Archive for January 2015

The Blizzard of 1978 #Blizzard

January 28, 2015

So with all the news of the blizzard going on back east, I thought I would write about my experience of living through the infamous Blizzard of 1978. I don’t miss having to endure the current snow in the northeast.

The Blizzard of 1978 occurred from Feb 5-7, 1978. This was just about a month shy of my 30th birthday. I was living in a house in Newton Highlands about a block from Rt 9. I was working for DEC at the Mill in Maynard, MA. Typically on normal days that was about a 30 minute commute.

In the days before the storm, the forecasting didn’t predict the eventual severity of the storm. So many people got stuck, seriously stuck in places they would rather not be.  Here are some pictures.

I guess I was one of the lucky ones. My boss told everyone at about 10 am to get going home. Anyone who waited until 2 or 3 pm to leave got stuck. Somehow, I knew that this was going to be a big one. I decided to give my girl friend Paula (who at the time was my girl friend of about four months) a call. I gave a her a call and reached Paula’s roommate Joan. So Joan tells me that Paula was sleeping after working a midnight shift at Children’s Hospital.

Wake her up I say. I knew I was treading in dangerous ground here. It could be a real test of our relationship don’t you think? I eventually got Paula on the phone. I tell her that I would be by in 45 minutes to pick her up. I explained the storm situation and that if she didn’t get going we wouldn’t see each other for 4-5 days. Okay she says.

So an hour later, I manage to pick her up at her apartment in Brookline and then another hour to my place in Newton. Finally we settle in for the duration.

Later that night with the snow and wind howling outside, we get to bed and keep each other warm. Then at about two am, the phone rings. The phone call was from Paula’s Dad out here in San Pedro. Harold had called Paula’s apartment in Brookline and Joan give him my phone number in Newton. Remember this was long before cell phones, smart phones, flip phones, etc. We just had the land lines.

Harold (Paula’s Dad) already knew about our relationship. Paula had traveled home to San Pedro for the 1977 Christmas holidays. And I called her every day at about 9 am west coast time. And I usually got to talk to Harold before I got to talk to Paula. So I roll over and hand the phone to Paula and tell her it’s your Dad. All Harold cared about that Paula was safe. And she was.

Once the storm had run its course, we started to dig out. No snow blowers or plows. Just shovels. It took a long time to get the driveway shoveled. But it didn’t matter, we couldn’t go anywhere. We were in a state of emergency and cars were forbidden. We took the opportunity to do snow angels in the middle of the east bound lane of RT 9.

By the evening of Feb 7th rolled around we were developing a serious case of cabin fever. So we decided to take the Green Line into Brookline Village to go to an Irish Pub called the Village Coach House. So we had a wonderful time listening to an Irish band and drinking Guinness. So all things have to come to an end, as does this. We staggered home on the Green Line (no designated driver required).

The next day, Paula was scheduled to work the evening shift at Children’s. Somehow she managed to hitch-hike into Brookline to the hospital.

One more story, then I’ll shut up. in the Spring of 1978, DEC was relocating our department from the Mill in Maynard to a new building in Tewksbury. DEC in its generosity was paying for my relocation. Companies don’t do that much anymore.

Paula and I found a house in Billerica. When we were looking at the house in March there was still much unmelted snow from the winter storms. There was so much snow that I didn’t realize until we moved into the house that there was a five foot boulder in the front yard.

So we eventually got married in October of 1978. We lived in Billerica until 2012. A total of 36 years. And no, Mike isn’t 36 years old, but you get the picture.

Mary update

January 26, 2015

Today is Monday. On Monday we try to go over calendars. So we are sitting at the kitchen table. Mary and Paula have their hard copy calendars and I have the calendar on my iPad. We try to do this every week in order to keep Mary tuned into the world around her. We try to only do one week at a time. It is useless to talk about something that is scheduled a month from now. Mary dutifully writes down the events that we tell her. Of course, by tomorrow, she will remember little of the details.

Sometimes Mary has trouble figuring out what day it is. We have all the hints available, the newspaper, the calendar, etc,

So it starts out like this. Monday, Alicia (our cleaning lady) comes to clean. Tuesday and Thursday, we take her to the Y for exercise. Wednesday, we have Bible study. Occasionally, we have doctor’s appointments, but not this week.

Also, most Tuesdays, Mike, Theresa and family come over for dinner. Theresa will be coming this week, but not Mike. Mike is in Colorado Springs doing an USAF course.

Sometimes, Mary looks so confused. Kind of at sea. We try ever so much not to be angry at her. Mary asks us to talk about the first week in February. Paula gives her the info knowing that we will need to repeat it next week.

So it now has been eight months since her accident up in Utah. She has recovered pretty well considering. We haven’t had any new falls to deal with. The trips to the Y seem to be helpful. On the way to the exercise room we pass the child care room. Mary ALWAYS wants to stop for a minute or two to watch the children playing.

And finally, to our friends back east, stay safe and warm.



Something about Mary

January 16, 2015

This is one of those weeks where I wish I was back working so that I could relax.

