Monday, January 17, 2011

Snow Days

I guess snow days don't have a magical quality when there are no school age kids in the house. And when the snow falls on days when you are already off work, it seems rather anti-climactic. I remember snow days when I was a kid, more in grade school than high school. It was a blast living on a street with a steep hill. Especially because in the late 50s & early 60s there were fewer cars, especially on our street, which had a belgian block road connector at the top which nobody traveled in snowy times.

We used to get cardboard boxes, as large as we could find and sled in them, usually with the box turned on its side.  Sometimes we got really lucky and found a HUGE box which could be cut down to provide "sleds" for more than one kid. Sometimes there was an ancient wooden sled around & we would take turns riding with one or two of our friends.

But the cardboard boxes really stand out in my memory.  In order to make them faster on the snowy hill, we would soap the area that came in contact with the snow. This was accomplished with a bar of bath soap, usually Lux or Palmolive, borrowed from someone's kitchen or bath. I remember a variation of this as we got older that involved using wax candles to waterproof our cardboard, too.

When I say we sledded down the hill, I mean to say we rode our sleds down the middle of the street on which we lived. Growing up in an urban area, there wasn't any nearby park, or unpopulated hillside on which to ride. As I mentioned, there was little traffic, if any, so we just had fun.  Our street was about 2 blocks long, so it was a decently long ride down the hill. And we kids lived throughout the 2 block area, so we could take warm up breaks at anyone's house anywhere along the way. My house was within 6 houses of the top of the street.  

I can remember a lot of times sledding after dark, too.  That always seemed to be the most fun.  So, if we hadn't had a snow day, after school, we start sliding down the hill and trekking back up, until supper time. Then, after supper, out we'd come again, until we got too cold to move, or until someone's Mom decided it was time for everyone to head to their own homes. When we were out there after dark, parents would turn on porch lights so we had some visibility, since the street lights were about 10 houses apart. 

We had special ways of trying to keep warm and dry. One method involved wrapping our feet in newspaper and waxed paper inside our boots. This later evolved to wrapping our feet with saran wrap. I don't think any of us had real snow pants. I remember staying out until my pants just became too snow logged and cold to bear with any comfort. Then you went in for awhile to warm up and hope your Mom didn't see how red your legs were. We would wear double pairs of pants in an effort to stay warm longer and be outside longer. There is also a vague memory of wearing a pair of pants, covering them with plastic cleaner bags, followed by another pair of pants. There was serious effort to remain warm & dry as long as possible.

Every year there was at least one accident, usually involving one of the boys and someone's parked car. I remember the year that one of the Autore boys slid under someone's car and got scraped up pretty badly.  The girls were a little more cautious.

Of course, even the girls got to be daredevils at times. The bottom of our street intersected with Butler St, which was the main thoroughfare through our area of the city. It was the street on which the trolleys ran. There was a time, probably in the early to mid 60s, when all of us got a little more daring in our sledding down 57th Street hill to Butler St. If our parents had known, they probably would've revoked our sledding rights.  Someone, I'm not sure who, discovered that if the light was green at the intersection and you were traveling fast enough, you could make it across Butler St, instead of aborting into the curb at the bottom of the hill. Timing was oh so important!  I remember the time I came down at a pretty good clip and found I had a green light. Wahoo! My first time making across Butler St! Good times!

Wonder when I began to see snow as more of a challenge than a plaything?  Time to renew my attitude of childhood, I think. 

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