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‘The Great Blizzard of ’78’ revisited

By Olivia Overmoyer, For The Miami Student

Miami University senior Larry Schachter sat with his roommates in their off-campus apartment as snow piled up outside.

"We ventured out into the street, and you wouldn't see a car come down for five minutes," Schachter said.

The men's basketball team, however, was unaware that conditions were so bad in the western part of Ohio while they piled onto the bus after a big win at the University of Toledo.

"There was really no effective method of communication so it all kind of travelled by word of mouth that everybody should stay inside and classes were cancelled," Schachter recalled.

While they began their long trek home on the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 25, 1978, the snowfall picked up speed, and soon it was impossible to travel any farther due to the large quantities of snow and ice covering the road.

"They were all very, very concerned," said head coach Darrell Hedric. "Most of the guys were sleeping, and when they woke up, they saw that no one was moving,"

After asking the bus driver to take the closest exit off of the highway, the team ended up in Vandalia. As they pulled into town, they saw the lights of a local late-night doughnut shop. Seeking a telephone, a few of the coaching staff ventured off the bus and into the store.

The coaches explained their predicament and the local police officers enjoying a late-night snack came up with a plan. They opened up the local courthouse and jail to the team as shelter from the storm.

"We piled in, and wandered around trying to find a place to sleep," said assistant coach Joe Barry.

Not everyone on the bus found the cells to be comfortable, however. One of the players, Randy Ayers, was able to find a different sort of accommodation.

"They put him up in the court room and he slept on the judge's stand," Hedric recalled.

As it turned out, though, the snow was not the only danger the team would face that night.

"No sooner had we settled down, than the bus driver had a heart attack," said Hedric.

As the basketball team faced one obstacle after another, the Oxford campus celebrated its unexpected four-day weekend. Sales of alcohol rose as students piled into the local bars.

Those who didn't care to face the snow stayed inside and relied on the limited technology of the day and the company of friends to get them through the storm.

"We had three television channels, so it's not like we had a lot of television to watch, so we listened to records," said Schachter.

Students celebrated several days of canceled classes because of the blizzard, but other facets of student life were in danger of closing, as well.

"People couldn't get to work, so the kids were working in the dining halls," recalled Schachter.

The students on campus weren't the only ones stepping up. A local retirement home in Vandalia was in need of help after days of snow left them short-staffed.

"We were able to lend a hand and make it a positive experience," said Barry.

The team helped change bed sheets, shave the residents' faces and keep the residents company.

After a few days, travel became possible again and the team finished the journey back to Oxford.

"The team was close already, but I think it brought them closer," said Barry.

The 1978 men's basketball team finished its season with an overall record of 19-9 and ended up winning the MAC in a big upset against Marquette.