Chicago Blizzard field recordings: January 1967 snow-in ; part 2
BROADCAST: May. 13, 1967 | DURATION: 00:32:33
Terkel discussing the snow-in in Chicago in January 1967. Interviewee talks about how the human interaction differs during a blizzard then on a clear day.
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Studs Terkel It is now Saturday morning, the sun is shining, it's the 28th. Oh, it's about almost noon, and in the neighborhood, a man with a broom and a paper bag, your thoughts during the past two days.
Swiss Man It reminded me very much of my home in Switzerland. All this deep snow and especially this morning the beautiful weather. I was very saddened yesterday, mostly, during the snow because of the astronauts. But I find no inconvenience, I just thought it was a pretty deep, a big city like Chicago being completely snowed under paralyzed just because of snow. Oddly enough, an absolute--I was standing on the corner of where I used to expect a bus on Thursday night, and a strange person stopped the car and gave me a lift for about ten blocks. Something that's never happened to me before, even in pouring rain. Everybody seemed to be much more concerned to each other than ever before, I think. And so much more attention, people wait for each other, let each other pass. They don't push. They even say "Hello" in the snow to each other, which you just pass them up otherwise.
Swiss Man I think it is pleasant. A little bit frightening, but pleasant. I think it's very beautiful to have lots of white snow for a change. Clean, white snow. It's the most beautiful thing that ever happened to Chicago. No, no traffic, there was just grand.
Teacher Yeah. That, you know, for a long time there was 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 a 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 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--
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.
Ex-New Yorker 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.
Ex-New Yorker Well, Chicago's 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 City [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 now, or was coming to town or something, you know, Mayor Daley. Yeah. I shouldn't have said that. [pause in recording]
Studs Terkel A few moments later I wandered into the supermarket on the corner, spoke to a veteran checkout lady, and spoke to the butcher, too, the head butcher and to a younger butcher. I spoke to a couple of men and a couple of women on the corner waiting for the bus. I also hopped onto a bus heading south back to the studio, and these, in a sense, are the sounds you'll hear in the background and some of the voices. [pause in recording]
Checkout Lady Very, very big volume they're buying. People were off from work, and had more time, and they thought that would give them an opportunity to buy up their groceries. They thought we might be closed, which we--on account of the bad weather.
Checkout Lady No, people were calm, and they were all enjoying it. They were enjoying each other's company and they were chatting along. And this, we're glad that they were able to be able to get their groceries. They thought that we might have been closed. It was--sort of fun to talk with people and find them so pleasant, and they were nicer than sometimes--no deliveries today. They were kinder to each other.
Younger Butcher It brings out their basic hoarding instinct. "I got it, and my neighbors don't." They drink a quart of milk a week and they'll take 5 gallons, just so they got it. They'll throw it out next week, though. [pause in recording]
Doctor's Mother Well, it seems like everybody's smiling and everybody's kind of, you know, likes to see the snow and all that, then they don't mind it so bad if they have things in the house [unintelligible] little children, and they have to, you know, be taken care of. They haven't got their proper milk or something. Otherwise, everybody's taking it in their stride, taking it as it comes. You've got to expect that this nature took care of this and nobody else done it. Very friendly, very, very friendly, everybody is very, very friendly. They help you, and I seen people fall, in fact I went deep down in one of those snow banks and they helped me out real nicely, it was very, very friendly, everybody, with the exception, you know, maybe some people are a little crabby about it, but then that's not the majority, it's the minority. Otherwise, everybody, stores, keepers, everybody. I'm just waiting for the bus now, and hope it'll come, get here soon and take me where I want and then get back in time cause I'm having my son's birthday tomorrow, and I'm calling for a cake.
Doctor's Mother Thank you. He's a wonderful boy, he's an M.D. and he does a lot of good work in this world. Takes care of a lot of people. And otherwise I wish you a lot of luck with your radio station. Where is it at? [pause in recording]
Studs Terkel I guess, generally, one of the heroes of the two days, the bus driver who's been one of the few men who has been carrying people forward. What are your observations been during the past two days when you're driving? People's attitude toward one
Bus Driver Good.
