Chicago Blizzard field recordings: January 1967 snow-in ; part 1
BROADCAST: May. 13, 1967 | DURATION: 00:30:43
Studs Terkel talks to people on the street about their observations during the blizzard that caused many people to be snowed-in. A veteran news vendor said the deliveries are slower, there are no cars or taxis around and that everyone who works downtown is staying in the hotels downtown. A young police officer said he witnessed more people giving others rides. One gentleman told Terkel that to him, it was as though everyone knew each other, and there were no strangers in a blizzard.
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Studs Terkel Yeah.
Minnesota Man [unintelligible].
Studs Terkel Okay. Your first reaction to the--Have you noticed a change in attitude [unintelligible]? [pause in recording] A lady behind a counter at a Loop hotel, perhaps her observations. What have you noticed during these last few day?
Studs Terkel What are your thoughts? I won't block you here. I'll get over here a second. I'll get my--these are thoughts, observations during these last two days, you know. What have you observed mostly? What hits you?
Studs Terkel Anything.
Woman #2 Nothing, particularly, it's just that the city seems so, you know, lost really. When you walk down the street, there is no one out, there's no cars, no buses, it's just--seems so desolate, you know.
Woman #2 Bad, really. It gives one a feeling of empty, you know, 'cause you're used to seeing a city so full of it, everything. You know, it's just to me, it's just empty. You know, it's just nothing.
Studs Terkel Day night and this Friday evening. What comes to your mind? First thought. About the snow? Yeah. Actually, I just came into town. It, you know, it's, you know, it's what you read and hear on, and see on TV, it's more paralyzing than I realize. But, you know, it's just snow. That's all. Have you sensed any difference in the behavior of people towards one another? I haven't been here long enough to tell, it's only been here about a couple of hours. So I really don't know. Your first impression is-- That things in bad shape around here. [pause in recording] What are your first thoughts during this, you know. This event. Your first thoughts. What are your observations during this snow-in? Oh, not too much. Do you notice people behaving differently toward one another or the same way-- [unintelligible]. In what way do Well, they're moving more clearly now. Yeah. And I'm from Minnesota myself, you know. St. Paul, you know. And we haven't got that much snow up here, you know. [pause During the snow-in, do you notice a difference during the snow-in? I notice. In what way? In what way? You want to know what way? I'm freezing. Okay. Your first reaction to the--Have you noticed a change in attitude [unintelligible]? [pause in recording] A lady behind a counter at a Loop hotel, perhaps her observations. What have you noticed during these last few day? Everybody is jumpy, jumpy, jumpy. Outside of that, it's everybody says the weather is lousy. But they are jumpy. But they're jumpy, but they're good-natured along with it. They're not panicked. Have you noticed--I'm sorry. Go ahead. That's okay, go right ahead. I'll ask your opinion in a moment. Have you noticed any basic difference in the attitude towards one another? People? Oh, no. People are people the world over, they'll be people whether there's snow or whether there isn't, they'll still be people. What are your thoughts? I won't block you here. I'll get over here a second. I'll get my--these are thoughts, observations during these last two days, you know. What have you observed mostly? What hits you? I really don't like it. Oh, you mean between people? Anything. Nothing, particularly, it's just that the city seems so, you know, lost really. When you walk down the street, there is no one out, there's no cars, no buses, it's just--seems so desolate, you know. It's good or bad? The no cars, no buses outside. Bad, really. It gives one a feeling of empty, you know, 'cause you're used to seeing a city so full of it, everything. You know, it's just to me, it's just empty. You know, it's just nothing. You noticed any difference in the attitudes of people towards one No, not particularly. You know, I mean, everybody's stuck, and what are you going to do about it? Not too much. You think friendlier or less or? For the city, no, neither way. No more friendly or no less, actually. I can say, you know, it's the same. Thank you. Okay. Now
Woman #3 No,
Woman #3 [unintelligible].
News Vendor Well, tell you the truth, I've seen plenty of it piled up. No transportation of no kind. And our deliveries slowed down. Of course. Nobody could--Loop hotels is all jammed capacity, no room to be gotten whatsoever. People that were working in the Loop or in the suburbs all stayed at the hotels downtown, there was no rooms available at no time.
