Blizzard of 1952: No school!

By Terry Economy | Feb 06, 2012
Courtesy of: Astri Sleeper, Rockland Historical Society The great Blizzard of 1952 hit Rockland.

On Feb. 6, 1952, the National Weather Bureau issued the following weather statement: 'A huge snow storm is heading up the coast of New England with possible blizzard conditions accumulating 12 to 15 inches of snow.'

After hearing the warning I knew for sure there wasn't going to be school that day. I checked with my older brother, Christy Demetri, at our family store, Economy Fruit, to make sure the store would be well stocked for after the storm. On Feb. 7, during the late afternoon, the storm struck with fury along the coast of Maine.

On Feb. 8, I woke up at our family home on Prescott Street to see snow piled halfway up the stairs.Christy spent the night in the store so he could open up at 6 a.m. He had called Sadie Marcus, of Stonington Furniture Company, to borrow a cot so he could sleep at the store. "Sure enough, Toniki." Sadie's handyman showed up with a cot during the late afternoon. In the meantime, I knew we had a pair of snowshoes in our garage that I could use to get to the store.

By mid-morning the snow stopped. I put on snowshoes and headed down Prescott Street over to Orange Street and down Pleasant Street. All three roads had yet to be plowed. Upon reaching the end of Pleasant Street I came to the railroad station.

The 8 a.m. train to Portland had not left the station. I took my snowshoes off and entered the station only to see a few people waiting to board the train. My family friend, Meryin Harriman, who worked in the Railway Express car on the train, said the tracks were blocked with heavy snow drifts at Winslow Mills and the train was awaiting crews to clear the snow so it could progress to Portland.

After leaving the station, I noticed Union Street had been plowed. With my snowshoes under my arm and I headed to Economy Fruit. As the Knox Theater came into sight I looked at the marquee and saw on it "Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm", along with "From Dusk Till Dawn".

Christy had shoveled a path from the store entrance to Park Street. Across the street I noticed Sims lunch was open and filled with customers. Upon entering the store, Christy said, "Boy am I glad to see you."

The soda fountain was loaded with unwashed dishes and cups, so that was my first cleanup job. The pastry and bread racks were almost empty. Around 11 a.m., the Portland train to Rockland arrived with the Boston and New York papers. That meant patrons of the Narragansett Hotel could get their papers, and our regular customers could pick up theirs.

The island ferry service, as well of the Camden-Rockland-Thomaston busline, resumed afternoon services. Danny Dandaneau, manager of the Knox Theater, came to the store, announced he was going to have a afternoon matinee and wondered how many kids and adults would show up.

I said, once you turn your outside lights on, they will come. Sure enough, children and adults started to arrive for the 1:30 p.m. showing. Around 3 p.m., my good friend and store clerk John Brown arrived at the store and relieved Christy. He would work until 11 p.m. John became a mentor to me and our relationship was more like uncle and nephew. Around 3 p.m. my duties at the store had come to a end of the day. I left the store and headed toward Phil's Poolroom. I noticed that almost all of the merchants had shoveled snow from their entrance to the roadway.

As I expected, Phil's Poolroom was filled with customers playing pool and I met several of my friends. We gathered in one corner of the room when Rockland's Postmaster, James Conellan, entered and announced he was looking for four people to shovel the sidewalks around the post office. He would provide shovels, pay $1 an hour and guarantee four hours of work.

Three of my friends raised their arms to volunteer, but I shook my head. One friend said, "Terry, it's a chance to make four easy dollars."

Well, I went along and we marched down Main Street and up School Street, where we met by the post office foreman, who gave us directions on where to start and where to finish. After four hours of heavy work we were paid $4 each and headed back to Phil's, where we drank soda or chocolate milk, ate devil dogs, and polished it off with candy bars.

I called my mother from Phil's to ask her to forget supper for me because I had eaten at the store with Sim's lunch food, not daring to tell the truth. I got to the store at 8 p.m. and decided to hang around until the first show at the Knox Theater was over at 8:45 p.m. After a flurry of theater customers, I told John I was headed home when Fred Waltz, owner of Waltz Restaurant and Taxi Service, walked in and ordered a strawberry milkshake.

While sitting at the fountain he said, "Terry you look beat."

I explained what type of day I had. He said, "let me give you a ride home in my cab," and he did. Upon arriving at home, I went directly to bed and said to myself,  "Thankfully, there's no school tomorrow!"

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Feb 06, 2012 12:48
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