45 Years ago today I visited London, Ontario, on a recruiting trip to The University of Western Ontario. I think I had probably been through here once as a child, but this trip was essentially my introduction to the city and to the university.
I flew into town the evening of January 24th, 1971, spent the day of the 25th meeting with future colleagues, and left town on the 26th.
Those were different days for the economics department at UWO. It was known as a revolving door, hiring ten people a year, and firing (actually, not renewing) 8 or 9 each year. The department was growing in size and stature and was serious in how it approached the hiring-firing decisions. Several of my future colleagues groused about the uncertainty and what seemed like inappropriate or unequally applied standards (to them), but they also all agreed UWO would be a good place to have been.
I had always hoped to go to a small liberal arts college to teach. I didn't want to write anything more than what was required for my dissertation. (What a change I went through. See this). But UWO looked like an exciting place to be, and my future colleagues convinced me it was worth coming here for a few years.
The day of interviews was gloriously warm, for late January. The sun was shining. We walked around campus in our sport coats and basked in the sun. People joked about how the snow-sculpture contest was going to have to be canceled.
Lunch at the faculty club, meetings with more future colleagues, dinner with a former gradskool classmate. An exciting day. But nothing like what was to come...
The Blizzard of January, 1971
The morning of the 26th, I got up early and went down to the lobby to catch a limo/bus to the airport. It had started snowing, and the snow looked as if it was pretty heavy, but the streets to the airport were okay, and I made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
Those were the days with no security checks at the airports. Those of us who were due to fly out stood by the window, looking at the runway, a bit worried about the intensifying snowfall, and speculating about whether we would make it out.
Soon, breaking through the clouds, we could barely make out the Air Canada plane that was due to arrive (and which would be our return flight to Toronto).
We saw the plane approach the runway, and then pull up.
But then we saw it come back for another attempt at landing.
It pulled up again. Another groan.
It made a third attempt but again pulled up. The pilot didn't feel safe landing because he couldn't see the runway!
In those days, with fares as high as they were (in real dollars), airlines took on many more obligations than they do nowadays. We all queued up at the ticket desk, and the Air Canada ticket agents rebooked our flights out of Toronto and then put us all in taxicabs to the Toronto airport. I was put on an American Airlines flight to Chicago and had plenty of time to make it.
The trip to Toronto was interesting. By coincidence, I was in a cab with Levis Kochin, an economist who went on to have a very successful career at The University of Washington.
We arrived in Toronto in plenty of time. I checked in at the American ticket counter, and we boarded the plane while the sun was still shining.
Then the snow hit with a vengeance. American canceled the flight and told us to disembark and reschedule.
I think I must have joined 5-6 different queues during the next 24 hours, changing flights, getting vouchers for a hotel and meals, catching a cab to some hotel, rebooking flights again and again. At least in those days the airlines put us up when bad weather interrupted our flights.
I managed to get out by noon the next day, but it sure was a challenging welcome for a recruiting trip.
I was reminded of this recruiting trip by the blizzard that hit the US middle-east this weekend.
The blizzard that hit London that year was pretty serious (though not as serious as the blizzards of 1977-78). According to one report,
1971 A 5 day long blizzard in London, Ontario dumps 62cm snow and kills 3. It was the worst blizzard in decades
And here is a column from newspaper in a nearby town describing that storm.
We may complain about weather forecasting, but it is one heckuva lot better now than it was 45 years ago!