With all the reporting on the recent arctic blast and Polar Vortex, it brings to mind growing up in Ohio where we had snow and cold weather in the winter.
I don’t remember ever hearing the term “arctic blast” but I do remember playing in the snow and sledding until my whole body felt numb and our mother had to summon us inside to warm up. When we got inside, we would peel out of our coats, hats, scarves, boots, and gloves and place them to dry near the stove that heated our house. At that time, we didn’t have a clothes dryer and my mom would have to hang clothes out to dry. I can remember her hanging them out and they would freeze on the clothesline.
The best sledding was across the road in our neighbor’s yard where there was a long slope, perfect for gliding down the snow-covered hill. And it was great exercise because with each pass came the long trek up the hill to do it again.
We lived alongside a creek which would freeze over and provide lots of opportunity to slide and play on the ice. I recall one occasion when my brother Fred and I were on the ice and I fell—hard! It nearly knocked the breath out of me and my head cracked the ice. When I was finally able to get up, there was a beautiful spiral in the ice where my head landed with water beginning to seep through. My brother was so mad at me! He had no sympathy for me and the fact that I had nearly suffered a concussion. He just marched off the ice and toward the house grumbling the whole way. We talked about this not too long ago and even though we laughed about it, I could still hear the disgust in his voice after more than 50 years.
We also lived near several lakes. One of them was Roosevelt Lake, nestled in Shawnee State Park (once the hunting grounds of the Shawnee Indians) just a few miles from our house. During the winter, the lake would freeze over several feet thick. Once the park rangers deemed it safely solid, it was the gathering place for ice skating. Kids would flock to the frozen lake after school to skate and be seen. There were no cell phones, no texting that facilitated these gatherings. It was strictly word of mouth and actual phone calls—made from rotary-dialed phones. But the communications were effective and everybody showed up. There were even big bonfires built on the ice. It was so much fun! But admittedly, it was hard to look “cool” when you were so cold.
One of our classmates in our neighborhood, Larry, had a small car, a Fiat. The brakes on this car were terrible. In fact, Larry wore a football helmet when he drove and if you were a passenger, you too were expected to wear a helmet. This was before the days of seatbelts. And when Larry came to a stop sign the passenger (and driver too sometimes) would open the door and drag their feet to help stop the vehicle. Larry brought his Fiat to the lake and kids would pile in and ride down the slight incline to the lake. When Larry got to the lake, he would step on the brakes which only served to spin the car around on the frozen lake, sort of like a Disney ride, only without any control as to where and how the vehicle would go. It’s amazing to me that there were no accidents or injuries from being a passenger in Larry’s car or all the ice sports.
School was not often canceled because the snow plows were out early in the morning clearing the roads and trucks were out dropping salt and sand as well. But the fact that the roads were likely to be cleared and school was likely going to happen, we still held out hope for a snow day. Just like kiddos in Mississippi do when they see a snowflake, or even hear about the possibility of snow.
Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.
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