News Vendor Yes, I did. They're running around like a bunch of nuts, you know, and looking for taxicabs. Looking for other transportation, there's nothing to be gotten whatsoever. Hanging around the corners inside the drugstores, inside the buildings where the doors are open, but no results.
Drugstore Manager My first impressions, chaos. Complete chaos. It's amazing. It's sort of different to see people walking down the street instead of seeing the automobiles. Other than that, I hope it's over very quickly.
Studs Terkel You know what we're talking about, it's the, that's okay, it's a little, even, don't worry about the language. What's your first impression during the big snow-in, have you noticed people behaving different towards one another?
Man #4 On the West Side, you know, in the--across the street, I see a lot of cars with a, many peoples have had problem with their cars. And I can't walk, this morning I can't walk because the snow is over, you know.
Drugstore Clerk #1 Well, it's quite a relief, really. I saw some of them stalled, parked way across the street. So people were trying to get across. Lots of people were walking in the streets. The few cars that were running, of course, would be honking, you know, to get us out of the way, but it's sort of a relief not to have all the heavy traffic.
Drugstore Clerk #2 Yeah. I noticed they more warm and more friendly towards people. They don't have, you don't meet a stranger now, everybody seem to know each other now. And everybody pulling together trying to find a way to go home. Everybody's conversation the same, how they going to get home. That's about it.
Man #5 Since [unintelligible] snow the other night? You mean this weather? Oh, I wouldn't [really?] express myself about this weather, because, [see, actually?] I been sitting up here since this morning, I've been sittin' around since 'bout eight o'clock, trying to move, but I can't get no place, you know.
Man #5 Some people look like they're mad at with one another because one of them get where they going quicker than what they can, something like that, you know, then I can take myself because then I feel the same sometimes. But any other opinion, I don't have any other opinion, you know. [unintelligible] But I'll be glad when I can get where I'm going, I know that much. [pause
Teacher Yeah. That, you know, for a long time nothing in the world that would ever make them stop. And there's a kind of inevitability about it, that they just keep on going, and it doesn't matter about people, and it doesn't matter about anything. Now, it wasn't the person that made this stop, but I'm glad to see that it was stoppable. I'm just glad to see that life was stoppable. Life in the sort of commercial sense was stoppable. And it's amazing what this does to your values. That is to say, the way you rank different things as valuable. Because the--the things that, I'm a teacher and ordinarily I rank as quite highly valuable being prepared to do my classes and being, having everything, having lectures polished and all this sort of thing. And when this happened, I just put down the books, just absolutely putting them down, and other--people became fantastically more valuable. There's a girl that I would like to be with, but I can't for a number of complicated reasons, and it just would be--I know before the event, I know without even being with her that communication would be ten times easier, it'd just be ten times easier, because there's--nothing else is gumming up the works. And it's just very, very wonderful to be able to stop.
Teacher Yes, it'll all start up again. And I suppose that what one does with an experience like this is, in a certain sense just salted away, and it's kind of a measuring stick against which, that you use in your struggle against ordinary life.
Teacher Yes. Yeah. I was--I wanted to walk up the Outer Drive, you know, just walk over there rather than drive up the damn thing. So I walked out, and I walked for, I don't know, four or five blocks, a long thing, a long stretch. I was walking back in and a cabbie came by and pulled up next to me and he said, "Come on, get in, I'll give you a free ride." And he said, he said to me, "What were you doing out there? Were you part of the work crew?" And I said "No," and I said, I told him that my car was stuck. The reason I told him my car was stuck is because ordinarily things like wanting to walk in the middle of the Outer Drive are things which I am ashamed ordinarily to admit to people, because they're by many standards kind of crazy things. So I didn't tell him that, I didn't admit to him what I was really doing. I told him my car was stuck, and he gave me a lift back into the Loop and said, "Well," I said, "Thank you very much for the ride," and he said, "Yes, everybody's got to have a soft corner now and then." Which was, which summed up the feeling. There's that and then there's the other thing. I went to a store this morning. And it was like the world was going to end. And people were just mobbed into the stores. As soon as they saw that the storm was not going to stop, this morning, they were, they just absolutely mobbed into the stores, and were very inhuman, as a matter of fact.
