Sunday, October 11, 2009

More Natural Disasters

On April 21, 1967, a twister hit Oak Lawn and nearby towns. According to WGN's website, "The storms resulted in 58 fatalities. The Oak Lawn twister continued across the Dan Ryan Expressway at the height of the evening rush hour, knocking a semi off an overpass, before proceeding out over Lake Michigan."

I don't have any memory of this. I was less than two. But I do remember my parents talking about this. We lived in Guidish Park mobile homes, across from the old Zayre on Harlem. If memory serves, the twister ended up ripping through a nearby trailer court, maybe where Chicago Ridge Mall is now? (I know it's no longer called Chicago Ridge Mall, but to me it will always be Chicago Ridge Mall, just as the Sears Tower will always be the Sears Tower.)

Amazingly, there's some footage of the twisters on YouTube. Here's one:

The closest I ever came to a twister was at a drive-in flea market, way south on Harlem (I believe), around Tinley Park. (I could be wrong about the specific location, so if anyone knows what I'm talking about, help me out here.) Anyway, my father and I were selling stuff at the flea market when we saw a twister heading toward us. It sounded like a freight train approaching very quickly. We got into my dad's truck and remained there until the twister had gone by. When we finally opened the truck's door, we saw that everyone's tables and most of the stuff they were selling had been blown all the way to the back chain-link fence of the drive-in. The twister had gone around us, but the wind was powerful enough to blow everything away. Also, there were dollar bills all up against the fence. And coins. Everywhere. Flea marketeers tended to keep money boxes next to their chairs, and these, too, had blown away. We retrieved what we could of our own stuff. I want to say this was late 1970s, but, again, my memory could be failing me here. I remember not being very afraid since I didn't know how much damage a twister could do. I guarantee you, I would be a hell of a lot more afraid today.

(Photo above courtesy of Paul Wrubel, which, in turn, is courtesy of the Oak Lawn Public Library.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Blizzard of Oz?

No, it was the Blizzard of '79. Remember it?

Where I live now, in North Carolina, schools are shut down at the hint of snow. I'm not kidding. Not actual snow. The whole city shuts down at actual snow. No, what I'm talking about is the likelihood of snow.

Which brings me to Chicago. January 13-14, 1979. I was thirteen and in the eighth grade. Our family was living in the condos near Reavis. Two things I remember: the difficulty of opening the doors to get outside, and all the cars in the parking lot entombed in snow. Everyone was out with a shovel, digging. Digging a path. Digging for their cars. Why, I wonder now. Did we go anywhere? Could we go anywhere? I don't remember.

Our faithful reader, Paul Wrubel, sent this photo. He writes, "If you walk 4 houses to the left, you'd be on Ford City Drive." I believe he's the one dangling upside-down.

What are your memories of the great blizzard? (I'm sure no one ever asked Michael Bilandic, Chicago's 49th mayor, this question. He pretty much lost his job because of the blizzard.)