As first major storm of 2022 blasted the region this weekend, the inevitable comparisons could be heard all over town, as the heavy snow, pounding surf, and whipping winds brought back memories of the storm of the last century, the Great Blizzard of February 1978.
In its archives, the Hull Historical Society has preserved three key mementoes of that legendary event – two books of photos of the storm and a bright-red-and-white “Thanks a HULLava Lot!” sticker that graced the bumper of nearly every car in Hull 44 years ago. If you’ve been in town for that length of time, you likely have at least one of these items in your attic right now.
The first publication to chronicle the blizzard was “Havoc Hits Hull,” a compilation of 77 photos by Bill McDonald and published by Perla McDonald. These intrepid Hullonians showcased rare images of the storm as it happened, showing many parts of town as the flood waters rose, and the depicting the storm’s destructive aftermath in stunning detail.
The second book and its famous bumper sticker came out in the summer of 1978 as a souvenir of Hull Appreciation Day. The book of photos and personal accounts sought to memorialize the event from numerous angles. On July 30, 1978, our grateful community invited disaster-relief workers and their families back to town for a full schedule of activities, including a day at the beach and free rides at Paragon Park. The author’s father, Barry Haraden, was co-chair of the event and dreamed up the day’s slogan, “Thanks a Hullava Lot!” – a corny greeting that helped raise money for the American Red Cross and other relief agencies.
Those who didn’t live here during those difficult days have learned to be patient with those who did – they called themselves “survivors” long before the TV show popularized the word – because the events of Feb. 6-7, 1978 were indeed life-altering for Hull’s 10,000+ residents. The snowfall record of 27.1 inches in Boston stood until 2003; the high-tide record – an astonishing 15.1-foot wall of water that slammed the peninsula – was unmatched until just four years ago.
Coastal residents who hadn’t abandoned their homes had to be rescued by amphibious “duck” boats (the intended use of those vehicles that now parade through Boston to celebrate a sports championship), and the number of refugees in shelters swelled into the thousands, with at least 2,000 in Hull at the Memorial Middle and Damon Elementary schools.
In addition to the severe weather, the sheer destruction, and the months-long disruptions caused by the storm, most survivors remember the spirit of community that grew out of the shared hardship. Neighbors opened their homes to those needing help. Strangers quickly became friends. The depths of human kindness seemed boundless.
In his Appreciation Day remarks, Gov. Michael Dukakis paid tribute to Hullonians’ response to the storm: “Your courage and determination in facing the devastation wrought on this brave community in February, 1978 was an inspiration to all of us in the Commonwealth working to restore normalcy to our shore communities.
“We were proud of the way this community held together and helped the homeless find shelter, the hungry find food, and the downhearted find courage and the will to go on.
“Through very desperate days, Hull townspeople and their community leaders held together. For centuries to come, proud residents of Hull will look back at the storm of 1978 and remember the splendid and unselfish response of her citizenry in time of need.”