As a kid, one of my favorite things to do in the winter was to wait until everyone went to bed, turn off the lights, sit on the covered radiator in the front room & look out the windows at the falling snow silhouetted by the streetlights. It was the perfect juxtaposition-- watching the cold winter scene in living motion while being warm & cozy indoors. Something mesmerizing about watching falling snow. It could be a gentle sprinkling, or big flakes coming down sideways in a strong gusting wind. Just so enjoyable to watch. Somehow I was the designated snow shoveler, and it was all manual labor. Only one neighbor down the street had a mechanical snow blower, and he was nice enough to zip down the block of the main sidewalks. I did not mind the task of snow shoveling-- it gave me an excuse to get out of the house in the white stuff. Being out in the snow sometimes felt like you
were inside a snow globe, with the flurries swirling all around you. My Mom used to implore me to "bundle up" because it was cold out there, but hefting shovels full of wet & heavy snow is downright aerobic & I could work up a sweat in no time. Bundling up made no sense.
Of course it is always different from a kids perspective. My focus was on the hope of a no school snow day. Growing up in Chicago, they did not declare snow days unless it was a serious storm-- many FEET of snow & drifting. But those were the glory days of winter. We would bring out the old classic Radio flyer sled & take turns pulling each other around in the snow. If you ever rode one of those sleds, you know the steering mechanism was junk. If you really were heading towards crashing into something, your best bet was to bail & throw yourself off the sled. We lived in the flatlands though, and nothing in the way of hills was available, except on those rare occasions, when there was so much snow it formed it's own "hills". One year was a kid's dream come true- the Blizzard of 1967.
The Chicago Tribune reported:
"At 5:02 a.m. on this date, it began to snow. Nothing remarkable about that. It was January in Chicago, and, besides, 4 inches of snow had been predicted. But it kept snowing, all through this miserable Thursday and into early Friday morning, until it finally stopped at 10:10 a.m. By the end, 23 inches covered Chicago and the suburbs, the largest single snowfall in the city's history.
Still, it was great to be a child during the Blizzard of '67. There were mountains of snow to play in, and plenty of time to play in them: Schools were closed for several days."
That year I remember we were thrilled to have so much snow AND school shut down. I recall being outside basking in the glory of the Blizzard, and my parents said they would need to borrow the sled.
No way to drive a car & plows were not able to keep up, so they would need to walk a mile to the grocery store & haul groceries home via sled! Who knew the radio flyer sled would become a lifeline of sorts?
Another winter joy was the park district- when they knew a freeze was expected, they would flood the baseball field w water and create a rough hewn ice staking rink. Wow! Playing crack the whip- that is creating a chain of ice skaters holding hands, building up collective speed & being on the end of the chain was waay fun. If you are not familiar, this is a demo:
Found this gallery of photos of the blizzard.
Footnote: All that snow was a blast as a kid, but when you are an adult & required to function- ie work & drive, not so much fun. I now live in the Pacific NW, where winter generally comes in the form of Raindrops. No shoveling required!
wow, that is a lot of snow! fun pics of kids on sleds and heaving shovels of snow up above your head.
Growing up where we only saw snow stick to the ground maybe every 10-yrs, I only saw it twice as a kid. By the 2nd time, I was driving. Seemed like the car was handling funny which I attributed to all that crunchy snow. Next day my dad asked me how long I'd been driving on that flat tire! Apparently, thunkedy-thunk is not the way a car normally sounds when driving in snow.
Our family used to drive into the local mtns just to have a snow experience. I remember my mom bundling us up, too, far beyond the level at which a kid can motate.
After living in Eastern Washington State for a few adult yrs, experiencing 50-inches of snow and everything you describe, I still think it's pretty to look at and would probably not be so bad if you didn't have to drive in it every day. But when it turns to Black Ice, I'd rather not be on the roads.
Such fun memories of winter and snow. So much snow. I really enjoyed the photos of Chicago. I'm just a little homesick for that place. xoxo I hope you and your family had a good Christmas.
DK ~ Yes loads of fun. WE definitely had 4 distinct seasons in Chi town. Back in the day, they allowed people to burn piles of leaves! The scent of fall. Summer was a hellish humidity fest ( this was before air conditioning). Spring was iffy w random late snowstorms planting snow on dainty Easter bonnets Winter brought the lake effect snows
I remember the women demanding the church allow women to wear pants (rather than dresses) in literal freezing ass cold winters. The request was granted!
None of that thin poly pro or thinsulate stuff back in the day. Bulky layers till the kid was like a beached turtle. You don't need to move, you need to be warm!
Early on we figured out putting plastic bags on top of our socks then into boots or ice skates kept your feet dry & warmer. We had serious winter there!
Black ice is tres dangerous & one of my least favorite conditions
Lisa! YOU inspired me to write this piece, when you asked your readers to share their memories.
I remembered how much I loved the snow as a kid & the more the merrier. Of course I did not have to schlep the groceries for a mile, or stand in that huge line of people stocking up after the blizzard hit! Sure you could dig your car out of the snow, but the roads remained clogged & for the most part, no one was going anywhere-- including school. Wow!
Chicago is a unique place, but the city/neighborhood where I grew up has changed so much.
Christmas ain't what it used to be-- but we had a nice day.
Fran: Thanks for this blog. Much fun. (And glad Lisa inspired you to write it.) I loved your glimpses into the pages of pressed memories of years past. But this one gave me the shivers! (Not particularly fond of the the white stuff.)
That said, I got to enjoy watching it thru a living room window as it fell just before Christmas this year here in El Paso (4"). Backlit by a street light, it is always mesmerizing, just as you said!
And, growing up in So. Cal., snow was something unknown. In fact, I remember one December when it was over 90 degrees in L.A.! (The "runners" on my Radio Flyer were wheels.)
But your video of the whip brought back skating at a nearby roller rink, where 15-20 kids would comprise the whip. But unlike a frozen field with no walls to slam into, in a confined space of a building instead, making it often brutal for the "end of the liners!"
Nice blog -- THANKS (again)!
Oh, and a p.s. -- After Christmas night's broadcast of the Packers - Bears game, imagine it's gonna be just a little colder January in Chi Town. Sorry. (vbg ~ go Packers!)
Dada~ How fun! You w sunny S. Cal warm X mas memories, but had a kamikaze version of crack the whip in a roller skating rink. I recall 10+ kids forming the chain for the whip, but in the open field you'd just go zinging across the ice & hope it was smooth.
The makeshift ball field ice rink was not groomed & one might discover a clump of grass sticking out here or there. the faster you were going, the more likely to wipe out on the random grass.
Strange to have snow in El Paso, but you got to enjoy watching the white stuff fly.
Missed the football game, so no leanings in any direction.
Fran: re the Packers -- Bears game. It was quite amazing -- watching a game in northern WI where it was warmer than here in west TX!
Climate change.... Nah!
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