Francis DiNallo was born on Bushnell Street in Hartford June 23, 1918.
He graduated from Bulkeley High School and went to work at Spencer Turbine, then on New Park Avenue in Hartford, where he met his future wife, Evelyn Willett, at a hot dog roast. They had a son, Ronald DiNallo, who lives in Tolland with his family, and a daughter who died while undergoing open-heart surgery when she was 13, ``a day I will never forget,'' DiNallo says. Evelyn Willett DiNallo died in 1989. Francis DiNallo now lives in Tolland.
The storm of February 1934 was no comparison to this winter's storms. I remember, I was a teenager, I was in Bulkeley High then. It was a Thursday night and I was going to Boy Scouts. We had Boy Scout meetings at St. James Church on Zion Street, troop No. 6 -- I was a Scout for seven or eight years.
When I was going to the meeting, it was raining, not very heavily, a raw night. The Scout meeting ran from seven to nine o'clock.
After we came out of the meeting two hours later, I walked up Zion Street with my friend, and I got in the back of a street pole -- one of those old wooden poles with a bulb like you use in the house at the top -- and looked up.
If you look up at the light when it's snowing, you can see what's going on pretty good -- the light amplifies what's happening. I saw that it was raining and snowing and hailing all at the same time.
I loved snow when I was a kid; I used to drive my mother and father crazy when it snowed. And remember, they didn't predict snow in those days; there was no warning. No weather reports on the radio, no warning on big snowstorms or hurricanes like the one in 1938.
So that night I said to my friend, `Ah, it's snowing,' and we headed to Hyland Park on New Britain Avenue, and we walked through there to Cheshire Street, where I lived then and where my father had built us a house so we could walk to Southwest School on White Street; it's now the Eleanor B. Kennelly School. When I got onto Cheshire Street, I looked at the streetlight there and it was snowing like crazy.
During the night, I kept looking out the bedroom window at the streetlight, and it got to where it was snowing so hard I could hardly see it. The following morning I got up and walked out to our sunroom, and the windows on the south and west side of the house were completely covered with snow.
I opened one of the windows to clean if off and to see what was going on outside, and one of the neighbors, Albert Starkey -- he was four or five years older than me -- was walking by in the middle of Cheshire Street and the snow was over his knees. I can still see him walking there.
There was no school for the following week -- we loved that. I went with a gang of kids over to Fairfield Avenue, and there was no traffic, everything was at a standstill. The city had trucks with plows on them then, and they were out there trying to move the snow, but it was so wet and sticky that they couldn't move it. They were trying to make a path for a vehicle to get down the road, but they couldn't; if somebody had needed emergency equipment the equipment wouldn't have been able to get through. So they got a bulldozer out there to try to push the snow.
I went on, to the hill over at Trinity College between Zion Street and Summit Street. A trolley car was stuck in the snow. Several of us kids went in the trolley and sat there looking out the windows at all the snow.
The trolley was there for three or four days before it went anywhere.
The storm was really the storm of the century. Very big flakes of snow; now, normally big flakes don't last long but here they did. The storm wasn't a nor'easter, didn't meet the qualifications, not very windy and not very cold. It wasn't a blizzard, wasn't blinding. But it was worse than a blizzard.
The storm lasted from seven at night until about seven in the morning, I think, 15 hours at the most, and to drop that many feet of snow -- that's a pretty good snowstorm. It was a wet, heavy snow, great for snowballs.
The workers went ahead and cleared the main arteries, but they didn't clear my street, Cheshire Street. So I went out and shoveled Cheshire Street with my father and one of my brothers and some of my neighbors. The snow was high, and we shoveled the whole street -- the whole street with shovels! It took a few days to clear everything so people could get to their cars.
I don't know why I was so crazy about snow. I was a kid at the time, but I remember it so very well.
First published March 11, 1996