“The week Chicago will never forget.” That was the headline in the Feb. 3, 1967, issue of the New World — the first issue after the Blizzard of 1967. The blizzard began Jan. 26 and continued nonstop through Jan. 27, dumping 23 inches of snow over the city. It was the largest single snowfall in Chicago’s history.
As we look back through our history in anticipation of this newspaper’s 125th anniversary in September, I went into our library and pulled out the bound copies of our issues from 1967 to see how we covered this momentous snowfall. I was not disappointed.
Sprinkled throughout the 20-page issue were stories covering the storm from the angles of parishes, Catholic Charities and hospitals. (The newspaper was 22 inches by 15 inches. Much larger than our present size, indeed. The circulation was 400,000.)
Reporter Mary Claire Gart covered the impact on parishes and Sunday Mass attendance, since the storm hit on a Thursday and Friday.
“There was a remarkable turnout at all of the Masses,” said Msgr. Joseph Kush, pastor of St. Barbara Church in Brookfield. “Many of the parishioners had to walk over a mile since no public transportation was in operation.”
That was the case at many parishes with parishioners managing to get to Mass on Sunday morning — possibly praying for the snow to go away only to find that it was snowing again when they came out of Mass, Gart reported.
Talks by Father Andrew Greeley and then-Father Edward Egan had to be rescheduled. Greeley later became noted for his novels and Egan became a cardinal in New York City.
Students in Catholic schools loved having the Friday off because of the snow but couples with weddings scheduled for that weekend weren’t as happy. Many lost deposits on reception halls when the storm forced them to reschedule their ceremonies.
Writer Patricia Britt wrote about the impact of the storm on the many Catholic hospitals in the area.
The evening of Jan. 26, nurses and one physician from Columbus Hospital, formerly located at 2520 N. Lakeview Ave., now the location of a luxury high rise, “hurried through the snowdrifts to deliver a baby being born in a car on the Outer Drive.”
The father, medical student Charles Clark, rushed on foot through the snow to the hospital after he and his wife, Ellen, spent four hours in the car trying to reach nearby St. Joseph Hospital. The baby, a 7-pound, 14-ounce boy, came into the world healthy and happy.
At Alexian Brothers Hospital on the North Side, religious brothers on break from college took over kitchen duties when staff couldn’t make it in. “The aspirants cooked food for 200 patients, 100 students and 50 brothers. Two of them drove a tractor up Fullerton Avenue to get bread and milk,” Britt reported.
At Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, staff and neighbors formed a “bucket brigade” to transfer much-needed milk to the hospital after a milk truck got stuck in the snow. They passed 32 cases of milk along a human chain from the truck to the hospital.
When staff at St. Joseph Hospital in Lincoln Park couldn’t make it in to work, the hospital posted fliers in neighboring high rises asking for volunteers to help care for the patients. Two hundred people responded.
Catholic Charities also reacted to the storm, quickly calling parishes in poorer neighborhoods assuring them that any expenses incurred because of the storm would be covered by the agency. They also marshalled some unconventional troops to help clear the snow, as Barbara Kubicz reported.
“On Skid Row, the paralyzing fluff came as a blessing to some of the men in the streets. ‘We employed about 10 men every day to shovel the walks,’ reported Msgr. Ignatius D. McDermott. ‘And we were able to find lodgings for a dozen or so every night.’”
Kids at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines rescued people stuck in the snow near their campus, inviting them to stay at the home until the snow ended. Afterward they helped the drivers dig out their cars.
New World managing editor Joseph Kozak put the storm in perspective with his piece on page 4. He lauded the acts of kindness carried out by people throughout the city and chastised those whose selfishness added undue burdens during the storm. At the end he brought it all back to the creator of the world.
“Chicago, the giant of massive shoulders, was as helpless as a just-born infant,” he wrote. “Isn’t it amazing that with all of our technological savvy, motorized might, meteorological know-how, etc., we’re still as helpless as ants on a crowded sidewalk in the face of nature’s might. How come? Because there is no God? Because ‘God is dead?’ Or because there is a God, there always has been a God and our transgressions, now as always, are no match for him?”
Well said, Mr. Kozak.
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