Teacher Yeah. Yeah. And what I mean by that is that the only things for which they had any concern were filling their own needs. That was the only thing towards they had concerns. And the result of this was a kind of impatience, a kind of smoldering impatience about getting that loaf of bread or getting the last cellophane bag of wieners that was in the showcase, and--
Police Sergeant Whatsoever.
Man #7 Well, I think people are, as a general rule, I think they're willing to help each other, probably a little more than usual. I've noticed the cars that are trying to get out, if somebody comes along they usually pitch in and push and help them get out. That's not always the case, but it certainly is now. That would be my--
Studs Terkel Well, this is obviously one of the heaviest we've had in years. Have you noticed, too, the reactions towards the less, less autos than usual because of the snow-in? What are your feelings about that?
Man #7 No, nothing other than just that. I notice cars that are stuck, if a couple of sailors come along, they'll pitch in and push, they seem to have a lot of fun doing it. Others are of the same disposition. [pause in recording]
Studs Terkel Sitting in a Loop, a very interesting cocktail lounge near the Loop, I'm talking to the man in charge, the bartender. The last two days have been very unusual. What's your first reaction to it?
Bartender First reaction, really? Well, the first reaction reminds you of when you were a kid. And the second, we should have it more often so we wouldn't complain so much about really bad weather if it isn't really bad.
Bartender Well, I lived on a farm with my grandmother. And I can remember the lane was usually always snowed in about six foot high, and we walked along the ridge of it, deep--up to our knees in it, and it just looked, you know, a lot of it looked the same way today, that's all.
Studs Terkel Dissension?
Bartender Oh yes, yes, I've seen quite a few helping each other getting their cars out on Foster Avenue and all those places. Saw one fella out there trying to dig his car out with a board today. Some other fella knocks at the window, motions over the window and shoves a shovel out to him.
Bartender We used to have to walk from the country into school into town. It was about three miles. So with all this snow, this reminded me of the same thing, instead of walking out the lane which was filled from side to side with snow, you had to walk on the ridge on top of it along the fencepost 'til you got down to the main road.
Bartender Well, me working on the inside, I couldn't say that I was out there long enough for it to really be unpleasant. A little tiresome walking about three blocks waist-deep in snow, but outside of that, it wasn't bad. [pause in recording]
Man #9 Well, it, the way I see it, that we were pretty lucky so far, you know. Getting it on the West Coast and getting into Mexico and East Coast, and sooner or later had to happen. And so far we've been pretty lucky, but this time it hit. And when it hit, it really hit, so.
Man #9 Oh yeah, yeah, you see a, you know, a lot of people around here, they figure, "Well, it couldn't happen to us," but it did, see. And everybody's cold, miserable and well, I don't know how to put it, but that's the way everything is.
Man #9 Well, in one way, I guess it gets a little closer together, you know, it's a, could get a little warm, I'll put it that way, you know. But outside of that, it's a, they're a little more, well, I wouldn't know how to say it, but you get them close together to stay warm. But if you're walking across the street, everybody's pushing away, you know, just to get where they want to go, and let it go at that, that's all. It's--see, it's not like New York. I come from New York, and it's kind of, what do you call it, it's kind of funny.
Man #9 Well, Chicago has been a great town. You know, since I've lived here, and everybody wants to go in a hurry here, see. Like in New York [unintelligible], you can always duck in the subway. Or you can do other things. Well, here, we've got to walk. You know, yak, yak, yak, and everybody say, "Well, get out of my way, I'll talk to you later. I want to get out of the cold." That's all. But I think as far as these guys here, the Sanitation Department is doing a terrific job. They really are. But the only place down here on Clark and Grand where I live at the St. Regis Hotel, you can't even get across the street. But down here they like, VIP or something, you know, or was coming to town or something, you know, Mayor Daley. Yeah. I shouldn't have said that. [pause in recording]
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Watchman I think everybody and everyone is, more or less, they cooperate in this weather. At least the neighborhoods. Every--all the neighbors and all the kids, they [always?] clean up the place. And also the surface lines, everyone is more or less cooperative. But this is a good thing to keep in mind is, is in case it happens again to be alert, to be prepared. We were caught short-handed.