When I was a kid growing up in Waitsfield, before the days of snowmaking, our family had a good neighbor named Harry Smith. At that time Harry was about 60 years old. He had spent his whole life living and working on the farms in our part of Waitsfield, up near the Common.
I liked to chat with Harry when he stopped on his frequent walks down to the village for groceries. Harry liked baseball and had a remarkable memory for baseball facts. And he could remember dates better than anyone else I knew.
According to Harry, just before a big snowstorm you could hear the train whistle from Roxbury, about 12 miles over the mountain as the crow flies. You would never hear it any other time.
This sounded like a tall tale, and I was skeptical.
One evening while my younger brother, Gary, and I were skating on our pond, we heard the train whistle. We stopped our hockey game to listen. While we slept, it snowed - 18 glorious, school-closing inches. (Somehow, when school was closed, we still managed to get to the mountain to ski.)
Next winter the same thing happened, with another foot and a half of snow. This time, both of my sisters, Lauren and Linell, heard the whistle.
Later, one cold, clear night about ten o'clock - stars twinkling above and snow crunching underfoot - I was walking home alone. I heard not just the whistle but the train itself. Faintly at first, I could hear the chugging of the train as it pulled into the station. Harry had never said anything about hearing the train.
The official forecast was for up to a foot of snow. By daybreak it was snowing. The snow fell for three days and was over five feet deep before the storm ended. Bulldozers were needed to clear out the 20 foot drifts to open the roads. The severity of the storm brought the Northeast to a halt for days. Boston and New York came to a stop, but for joyous people skiing in the city streets.
The blizzard of '69 caught everyone by surprise - everyone, that is, except Harry and me.
This is a condensed version of the article appearing in Central Vermont Magazine Winter 1990 issue. For information onwhere to locate these magazines contact the chamber at 229-5711.
Thanks are extended to Earline Marsh, Alan Noyes, Elizabeth Ralph, Sally Finn and Jack Belding for their time selecting and editing Central Vermont Magazine articles for publication on the Web.
Glenn Parkinson still likes snow. He now lives in Gorham, Maine, where he is a stock broker and ski historian.
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