'Everyone pulled together': Suburbanites' memories of '67 blizzard tales of fun, fear

  • Lisa Rottenberg sits atop a snow pile that reached almost to the roof of her parents' home in the Lake Briarwood neighborhood, in what is now Mount Prospect, after the 1967 blizzard.

    Lisa Rottenberg sits atop a snow pile that reached almost to the roof of her parents' home in the Lake Briarwood neighborhood, in what is now Mount Prospect, after the 1967 blizzard. Courtesy of Lisa Rottenberg

  • Arlington Heights resident Connie Wayman, on the left in this family photo, shoveled snow with her younger sister Cathy after the 1967 blizzard that dumped 23 inches of snow on the Chicago area.

    Arlington Heights resident Connie Wayman, on the left in this family photo, shoveled snow with her younger sister Cathy after the 1967 blizzard that dumped 23 inches of snow on the Chicago area. Courtesy of Connie Wayman

  • Mary McArthur, now of Arlington Heights, recalls her mother using a Radio Flyer sled to fetch groceries from the grocer near their Winnetka home during the 1967 blizzard.

    Mary McArthur, now of Arlington Heights, recalls her mother using a Radio Flyer sled to fetch groceries from the grocer near their Winnetka home during the 1967 blizzard. Courtesy of Mary McArthur

  • The January 1967 blizzard made Chicago alleys like this one impassable.

    The January 1967 blizzard made Chicago alleys like this one impassable. Courtesy of Norma DePalma

  • After the snow stopped in January of 1967, Palatine resident Lynn Heinrichs (in the red, white and blue hat) and her siblings played in the snowdrift near her parents' Hinsdale home.

    After the snow stopped in January of 1967, Palatine resident Lynn Heinrichs (in the red, white and blue hat) and her siblings played in the snowdrift near her parents' Hinsdale home. Courtesy of Lynn Heinrichs

  • This 1967 photo shows workers clearing a Chicago street after the record-breaking January blizzard.

    This 1967 photo shows workers clearing a Chicago street after the record-breaking January blizzard. Courtesy of Norma DePalma

 
 
Updated 1/23/2022 8:58 AM

Suburbanites who weathered the region's record-breaking January 1967 snowstorm look back on sweet and somber memories.

Blizzard babies

 

• Alissa Frankel DePue was a 3-month-old orphan living at the Chicago Foundlings Home when her parents, Pearl and Howard Frankel, braved the 1967 blizzard to bring her home.

"I remain grateful," wrote the Palatine wife and mother of two sons. "They provided all I needed, which has held me in good stead to this day."

• When Diane Anderson's mother went into labor during the blizzard, a Hoffman Estates neighbor, Richie Labno, drove with her parents to St. Mary's Hospital in Chicago.

"When they finally got to the hospital, one of the nuns told my dad and Richie only one of them could stay for the birth," Anderson wrote in an email. "They looked at each other and said, with straight faces, they both had to be there because they didn't know who the father was. Of course, that was a joke."

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Her folks were so grateful, they named Richie and his wife Gloria godparents to her brother, Thomas Gizynski, born Jan. 29, 1967.

A shared experience

• When snow drifts prevented Lynn Seamann's family from leaving their Norridge home, a relative shoveled them out, passing the snow through the kitchen window to Seamann's father, who melted it in the sink.

The Pingree Grove resident shared in an email that the driver of a stranded milk truck gave milk and orange juice to Seamann's father and another man who distributed it to neighboring families.

Schaumburg resident Donna Wiora-Rizzo, left, and her sister Cindy, center, pose with their collie Sandy and friend Jackie Abrams outside their Morton Grove home. Neighbors pitched in to help each other during the 1967 blizzard.
Schaumburg resident Donna Wiora-Rizzo, left, and her sister Cindy, center, pose with their collie Sandy and friend Jackie Abrams outside their Morton Grove home. Neighbors pitched in to help each other during the 1967 blizzard. - Courtesy of Donna Wiora-Rizzo

• Some of Donna Wiora-Rizzo's most vivid memories from the 1967 blizzard have to do with the camaraderie her Morton Grove neighbors shared. While the dads shoveled and cleared snow off roofs, the kids built snowmen and had snowball fights that included parents.

