Experienced Faculty and Administrators Recall Andover During Past Snow Days

Snow blanketed Andover this Wednesday prompting the fourth snow day in the history of the school. Notable snow days of the past occurred during the Ice Storm of 1921 and Blizzard of 1978. According to Timothy Sprattler, Interim Archivist three of the past four snow days have occurred in the past thirty years. Sprattler said there could have been more snow days recently because the number of day students and off-campus members of the Andover community has increased. Peter Washburn, Instructor in Mathematics, said, “A lot of it is about day students. There are some that feel pressure not to miss anything. They may not always make the best decisions about getting to school when the roads are not good. More and more, we are making these decisions because of them.” Sprattler said the Ice Storm of November 1911 was particularly memorable. After the storm destroyed the Elm Arch, faculty members asked to save a section of a fallen branch. Sprattler said the library still has stored the piece of branch. Faculty members had several anecdotes about snow days, especially the infamous Blizzard of 1978. “There were gusts of wind probably up to 80 miles per hour, and that’s what made the storm the worst,” said Victor Henningsen, Instructor in History. Henningsen, a house counselor at Foxcroft during the Blizzard of 1978, recalled the unique ways in which students enjoyed the snow. He said, “I remember waking up that day and looking out the window to find one of my seniors ejecting himself out of his window, which was located right above my living room. I got to jump myself.” Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, said, “In 1977, [my husband and I] decided that we were going to try to do without a car, and just get by on foot and using public transportation. It was that winter we had the horrible blizzard, so while everyone else was shoveling out their garages, we didn’t have to.” “I just remember the snow banks were so high on the paths that [small children] would get lost going from one apartment to another. As parents we were a little nervous because, well, we couldn’t see our kids,” she continued. Henningsen recounted how Ted Sizer, Head of School at the time, was meeting with the students in Foxcroft Hall just as the storm was starting. After the meeting, Sizer attempted to make it back to Phelps house. Sizer spent 45 minutes being turned around by the wind before ending up back at Foxcroft. Sizer left a second time and took nearly 35 minutes to make it back to Phelps House. Despite the wind, some faculty members found the calm after the storm relaxing. Sykes said, “[After the storm] it was eerily quiet, because it took four days for the school to really get up and running. It felt very peaceful, and I really think people on campus kind of slowed down from the hectic, frenetic pace that we normally pursue here.” Faculty also commented on Andover’s Non Sibi spirit during past snow days, especially in regards to shoveling. According to Sprattler, students were responsible for the shoveling around campus during snowstorms before 1973. During the early twentieth century, shoveling was a part of the Andover work-duty program. At that time students receiving financial aid were expected to do additional work, which generally consisted of manual labor. Nicholas Kip, Instructor in the Classics Department, said, “[In the storm of 1978], Ted Sizer, Head of School at the time, decided to have some of the students shovel out all the school buildings by hand and others to go downtown and dig out all the senior citizens in the apartment buildings on Main Street.” “Most of the students thought [the snow day] was a great day and a great experience—a good break from the winter term routine of school and a worthwhile way to spend it,” he continued. Despite the difficulties a blizzard can pose, faculty members still look back on snow days fondly. Henningsen said, “[The Blizzard of 1978] was one of my most enjoyable times with Andover students. We had a ton of fun in the snow, and even tobogganed down Main St. I hope that students and faculty can still have fun in the snow.”