Bus Driver And this is not the worst storm we've had in Chicago. In 1930, March, we were tied up for three days. I was the only street car between Diversey and Howard on Western Avenue. I was to get relieved at twelve-thirty, and I got relieved the next day at twelve-thirty.
Woman #1 Yeah.
Woman #2 I haven't seen anybody but the few people at the store, everybody seemed to be fine. Except that I do feel that we haven't got enough equipment, I feel that the aldermen have not taken care of the wards properly, even in light snow, that we should have much--each ward should have their own equipment.
Woman #3 I [unintelligible], I found the people rather pleasant. I was stuck on a bus for about six hours needlessly, went to a dentist and not to work and everybody was in a very good humor. It was pathetic to see people standing that length of time, but on the whole, the attitude was a pleasant one. We're frightened by it, but you don't have the feeling that it's hopeless. I think you have some misgivings there, which you may not have expressed. I really felt that way.
Woman #4 I never saw it quite as bad as it was Thursday evening. I have a friend of mine who just come from the hospital, had a heart attack, and her husband is there and just had his voice box removed, so I was compelled to go to her house, I live on Central and went north to around Granville, and believe me I have never, last night, I went there Thursday and I go every day. But I knew I had to go and I didn't know how I was going to make it, because everything was slowed down to walk. Well, I got to Thorndale and Winthrop, and I swear to God I never saw anything like it. The cars and the people were really phenomenal at a time--really, they are. So, a man come up to me, he says to me, "You look as though you're going to fall," l said, "I will, if somebody don't hold me up," so he walked with me anyhow, and I swear I don't know how I got to Winthrop, and at GlenIake, and I swear to God that snow was so blinding, and walking north, but everybody really is wonderful at a time like this, really they are, they're unbelievable. You can't beat people, that's all there is to it, they're just great, that's all, in time of emergency, anyhow, it's more so. You know, we're all human beings and all that, but in a time of emergency people have time to stop and think about the other fella. Any other time they're too busy working and thinking of their own selves, you'll know. But when this comes, then they're great, they're just the best, that's all. In a week we'll forget all about this is happening, and the only thing is, when it starts melting it'll be a mess.
Man #6 I took a ride from the Board of Trade building the other night. Took about five and a half hours. But everybody was happy, and nobody got mad at each other, and everyone was kind, I thought. Usually they want their pound of flesh first.
Studs Terkel And, so, I left the bus, walked down North Avenue a bit, found myself at the Old Town School of Folk Music looking for my friend Win Stracke, and there was a young man in the school reflecting.
Young Man I thought the snow was a great equalizer. For instance, I saw Brooks McCormick yesterday on the subway, you know, that's beautiful. Here's the executive vice president of International Harvester having to go home the same way everybody else does. And for the first time in a long time during the day when one would think of it being rush hour, the Loop actually looked attractive covered with snow and the vehicles put in their place, and it's become a city for people.
Studs Terkel My friend Win Stracke and I are in a cab right now, and a marvelous cab driver named Joe Gallucci just got stuck in the middle of the snow, as we turned in, Win, it's somewhere on Clark Street.
Win Stracke Well, Clark near Burton, you know, he tried to make a U-turn, so he turned right into the, a snow bank by the Sandburg Village. So Joe got stuck, you know, tried to get out on her own power for a while, and then Studs and I decided we had to go out and push. So we get out in front of the cab to push it backwards into Clark Street, and who came along and helped us? No, well, I guess they were both Japanese, weren't
Studs Terkel Two young Japanese guys are walking by, there's an alien city, they're lost, and I made a gesture about "push," and they stopped by and they pushed, and two young couples came along, [one about to push?], too, and here we are back on the road.
Win Stracke The Sauk Trail, as it--yesterday morning at ten o'clock I saw a guy going south along this stretch on skis. I saw an article in the paper today. He was a photographer going down to the "Sun-Times", I think, and here he was, probably the first man in 150 years to go south on the old Sauk Trail, Old Green Bay Road, which is now called "Clark Street on Skis."
Studs Terkel I'm asking Win now, Joe, a question that I think terribly important for all of us, with this big snow, here we are in this, this is the area of the 43rd Ward, it's the middle of Chicago. Thoughts as we walked in the middle of the street, everybody did. This is now Saturday night. This is Saturday night.
