Chesterton Tribune

Echoes of the Past: 1967 was the year of the Big Snow

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It came with very little warning. The Big Snow of 1967. Experts said it was not a blizzard because by definition a blizzard had to include stronger sustained winds. So we all learned to call it the Big Snow---the VERY BIG SNOW.

In the Tribune that week stories told that NIPSCO had announced that its atomic generating plant would be the first in Indiana, Liberty High School was presenting “The Sound of Music,” Westport area residents were discussing incorporation, local schools offered modern math for adults, Jackson High School was runner-up to Hebron in the Porter County basketball tourney, Bethlehem Steel said its five year expansion plan would cost $500 million, 8,542 Americans had died in Vietnam so far and there was concern about funds for the new Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in the national budget.

In the days leading up to the storm the weather was unseasonably warm with some temperatures in the 60s. Thursday, January 26, 1967 started as normal. Commuters took the South Shore with no thought of needing boots. Children went off to school. Stores opened and the Tribune staff began the normal routine of getting out a paper.

Snow started in the morning and accumulated fast enough that area schools closed at noon. The Tribune reported in that day’s paper that Indian Boundary Road had drifted shut by press time. And it kept right on snowing. Thursday’s paper was printed but most remained undelivered as roads became impassable. Friday morning a decision was made not to publish but to begin covering the storm.

By Monday the mills were running but schools were still closed. Stories told of people stranded in cars or spending nights in offices, schools and stores. Helicopters were used in some emergencies and pictures showed people using horse drawn sleighs, snow shoes, sleds and skis for transportation.

Trucks hauled away huge piles of snow from downtown Chesterton where parking meters were almost covered. Postponed events including at least one wedding began to be re-scheduled. Freezing rain hampered clean up efforts.

The Wednesday, February 1 issue of the Tribune told Good Samaritan stories of people helping people. Some rural roads were still being opened up. Street departments in the towns began to widen streets and open alleys. Schools made plans to reopen on Thursday but forecasts predicted more snow.

Liberty school reopened on Friday with good attendance. An ice storm caused other schools to remain closed and to announce that they would reopen on Monday, February 6 with some bus routes altered.

They did open Monday in spite of six more inches on snow on Sunday.

In the Wednesday, February 8 Tribune, Superintendent of Westchester Schools Dr. Karl Speckhard announced that students would not be required to make up for the time lost to the Big Snow.

Things were getting back to normal but high winds on February 15 damaged the roof of the new building for American Legion Post 170 on Wabash Ave.

It was Tuesday, February 21 before it was announced that the South Shore passenger schedule which had been curtailed since the Big Snow was back to normal.

To cap off the 1967 winter season the basketball sectional was scheduled to start at Goldsborough Gym on Thursday, February 23. The forecast was for occasional light snow with a high temperature of 26. A shuttle bus was to operate from the Junior High parking lot on Fifth Street to the gym.

The games were played as planned but a snow storm with strong winds hit the area during the evening. Fans and players were advised to stay in the gym as roads were blowing shut. The band Changing Tymes managed to get to the gym with their instruments and an impromptu dance entertained people. The snack bar stayed open and Barbara’s Pastry Shop sent breakfast rolls.

Custodians reported that the gym was finally cleared by 5 a.m. Buses from other schools made their way home with help from various officials. Similar things happened at other sectional sites in northern Indiana.

Local schools closed on Friday.

The sectional continued as scheduled with Valparaiso beating Chesterton 55-47 for the championship.

Weather did not interfere but the Saturday afternoon game between Valparaiso and Jackson was interrupted by a fire alarm.


Posted 2/17/2011