As I watch the television describe the latest blizzard hitting the East Coast, I keep hearing about the famous 1947 blizzard that broke all records. Well, I was there and lived through it, so I have a little insight on what happens when a blizzard hits New York.
In January 1947, we had just arrived in the United States and were in the process of learning about our new home. I have lived through terrible winters, including the worst in history: The winter of 1944–45. It was so cold that dead bodies could be left piled up on the sidewalks and meat off dead horses was so hard that you could not cut it with a bayonet. People had to use hammers and chisels to carve some meat. Without heat, proper food, or warm clothing (let alone the street fighting, bombings, and executions), survival was a miracle
It was snowing on Thursday and Friday morning in December of 1947, and we were told that the office would be closed at noon so that everyone could get home before the snow got too deep. For some reason I decided to take home a copy of the Manhattan telephone directory, which was about eight inches thick.
When I arrived at the subway station, I discovered that the trains were so overloaded with passengers that most of the doors would not open. Eventually, I found an open door, and had to use the Manhattan phone book as a wedge to force my way into the car.
Finally, we arrived at my station in Brooklyn at Fort Hamilton Parkway. Here, the subway platform was elevated and the view of the snow-filled streets was quite beautiful. However, things became more difficult when we descended and tried to actually walk through the streets. On some street corners, traffic lights were mounted on poles. The snow was so high that you could see it glow red, yellow, and then green as the light continued to cycle beneath the snow drifts. Suffice it to say that the five blocks from the subway station to my apartment was quite a journey.
I told my wife that we had nothing to fear because we had gone through a lot worse. The snow had finally stopped but the roads were totally blocked. There was no garbage pickup or any milk or food delivery, and by the second day we saw people throwing garbage out of their windows.
By the third day, the roads were cleared. Our milkman had arrived and was heading to our apartment to deliver our milk. We heard him walk up the stairs and place the bottles at our door. My wife dried her hands and went to the door to pick up the milk. It was too late. Our neighbor had already stolen the milk!
Ever the optimist, I declared that we must move to a better neighborhood. This place was really not what we thought America was all about.
It would still take several years before we realized that the Hudson River was not the border of the United States. In fact, it separates Brooklyn from the real United States.