Studs Terkel Yes,
Win Stracke We're passing the Museum of Natural History at Armitage and Clark. And there's a Dr. Beecher who's a director of the museum, and a couple of Christmases ago he came out with a Christmas card about a certain section in France where the drawings on caves have been discovered. And the essence of his sentiment on the Christmas card was that Cro-Magnon man walks the streets of Paris in a business suit as he did 20,000 years ago, 40,000 years ago. You know, the same swallows whose foliage (sic) and form hasn't changed in 100,000 years still fly over this site, and man is still basically the same. Man, his own emotions, his own feelings. And with a minor catastrophe like the snowstorm of the past few years, we discover man as he really is when he's devoid of all of the advances of technology. He refers to his inner self into the old brain, you know, where he acts and responds like a human being on the hunt. For acting collectively to protect his young, or to protect the young of the prehistoric village in which he lived. I think this is the whole secret of what has happened in the last two days of the big
Studs Terkel But Win, there's something else here. You know, there have been several books by Robert Ardrey, "Territorial Imperative" and "African Genesis", man basically animalistic, fighting for his turf, looks like--the implication is war will always be, we've seen exactly the opposite take place, haven't we?
Win Stracke Of course, of course. I mean war is a fairly recent development of man. I mean, I think I believe that man is basically a co-operative animal, and one of the reasons I feel that man goes to war is because he's like in World War II or World War I or even the Civil War, he was bored stiff with a civilian life. He wanted to get away from his wife and the kids because he was bored of the day-to-day necessity of making a living, and the day-to-day compromises that he has had to make. And now I think for the first time, we see a hope where man at the same time may realize his future state and also realize his primitive state where life is so wonderful and so sweet and so full of love and so full of joyous occupations that as Sandburg has said, and I've said after him, "One day they'll call a war and no one will come."
Studs Terkel Now, here we're opposite where several men were killed, men of one group as against another, and where violence and brutality and the midst of all this, just near the scene, a celebrated Chicago scene, of which the Chamber of Commerce is not proud. Nonetheless part of Chicago's history, Joe, you were saying what during the last two days?
Joe Gallucci Well, they were going to call an emergency, and the traffic is still bad. I think that the Kennedy Expressway, you can't get on until Irving Park, and people just seem friendlier because they haven't got nothing to do, they just got hours to wait before they get to their destination. So I think there's people having a good time even through all the, even though we had the worst snowstorm in the history of Chicago.
Win Stracke You know, it sort of fits in with my battery of World War II. It's a bunch of guys, about 170 in all. And we have a battery reunion every year. Most of the guys are from upstate New York, from New York City, Brooklyn, New Jersey. Obviously, this reun--this episode during World War II, we were overseas for 38 months, is the most important thing in these guys' lives. Now, you think why. Well, I have a feeling that just like this snowstorm, the differences of economic opportunity and social status were all obliterated. And you had a bunch of guys who had a common objective. We were supposed to shoot down enemy planes. We never got any, but anyway that was our function. But because we had a common objective, a certain kind of primitive camaraderie set in, you know, in which guys, I think, reverted to a sort of a primitive co-operative life. And you know, this is a wonderfully exciting basis of friendship. You know, where you're not worried about you're going to offend the boss, who you are going to, you're going to give the guy next to you some grounds for talking to the boss and having, getting fired. You know, this is the way life should be. And all of these very tenuous property relationships and stratification of social qualities and the economic qualities disappeared in the war as in a snowstorm, and we find out what little boys really are made of, and what women are made of, you know.
Studs Terkel At that moment we passed the triple corner of Clark, Diversey and Broadway, and there from the newsstands was the headline of the morning paper, "City Digs to Free Itself," and perhaps, irony of ironies, never has the city, and has the city and its inhabitants been as free as they have been during this past weekend.
Man #7 Here you are, you couple of goofs. People are shoveling snow, I shoveled and shoveled, trying to get my car out, and you are finding significance in this. You found significance in people getting stuck in the snow.
Studs Terkel Win!