Friday, June 15, 2012

Journey of Awakening – 49: My Last Town Meeting

I remember the day we left Pittsburgh, Suzanne Heilman and I, heading for the town of Snow Shoe, at the summit of I-80, before making the descent to Philadelphia. Suzanne, Burna Dunn and I had been assigned to travel from Richmond, Virginia to the Pittsburgh ICA House, which was Burna and David Dunn’s home base, to mop up the remaining towns in the western half of the state. We spent several days on phones scheduling Town Meetings, which our volunteers would then be assigned to show up and conduct, often on one day’s notice.

Finally, we were down to the last two or three counties. Once the dates were set and the teams assigned, there was just one small town left—Snow Shoe. It was decided that Suzanne and I would cover it on the way to our Washington, D.C. House where the rest of our set-up teams were gathering.

SnowShoe_PA on map

The light snowfall began about noon and then kept on falling. We were on I-80, too far to turn back, we concluded. Then the windshield wipers on the borrowed car stopped working. It was a wet snowfall. I ended up driving with the window down holding the wheel with my right hand and swishing the wiper blades across my side of the windshield with my left. It was slow going and we began to notice the highway becoming slick. At one point we were alongside a semi-trailer which began what looked like a jack-knifing motion. There was not much I could do except hope and pray so I just took my foot off the accelerator and let the huge truck swing sideways, hoping it would miss us. It did. We pushed on.

Around 6 o’clock we stopped at a roadside café for a bite. It was now snowing hard enough that we decided there was no way people were going to come out for a Town Meeting, even if we got there. So we phoned the Snow Shoe town hall before getting back on the road. The meeting was set for 7 p.m. and we were at least an hour away. The cheery voice of the mayor, who was hosting the meeting, answered and let us know they were used to weather like this. Most of the attendees were already there and they were looking forward to this meeting and would wait for us.

Snow Shoe Welcome  SnowShoePABoroughHall

We arrived about an hour late and this little group of about a dozen Snow Shoers welcomed us warmly and stayed for two hours, gathered around a wood-burning stove for one of the more memorable events of the Town Meeting campaign. I don’t recall any of their issues or proposals, but the enthusiasm for their town and their active participation still finds a welcome niche in my memory bank.

We were lucky we needed neither chains nor snow shoes to get there. That Town Meeting in the late winter of 1978 was the last one I recall having participated in. I was looking forward to returning to the Boston House and Linda and Eric, and preparing for my last journey into Maine in the spring.

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