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An Historical Look at the 1966 Blizzard through the Eyes of a Kid

The Blizzard of ’66: A Kid’s Dream Come True

Eileen Sienkiewicz

Essay

An Historic Look Back to the 1966 Blizzard through the Eyes of a Kid
The Blizzard of 1966 slammed into Central New York, dumping more than eight feet of snow in one continuous storm. For children who grew up praying for snow days, it was a kid’s dream come true, when the everyday world became a literal winter wonderland, in this essay by Eileen Sienkiewicz.

There are pivotal events in every life that, regardless of your age at the time, you remember as if they happened yesterday. I can recall exactly where I was when President Kennedy was shot, when Elvis and the Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan Show, and when the astronauts landed on the moon.

And I remember the Blizzard of ’66.

To understand how momentous that event was from a kid’s perspective, let me explain that snow is a way of life during the winter months in Central New York. My hometown area around Syracuse, New York, is one of the snowiest parts of the United States. Bands of lake-effect snow come off Lake Ontario, usually dumping huge amounts on the Tug Hill Plateau, where the land rises to meet the Adirondack Mountains. Or, if those lake-effect bands swing south, the snow dumps on the cities of Oswego, Fulton and then Syracuse. On average, Syracuse receives 104 inches of snow each season (thankfully, not all at once).Growing up in Central New York, we cherished every snow day as a holiday, just for us. (I’m sure our parents felt differently.) Every kid listened to the radio on snowy winter mornings, hoping and praying there would be no school. Thanks to the blizzard of 1966, when schools were closed for two days in a row, it was like hitting the jackpot.

An Historical Look at the 1966 Blizzard through the Eyes of a Kid

Our family lived on a dead-end street, which made a great hill for sledding, except there weren’t enough Flexible Flyers to go around. We’d steal the covers off our mother’s two-tub washer (the kind with the wringer in the middle) and use them as sleds to fly down the street. It was so fun—until we got caught. Sometimes we flattened old cardboard boxes to slide downhill. In true desperation and to appease (and show off to) all the kids who loved to come to our house to play, my brothers took the hood off an old pickup truck. They tied a sturdy rope to the hood latch, then about twelve of us grabbed onto that rope, flipped that heavy hood over like a turtle on its back, and lugged it all the way up our hill. Twelve little kids, and this leviathan hood!

We labored to get it to the top. The higher up we started our run, we reasoned, the faster our makeshift sled would go down the hill. When we reached the top, all the kids piled onto the hood. We hadn’t figured out how to steer the thing, so we just spun like a pinwheel in circles all the way down, with kids flying off in every direction. By the time it got halfway to the bottom of the street, our “sled” was spinning with no passengers aboard. It took twelve of us to lug that thing back to the top so we could ride it down the hill again.

After hours of fun, our skin was red and our mittens were popsicles. When we finally came inside, we clustered stools around the heat register in the middle of the kitchen floor and hung our mittens and scarves on the rungs to dry while we sipped the hot chocolate Mom made to help us thaw out.

Blizzard of 66 | Oswego-County, New York State

But nothing in our dreams of snow and snow days could compare with the Blizzard of ’66. The snow started on January 27 and never let up until January 31. The local newspaper called it the “Storm of the Century.” Oswego, New York recorded 103 inches of snow (more than 8.5 feet) in that one, continuous storm. Winds were recorded at 58 miles an hour, drifting the snow to the roofs of houses in our neighborhood.

The Blizzard of ’66 – The Storm of the Century

Our dead-end street was impassable. Cars were buried under the snow in driveways—not even their outlines visible. The snow piled so high, we jumped off the roof of our house into the drifts. To a kid, that was like being Superman.

The combination of record-breaking snow and childhood imagination combined into something truly special. The world became ours in a very real and unique way because everything else stopped. It was pure and untouched, like the snow itself.

After being cooped up inside for three days (and, frankly, driving our mother a little crazy), we decided to dig tunnels to check on our elderly neighbors. Like little moles, we dug to Mr. and Mrs. Boos’ house at the top of the hill. They thought we were so sweet to stop by and make sure they were okay. We received the same response from the rest of our neighbors as we headed back down the hill to home. (Our neighborliness turned out to be an excellent way to tire out six children with energy to spare.)

It took highway workers more than three days after the snow stopped to dig out our street. They used big machines that cleared only one lane and then moved on to other neighborhoods. For the first time in days, we heard traffic.

Every year, about this time, the local newspapers, weather websites, and social media run articles about the infamous Blizzard of ’66 and ask people for their memories. The consensus of the many of the comments I have read is, for those of us who experienced it, the event was unforgettable regardless of one’s age at the time.

Here I am, 54 years later, still marveling at the way that storm socked the Syracuse, New York area, shutting everything down. Truthfully, as nostalgic as I feel about the Blizzard of ’66, I have no desire to experience a winter storm of that proportion again. Yet, I am glad it is part of my memories of childhood and our family. Beyond the meteorological records set during that blizzard, our experiences of innocence and ingenuity, of reveling in all that snow, make it truly memorable. For us kids, that blizzard was a dream come true: one blessed snow day after the other, and our street turned into a winter wonderland.

 

Truthfully, as nostalgic as I feel about the Blizzard of ’66, I have no desire to experience a winter storm of that proportion again. | Essay bu Eileen Sienkiewicz

Eileen Sienkiewicz grew up west of Syracuse, New York. Today, she and her husband, Ron, live in Camillus, New York, and enjoy traveling. She works as a financial advisor in the Syracuse area.

SEE MORE PHOTOS AND MEMORIES ABOUT THE BLIZZARD OF ’66

Image Credit/Historical Reference: Oswego County Today

You may also like the essay: “From Out of the Storm” at Faith Hope & Fiction.

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Ferris Johnson

Thank you for this great piece of nostalgia! Us kids had a great time together and the frozen streets were filled with moms and dads who made sure we played safe. People were not the only ones affected. One brief scare came when I lost my German Shepherd in all the snow. We found her, though. The tip of her tail stuck up from the shoveled sidewalks just enough to keep an eye on her.

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