In the Suburbs / This week’s snowy Easter Monday reprises my arrival in Connecticut
I had just accepted a position with Pitney Bowes in Stamford and my start date was Wednesday, April 7, 1982, 36 years ago. What I didn’t know as I arrived at Newark Airport that morning from Philadelphia (we lived in Reading, PA about an hour from the city at the time) was that the Tri-state area had been hit with near blizzard conditions the day before and 14 inches of snow were on the ground along with biting cold, 21-degree temperatures.
In addition, my welcome to New York and Conn. that day was a monumental backup on the George Washington Bridge with traffic the likes of which I hadn’t seen since we left Chicago. I was fortunate enough to be in a car ordered by my new company, so I was very comfortable, but I was really stunned by the sheer volume of cars and, of course, snow on the ground in April, of all times.
According to an archived, April 7, 1982 account I read in The New York Times, which actually echoed our crazy April snow storm of this past Monday, “An unseasonable blizzard whirled about a foot of snow and record cold yesterday into a metropolitan area long wearied of winter” From my 2018 perspective, I couldn’t have agreed more.
The writer went on to say, “The punishing storm, punctuated by thunder and high winds, bedeviled traffic on New York streets and country roads, sent schoolchildren and office workers home early, canceled legislative sessions and elections and quite literally nipped spring in the bud.
“Yesterday’s storm was the worst since the onset of winter and the only April blizzard recorded in the metropolitan area since the National Weather Services started keeping records more than a century ago.”
Being a Chicago native, nothing ever surprises me, so I just chuckled when I saw the snow. What was more interesting was seeing Conn. for the second time (I was only there for my interview) and trying to visualize living here.
Barely three weeks after my frozen arrival, I was driving up North Benson Road in Fairfield, which was awash with Azaleas and Dogwood trees in breathtaking whites, pinks and reds, to meet my real estate broker and look at a couple of rental properties. I fell in love with the town and never changed my attitude during the entire 32 years we lived there.
When I joked with my broker about my snowy greeting, she just laughed and said New England was full of surprises. She tried to let me down easily when I mentioned buying a house and she shared that the interest rates at the time were 17 and 18 percent. I had just sold a quaint Tudor side-by-side home in Reading for about what I’d need for a down payment on something in Conn.
The broker was kind enough to show me a few properties in Fairfield and Westport before I finally said that I couldn’t afford anything. I think my biggest shock was the $95,000 ranch in Westport that was smaller than my side-by-side Reading home.
She also took me out to Milford where the prices for many homes were below $100,000 but the commute to Stamford would have been horrific. In the end, I decided on the rental in Fairfield, a lovely three bedroom colonial on Green Knolls Lane. We truly grew to love that home and were only disappointed when we tried to buy it and the price was just too high even with the interest rates considerably lower.
So in 1985 we explored and found a beautiful cape right around the corner from Green Knolls on Melody Lane. By that time, my tedious initial, tedious commute to Stamford by car had been replaced by a daily train commute to New York and I spent many a snowy morning -never in April --for 12 years, coffee in hand, being part of the army of commuters.
I have never forgotten my snowy arrival to the metropolitan area just before Easter in 1982 and sometimes find it hard to believe that we’ve lived here more than 36 years. It’s been quite a journey, navigating and surviving in this very expensive part of the country.
And when the dogs and I walked outside at 4 a.m. this past Monday into our post Easter snowstorm, I just laughed. “Well guys,” I said out loud. Guess today will be déjà vu for for my very first day in Conn. I wonder if we’ll get 14 inches.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.