CHICAGO (CBS) — It was 50 years ago today that the biggest blizzard in Chicago brought the city to a standstill, as nearly 23 inches of snow buried the Windy City.
Gayle Schanel, who was almost 10 years old at the time, said she remembers noticing her father was home at the time, when he was always at work by then.
“We were getting ready for school. He said, ‘Nobody’s going to school,’ and I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘Look out the window.’ I looked out the window and I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Thousands of cars, buses, and people were stranded in the heavy snow, but kids had fun.
Schools cancelled classes for days as the city tried to return to some semblance of normalcy.
Kids made snow forts and jumped from windows and rooftops onto massive snow drifts, while parents worried about making sure their families had enough food.
“I just remember playing in the snow, and not having a care in the world,” Schanel said. “It was a blast. I mean, I just remember everybody helped everybody else. We finally found out who our neighbors were.”
Julia Maish also was almost 10 years old when the blizzard hit.
“It was crazy. I wish I still had some pictures of it, because there’s pictures that I remember we had of us standing in the street, and the drift from the plow was higher than our heads,” she said. “Every snow after it, we always measured up to that one.”
Jim Civik was a 20-year old DePaul University student at the time. He and some buddies had been planning to drive to Daytona Beach, Florida, in a 1954 Cadillac. Despite 23 inches of snow falling on Chicago during that storm, they made the drive as planned, while snow was still falling.
“We were determined to make this trip, so we all assembled at this guy’s house, and dug a path for this very, very large car from the front of his house to 87th Street,” he said.
Denise Power said she has a very distinct memory of the blizzard; standing on the sidewalk at age 5.
“I remember looking to the right and to the left, and just seeing a wall of snow, and really being comforted, truly, by it,” she said.
It wasn’t quite so comforting for her parents.
“It was definitely over my head, and I remember one of my parents panicked because I was not visible.”