me.
Through the years the best stills and video came during storms that affected the Beachmont section of Revere. Before they put the pumping station up and better retaining walls. I could always count on people getting rescued and great photos.
No Name Storm of 1991
The best one for me was probably the No Name Storm of 1991 with the freezing cold and great photos as Police used bulldozers and ducks to get people out of their homes.
One of my better memories was when my friend Alan Gorin came by to see if I was there and we went to Dunkin Donuts for coffee. Alan died much too young, shortly after I saw him.
One time I was working with WCVB reporter Byron Pitts and we were in continuous coverage from Rougham’s Point in the Beachmont section and Byron was having a good time with me teasing me on the air about knowing so much about the area and reminding viewers I grew up near where we were.
The real good memories of winter and snow storms is when I took my girls sledding, ice skating and building snow people. If there was snow we were out in it.
Snow vs. 30 Pound TV Camera! PS the camera starts off at 22 pounds and gains weight like me during the day.
Now I dread the next storm and the thought of being out in it for hours. It is so had to maneuver through the snow banks and stay warm. I usual can so the former and fail on the later. Last week while covering the Revere murder on a cold winter’s day I was climbing down from a pile of snow when I started to take a header.
All I could think about was totaling another camera and I felt like a basketball player. On the way down I was able to twist my body like I was doing a dunk shot and gentle put the camera on the top of the pile.
Several years ago on route 95 in Peabody I was not as agile as I slipped, went up in the air and totaled a lens for about $12,000.00.
Not the last time I had issues with equipment and winter. Last year during the flooding I was trying to help a stranded motorist in Peabody. I had hip boots on and instead of putting my camera on dry land I put it on the windshield of the car to keep the camera safe.
I got into the driver’s seat to put the transmission in neutral so the car could be pushed. Who knew when I turned the ignition on to put the transmission in neutral the windshield wiper would push the camera off the windshield into several feet of water? Talk about a sick feeling.
This year has not been that bad yet but the potential is there. Wow am I glad to be off today!!!