It has been a very busy week in Chez Stanley. Mary is now doing twice weekly visits to the YMCA. The Y has a program called “Beyond Rehab”. They have a room for folks recovering from injury to exercise with supervision by a nurse. The nurse makes sure that everyone is safe. NO MORE FALLS.

They have a treadmill that goes very slow, a recumbent stair stepper, recumbent bike, a weight thingy for doing pull-downs and an arm pedaler. When Mary arrives, the nurse takes her BP, pulse, sometimes O2 sat. There is an O2 machine for those who need it. Overall, it’s good for Mary, but it wears us out taking her here, there and everywhere.

They sometimes have a couple of cute, young student nurses. (Important for us old geezers to get some TLC.) Easy on the eyes, Harold would say.

So on Wednesday, we did normal Bible study, then to memorial service for George C’s mother who passed away last week. Service was over at Crystal Cathedral Memorial Garden. Actually, it’s now called “Christ Cathedral”. Bought by the OC Catholic Church.

On the left side of the above picture is the “Memorial Garden” which is a small cemetery, that will remain even after the sale of the cathedral to the RC of Orange County.

So the engineer in me is thinking, they sure did a good job of hiding the cell phone antennae. There probably aren’t any cell phone antennae, but what a place to put one.

Thursday, I did the run to the Y while Paula worked at Asst League Gift Shop. Then I pick up carpet cleaner. Do grocery shopping, then take Mary to OVBC (Ocean View Baptist Church) for knitting ministry. Mary wants to learn to knit. So I take her along with my iPad. OVBC has excellent WiFi, by the way. We’ll do it as long as we have someone with patience to teach her. Her friend Beth has stepped up to coach her. Thanks, Beth. Knitting is not in my (or Paula’s) skill set. They have a coffee pot going at OVBC and WiFi, so I’m all set.

Finally today, Paula takes Mary to Rose’s Salon to get her hair done and then off to Dr T’s for routine checkup. I take the carpet cleaner back, then get haircut, large iced coffee at Starbuck’s, and a few more things at Albertson’s. Today the coffee at Starbuck’s was free because of award on the Starbuck’s App. Friday visit with Rose is a recurring event. If it were me, I would shave it all off. PITA.

Dinner tonight for Roberta, then dinner tomorrow for Mike, Theresa and Theresa’s mother and sister who are in town visiting from Taiwan.

Mary’s short term memory is slowly getting worse. Try as we do to keep her aware of what’s happening next. She will forget within an hour or two. It’s hard to not get frustrated.

Man I’m whipped.


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

More on “Unbroken”

January 12, 2015

After seeing the movie “Unbroken”, directed by Angelina Jolie, I went back to my Kindle archives and reread the book by Laura Hillenbrand.  I just completed reading the book. There is so much more than the material presented in a two hour movie.

The book is divided into five sections. The first section covers the pre-war period and Zamperini’s war experiences up to the point where he becomes a bombardier.

Section II covers his early experience as a B24 bombardier up until the point where his B-24 crash lands in the Pacific. So far the book and movie are pretty much in sync.

Section III covers the experience in the lifeboat. Louis Zamperini, Russell Allen Phillips (the pilot) and the Francis McNamara (the tail gunner) were the only survivors. They survived for 47 days at sea before being captured by the Japanese. Movie and book still pretty much in sync.

Section IV covers Zamperini’s experiences at various Japanese prison camps. Particular attention is given to Mutshuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe. Watanabe was a Japanese Sargent in charge of some of POW camps where Zamperini was imprisoned. The book and movie both cover “The Bird” but the book goes into much more detail on the living conditions and the prisoner abuse at the hands of “The Bird” and other Japanese guards. The book mentions that most POW guards were the dregs of the Japanese military. They were the stupidest and the most troublesome. They could not make it in the front-line military. Go read the book.

Bird went into hiding after the war for seven years before all war crime charges against the Bird and other guards were quietly dropped. Bob Simon interviewed Watanabe for “60 Minutes” back in 1998. Here is a pointer to that interview on youtube.

The book talks about the arrival of the B-29’s in the Spring of 1945 in raids on Japan The POW’s quickly figured out the the B-29’s had to be based fairly close since the B-29’s were arriving early in the day. At first, only a few B-29’s arrived over Tokyo, but eventually hundreds of them were bombing Japan. Go read the book.


One point that the film misses is that the POW’s were to be executed if Japan lost the war. The deadline for that action was August 15, 1945. The Atomic bomb probably put the fear of God into the Japanese. After the A bombs were dropped many of the guards headed for the hills. Go read the book.

I suppose that there is only so much material one can fit into a two hour film. The film misses so much. Section V covers Zamperini’s life after the war. The film barely touches his post war experience. The film shows Zamperini arriving home and that he lived happily ever after. Go read the book.

The film misses so much in this area. The film misses the PTSD, the alcoholism, the nightmares, etc. Most of the returning POW’s really had to struggle to return to a normal life.

