This is the detailed account from Lillian Willis's notes she made just after the Blizzard of 78.
How fortunate I was to have a home that was not damaged by this storm. We had a gas heater in the playroom that was large enough to keep the house comfortable. The electricity went off Monday night at 8:30 and came on Thursday sometime early in the morning. We used the Coleman lantern Monday night and had a fair supply of candles.
I received a call about 8:00 Tuesday morning from Capt. Haley with the O.K. of John Raftery to go to the Memorial School and open the kitchen. I contacted Joanne Fallon and, thank god she was able to go in with me. We both were within easy walking distance of the school. We wore our uniforms.
The first demand was for hot soup and coffee. The only coffee we had was the small measured packages from the teachers' room so we used this with the small pot they had. The water had to be heated on the stove. The demand was for thousands of cup of coffee.
The volunteer workers were many, at times too many. The kitchen was very crowded. The police, fire, C.B. and all the rescue workers dropped in for coffee. The slush and snow melted from their boots. We had to have a mop and squeeze bucket handy all the time. At first we had some young girls making coffee. Then, one man and his wife came and volunteered. He must have made the coffee for us for at least 12 hours straight. When a supply
of coffee came in, we started to use the 75-cup and the 30-cup (coffee makers).
The first people to come in with food were George Morgan and Al's Spaghetti House. George brought the first bread we had. So Lo's (market) sent in many groceries and among them were cookies. I considered the cookies my important item for morale reasons.
Cathy Hann had evacuated to the school. She was a tremendous help. The first person to make it in from the outside was Mary McNamara. At this point we began to get organized. The coffee had been served by the front door (of the lunch room). We couldn't find space for it outside because people were stopping and sitting everywhere. We couldn't carry hot liquid
through the mob. The coffee line jammed the food line up.
We served soup in our own heavy plastic bowls, about 300 bowls, so we had to wait for the bowls to be returned to be washed in the sink before we could serve the next people. We were serving about 1500 to 2000 people each meal, breakfast, lunch and supper for 3 days with no electricity. Everything was cooked on top of the stove and all things had to be hand
We used all the paper and plastic items we had. People were told they would not be served coffee unless they had their own cups. Dick and Wally went to the High school for paper plates and Styrofoam cups. We finally got a shipment of plastic utensils and paper products from Rips via the selectman.
We used all the soup on hand. We served ravioli and meet balls. I made up the school menu for the day. Shell macaroni with meat sauce. Cooked some spaghetti. Used 5 lbs of hot dogs and 1 case of beans. All for one meal. We served for 3 hours straight. This was for Tuesday lunch.
I don't remember which days we served what items. Milk and bread were short items at first. Dry cereal, milk poured from gallons, juice and Syrian bread was the main breakfast. Lunch was soup and sandwiches. Volunteers' hand sliced bologna and turkey loaf. When he had time Jimmy Murray, the janitor, did hook our slicer in to the auxiliary power and a
volunteer sliced hams and turkey loaf for us.
The only light we had Tuesday night were 2 candles on the serving counter. I sent home for our Coleman lantern. A C.B. man put in a battery powered double light. This worked for part of the night, then it leaked and took the surface off one of our carts.
Wednesday we still had to use the Coleman lantern. There was no auxiliary lighting in the kitchen, so the janitor ran a line into us late Wednesday or Thursday.
We served sliced turkey, hot gravy, potato and peas the first night we got electricity, once we could use the ovens. Beans and franks were a staple for the first few days. We cooked baked chicken, rice and veggies. Ham or chicken and sweet potatoes and veggies.
The people with dietary problems, ulcers and diabetics were a big problem. We were told to feed them first because the wait in line was too long for them. Our orange juice supply was at first limited. We served it only to the diabetics and people taking pills. Milk at one time was limited to children 5 and under. We had no baby food. We were also filling baby
bottles and heating some of them. Our supply of tea bags was limited for some time.
During the last 3 days a system of serving people by floors was set up. This helped some. By this time, only 200 to 300 people were there. Then it dropped very fast each of these days.
This was a message written to the folks who helped and were served by Lil & Joanne.
We wish to thank the many boys, girls, men and woman who volunteered to work in the kitchen. Without your help, it would have been an impossible task to produce the thousands of meals that were served. A special thanks
to those who manned the coffee service for the unending hours they put in.
The immediate response of many local merchants with donations of desperately needed items as deeply appreciated.
To those of you who stood in the endless lines for meals, we thank you for your patience.
Memorial School Cafeteria