The season between fall and spring, formerly known as winter, is due for a serious reassessment. That’s because there hardly is a winter anymore. We need a new name for it: maybe drabby (which it is outside) or crabby (which we are inside). My friend Judy suggests the doldrums.

A Chicago Sun-Times photo of the Rogers Park neighborhood after the January 1967 blizzard shows abandoned cars in the street. Credit: Chicago History Museum

I hate to sound like those geezers who put their grandkids into a state of stupefying boredom with memories of bygone years (“You should’ve been here the winter of ’67!”), but you should’ve been here the winter of ’67!

A winter storm dropped 23 inches of snow over Chicago in 24 hours, starting on Thursday morning, Jan. 26.

By Friday afternoon traffic had ground to a halt. Cars everywhere were immobilized and abandoned, even on Lake Shore Drive.

“We walked past the Edgewater Beach Hotel to the Outer Drive,” wrote a blogger on the Chicago History Museum site. “We stood in the middle of the Drive and all we could see was snow and bumps in the snow where cars were buried. On the way back we passed a snow drift that was 15’ high covering a bus.”

Cars abandoned everywhere

At the time I was living in Hyde Park and commuting downtown to a part-time job. That Saturday morning, a brilliant sunny morning once the storm had moved on, I took the Illinois Central to work. “There’s our competition, to the east,” the conductor announced as we approached the Loop. We turned to look: cars abandoned everywhere.

Then there were the blizzards of 1978 and 1979, each dumping more than 20 inches in a day. That winter produced the most snow in Chicago history, a total of 7½ feet, according to Block Club ChicagoThe 10 snowiest winters in the city’s history all took place decades ago. Only two have been in the 21st century, the last nine years ago.

Why, I can remember (geezer talk again) snow being plowed so high on our Evanston block that it buried parked cars. My friend Neil, visiting from New York, and I spent a couple of pleasant hours shoveling out my father-in-law’s car.

And talk about arctic cold! Let me tell you (more geezer talk) about Sunday, Jan. 10, 1982. My friend Jay and I went to an exhibition match between Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe at the old Rosemont Horizon. Connors, behind two sets to one, stopped play to march over to McEnroe’s side of the court and lay into him about something. McEnroe pushed Connors away but was obviously rattled: He lost the next two sets and the match. You can see the infamous confrontation here.

That was cool, but even cooler was the temperature outside. After the match, Jay and I went out to the parking lot, where it was so cold the tires on his car had deflated. We had to hitchhike back into the city. How cold was it? Minus 26 with “life-threatening wind chills.”

According to state climatologist Trent Ford, the number of below-zero days in the Chicago area from 1990 to 2020 is half what it was from 1960 to 1990.

So cold and snowy? Not anymore, not as much, anyway. Dreary, dull, gray, obnoxious, maybe. But don’t call it winter.

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently four consecutive Northern...

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  1. Thank you, sort of, for the reminder of what we “should be thankful for”!
    I recall we made the incredibly questionable decision (without a choice, mind you) of moving from one part of Evanston to another, in the dead of the January 1968 blizzard. “Wow, was us !”

  2. Very funny. And so true. I love the geezer talk. I remember those winters and I “talk geezer” too!