The book covers so much more than the film. So what are you waiting for, go read the book. The first link in this post is to the Amazon Kindle entry for “Unbroken”. Go read the book.

Update on Mary

January 9, 2015

It’s a pleasant day here in sunny, warm Southern California. I am enjoying some quiet time to myself while Paula is off taking Mary to get bloods drawn. This is in preparation for her appointment with her primary care doc next week. It has been a challenge to get her to primary care doc for routine physical. So Paula just made the appointment and told her we’re going. After she gets the blood drawn, Paula will take Mary to get her hair done at Rosemarie’s in San Pedro. Rose has a thriving business taking car of the old ladies. Mostly wash and set. Then lunch at El Pollo Loco. (One of Mary’s favorite lunch spots.)
 So yesterday Mary received a letter from her brother Jack in Houma, LA. Mary was thrilled to receive the letter. Now if we can just get Mary to reciprocate. That will be a challenge. I learned in the letter that Jack reads this blog, which is a good thing. I expect that either Jan or Julie are printing each post and giving it to Jack to read.
 Mary has told us that she would like to get back to Houma to visit with Jack. She was unable to travel for Jack’s wife Donna’s funeral this past June. So Paula and I have been talking about how to make it happen. Mary certainly can’t do it alone. So Paula will probably be going with her. We will probably do the trip some time in the Spring when the weather is a bit warmer in Houma. I’m thinking April-ish. Maybe we can get Jack and Mary actually to talk on the phone.
 Mary has started going back to the YMCA in San Pedro. They have a program called Beyond-Rehab. It aims at people looking for trying to get back into an exercise program after serious injury. They have a nurse and therapist available twice a week. The staff keeps watch over the users to make sure that they don’t get re-injured. This was one of our big concerns. So Mary is going twice a week. Sometimes she overdoes things and sleeps/rests the rest of the day.
 So January 24 is her 91st birthday. We haven’t figured out how to celebrate. Perhaps a cake at Wednesday Bible study. We’ll drop a dime on Pastor Jacques to make sure that he knows. We’ll do a verse of “Happy Birthday” on the piano.
 So thats about it from here. I was told by Paula to put away the Christmas tree. Better get on it.
 – Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


January 4, 2015

Another date night last night. Paula and I went to see the movie Unbroken at a the Terraces theater in San Pedro. We like the Terraces theater because it’s close to home and they have a senior rate. Last night, the senior price was $6, After the movie we picked up some BBQ chicken, potato salad and some other kind of salad for dinner.

Unbroken” is the movie directed by Angelina Jolie and starring Jack O’Connell that is true story of Louis Zamporini. The film is based on the best selling book of the same name by Laura Hilldebrand. It follows the story of Louis becoming an Olympic track star and then serving as a bombardier in the South Pacific. The film is rated PG13 for violence.


Louis’ bomber crashes in the South Pacific. He then spends 47 days in a life raft and is eventually captured by the Japanese. He then spends the rest of the war in various Japanese prison camps.

I am always amazed how film makers manage to make scenes look so realistic. The crash scene of the bomber looks so real. You actually feel the director had a camera on board a bomber and then crashed it in the ocean.

This film is not for the faint of heart. It spends a great deal of the film showing what it was like for him in the prison camps. But he survives. Zamperini had been scheduled to be the Grand Marshall of the 2015 Rose Parade. Unfortunately, he died this past July, Here is the link to the Wiki entry for Louis Zamperini.

Louis Zamperini is famous in these here parts. The Torrance Air Port is named after him. Torrance High School named its sport stadium after him.

Laura Hildebrand is also the author of “Seabiscuit” Another book worth reading.

Good film and a good book. Go see the film and read the book.

More on “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”

January 1, 2015

Well, I finally started reading the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. As always, there is usually more to the book than what you find in the film. Here are a few thoughts.

Cheryl Strayed hiked the PCT in 1995. This is mentioned in passing in the film. The book was published on 2012 and the movie released in 2014. For you in my audience that are challenged at math, that’s a long time. In the summer of 1995, the big story was OJ, the murder and trial. It was probably a good time to be off the grid for the summer.

In the middle of the book, Ms. Strayed tells of running out of money. Part of her travel on the trail way by way of Greyhound. She skipped part of the trail due heavy snow in parts of the Sierras. So she says she was down to her last $0,65. No ATM’s in the wilderness. No ATM’s in some of the small towns in the Sierras. It also meant no cell phones. There were cell phones in 1995, but they were clunky affairs that didn’t work real well and were expensive to use.

I had a cell phone back then. I think it was a Motorola  flip phone. Back in the day, they had something called roaming charges. It could get real expensive to make a phone call.

So it took Ms Strayed 17 years to get her book published. It reminds me what my brother Rich has told me. “Writing for a living is hard work.” Here’s a link to her wiki entry.

There’s a section toward the end of the book on Crater Lake in Oregon, Crater lake is one of the deepest lakes in North America. It is about 1900′ deep at its deepest point. Read here for more info on Crater Lake.


If you saw the film, go read the book. It’s worth it.