"We had an amazing block. Everybody always pulled together," said the Schaumburg resident. "I think that's why us kids stayed so close. It sounds sappy, but we had the best neighbors."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• The residents of Robin Kaplan's Morton Grove cul-de-sac shared a single snowblower. The dads pulled sleds to the nearby grocery store to collect bread and milk.

"Our little block became closer than ever," she said. "To this day, we are all still in touch."

Strangers helping strangers

• Six-year-old Kathy Carter was about a quarter-mile from her Hazelcrest home when the bus driver stopped and told her and the other kids they would have to walk home from there. Dressed in her school uniform, without snow pants, she staggered through drifts up to her waist.

Hearing a voice from a doorway, she noticed a man with a Saint Bernard dog she recognized. He invited her in to warm up, and she accepted.

Struggling on, she heard someone yelling "you can do it." It was her mom's friend who was watching her sisters while her mom searched for her.

Carter learned a lesson that day, "I could probably do more than I expected I could do," she said.

• Debbie Geib was 10 on Jan. 26, 1967, when her father dropped her off at the Leyden Township church associated with her parochial school. Unaware that classes were canceled, Geib was stranded.

The bus driver, who also worked as a volunteer fireman, drove her to his house where she remained the next three or four days with him, his daughters, who attended her school, and his wife, who cooked for a steady stream of first responders.

Geib recalls being afraid, but "back then, you never questioned," she said. "You did what you were told."

• A man from the small town where Penny Vanderbeck Novy lived went from house to house asking people if they needed supplies. He returned driving a snowmobile with the items packed into a wagon trailing behind.

"My grandmother invited him for lunch where we fed both him and his young son," said the Buffalo Grove resident.

Fun and games

With her four children ages 2 to 7 in tow, Maureen Baldwin packed the family car with blankets, candles, water and shovels on Jan. 26, 1967, and made the perilous drive from her Mount Prospect home to the train station to collect her commuter husband, Ben.

With the windshield wipers unable to keep up, Baldwin drove holding the driver's door open to follow the road to the station. Handing the wheel over to Ben, the family made it home where the car wound up in the middle of the front lawn.

Ben Baldwin joined "an army of Dogwood Lane residents" who trudged down the street, shoveling driveways. About 15 men made their way to Euclid Avenue where they dug out stranded cars to allow snowplows through, he said.

The shoveling done, the kids used their sleds to slide off the garage roof onto the snow piles below.

"That was probably my husband's doing," recalled Maureen Baldwin, who now lives in Schaumburg with Ben. "He decided it would be safe."

• Tom Sanders, of Oakbrook Terrace, was a freshman at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest when the blizzard forced the school to close. He and his friends shoveled snow for River Forest and Oak Park residents. The first campus dance took place several days later.

"Somehow the student body made it happen," wrote Sanders, who recalled an "overwhelming smell of Bengay from guys with very sore muscles."

Dedicated folks

• After the snow stopped, Gary Mills strolled through his Chicago neighborhood using an abandoned ski pole as a walking stick. Hearing sound underfoot, he brushed away the snow to discover he was standing on the roof of a car.

His pharmacist father's thoughts were otherwise occupied. Concerned his elderly clients might need him, the dedicated dad flagged down a squad car which took him to his Hyde Park store, where he remained for three days.

Mills, a member of Buffalo Grove's Community Emergency Response Team, believes if a massive storm occurred today, people would respond selflessly as his father.

"I still think there are enough of us out there who would do the right thing," he said.

• It took former late-night WGN radio personality Steve King eight hours to make the normally 25-minute commute from his South Side home to the Hammond, Indiana, radio station where he worked in 1967. He arrived with fellow South Sider Larry Peterson and together spent the next 24-plus hours on the air.

"We broadcast information about what stores in the region were open, who needed help, where to get help and anything else that was needed to help that area survive the storm and get back up and running," King wrote in a blog post last year. "That was a radio baptism by fire and taught me just how important local radio is in times of emergency."

• In 1967, Kathy Goret's father was in charge of mobilizing the Chicago garbage trucks turned snowplows. After four days on the job, he returned home for dinner and fell asleep at the table, said Goret. Afterward, he went out again to help his crew.

Two months later, Goret's father died following a massive heart attack.

"Every year on Jan. 26, I think about the blizzard and how everyone pulled together to make it through the crisis," said the Arlington Heights grandmother, who compared the community response to post-Sept. 11 unity.

"Why does it have to take a tragedy before people come together and help one another? Why don't they come together all the time?"

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