How We Survived The Blizzard of '79

Enjoy a rerun from January 2017 ... just in time for Chicago's next snowfall.


Chicago at Night

Aunt Grace and Her Undying Devotion to the Chicago Transit Authority -  How We Survived The Blizzard of '79

My Aunt Grace lived in the City of Chicago her entire life.  She loved the cosmopolitan atmosphere where she could enjoy different cultural activities including theatre, dining, shopping and attending diverse neighborhood gatherings.  My aunt believed the City offered a wide range of events to fit any palate, and she championed the fact that the Chicago Transit Authority offered dependable service to those wanting to work and play in Chicago.

Aunt Grace appreciated the benefits of living within the city limits and was an unofficial spokesperson of the CTA.  She loved how one could hop on a bus or “El” and get anywhere within Chicago, all for a low price.  Many times, she left her Lincoln town car parked in her garage and chose to take a bus instead.  Due to her commonsense nature, it was quicker and cheaper to take public transportation.


Her devotion to the public transportation system confused other Chicagoans who were apt to complain about poor bus service.  But Aunt Grace was quick to refute those criticisms, citing friendly drivers and convenient routes that let riders visit any point throughout the entire city.  Without a doubt, she valued the accessibility of public transportation.

Of course, her coquettish ways may have led to Aunt Grace’s success with commuting.  The No. 104 Pullman CTA bus traveled directly past her house on St. Lawrence Avenue.  Aunt Grace didn’t have to bother to walk down one block to the legitimate CTA stop – instead she’d give a friendly wave to the bus driver and he’d immediately pull over directly in front of her house to let her board.

Service at its best.

Snow Didn't Stop My Aunt Grace

But good karma certainly did follow Aunt Grace when it came to Chicago buses.  During the Blizzard of ’79 my aunt spent the night at our home to avoid traveling during the heavy snow.  The next morning, with more than 18 inches of snow covering the streets, Aunt Grace proposed “Let’s go out to lunch.”


Shoveling our driveway that winter - Beverly neighborhood

Doubtingly, we followed her down to Western Avenue, trampling through snowdrifts, just in time to catch the 49A bus heading south.  We headed to a local restaurant about 1.5 miles away, where we enjoyed a hearty breakfast.

Photo: Chicago Tribune

Our good fortune continued as we caught the returning bus home and chuckled over the fact that it was the same bus driver.  The good-natured chauffeur dropped us back at our original bus stop, continuing on her lonely drive down Western Avenue, looking to pick up more brave travelers that snow-laden day.

Aunt Grace was correct… the buses were still running and thanks to the CTA we didn’t have to hibernate in our homes.  Unfortunately, Grace’s good fortune didn’t follow us the rest of that winter as we spent that season pushing the family car out of numerous snow drifts.  But one bright sunny day, a CTA bus did reward us with dependability and a short trip to fight the winter doldrums.

Good suggestion, Aunt Grace.

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