Snowy Origin of Grocery Hoarding Panic


American Graffiti was on TV for the very first time on a Sunday night in February, 1979. The next day was President’s Day, originally a school holiday but restored to the calendar because we already had missed some dozen days for snow that winter. The scroll across the bottom of the screen reminded us of a “Winter Weather Advisory” and that 2 to 4 inches had been forecast to fall overnight.

It was snowing a little as I went to bed (wishing to meet someone like Cindy Williams, Ron Howard’s girlfriend in the film), and I woke up in the morning to find (rather than over two inches), over two feet!


School was closed all week-long, and with the low-slung passenger cars popular at that time, we and everyone else around were literally snowbound at home for many days.


A full five days later, a plow finally came down our street, bearing the logo of a County roads department a couple of hundred miles south of us. They had come to help. I still remember the brand new song, by the brand new music group, I heard on the car radio when I finally could drive again.  Songs stamp moments in time, you know.


This “President’s Day Snowstorm” in Baltimore and its consequent snowbound conditions spawned an ongoing local tradition of milk, eggs, bread and toilet paper flying off the grocery store shelves if it is cloudy and below 40 degrees.


People remember being stuck at home without french toast ingredients and personal hygiene products, and vowed never again. Sort of like the Baltimore Colts suddenly and dramatically moving away to Indianapolis, the memory of this indignity and challenge remains fresh, until we all are in the ground.


So that tradition of grocery store depletions of these commodities was born right here and right then, and this (just being stuck at home for several days without the capability to make french toast) is just why.


Now the best part of the story unfolded some weeks later. I was a graduating high school senior in 1979, with a pre-scheduled graduation scheduled the week after Memorial Day. For us, the last day of class was May 31st.


When Baltimore County announced the extension of the school year into the last week of June to make up all the missed snow days, we were 100% exempt from that as we had graduated four weeks earlier. We let our younger siblings “enjoy” (with taunts) the misery of snow make-up days deep into summer, while we went on for some measure of an American Graffiti experience on our own.

snow day

One comment

  1. lin · January 19, 2019

    I got married that summer, it rained cats and dogs and hippos,etc that day. French toast was the last thing on my mind with that storm.Or any storm. Peanut butter and popcorn, dill pickles and canned soup.. I do, however, have an extensive pantry in my basement as a result of those hard MIchigan Great Lakes blizzards and only a handful of grocery stores in our city. Never again..A can opener is just as important ass T.P. if you do not subscribe to the newspaper or any magazines!


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