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All About Kids and Snow

by Al Roach

Related Articles:

Saving Patty
Breaking the Ice

Al Roach Links

What I miss most about this time of year is snow. I'm talking about the snow we had thirty and forty and fifty years ago when we were kids. And the things we did with it.

I miss being a kid and fighting and shoving and rolling about in the snow with other kids, trying to shove handfuls of white, fluffy stuff down each other's collars. And the squeals and gasps as a great lump of it slid down beneath your shirt and turned into freezing, slushy water on your belly.

I miss the snow forts we used to build on the corner lot, playing a wintertime version of French and English, trying to capture the other team's "flag," usually a dirty handkerchief or a frozen sock found in a garbage can.

And the iceballs we made by pouring water on our snowballs and letting them freeze overnight. If one of those hit you in the head, you could feel it right through the fur lining of your aviator's cap. It was dangerous, but I don't remember anyone being seriously hurt.

I miss the snow houses we used to build by packing a great mound of snow about four feet high and then hollowing out the centre. We used to sit inside and pretend we were Robert Scott, the great British explorer and his intrepid companions, sitting at the North Pole. What we didn't know was that it was the SOUTH Pole that Scott reached in 1912.

We used to make tag wheels. Remember those? A tag wheel was a big wheel you made in the snow by walking along, scuffing your feet. It consisted of an outer rim about thirty or forty feet in diameter with several spokes. You had to stay on these paths as you played tag or you were "it" or "out," ­ or something. Anyhow, you had to stay on the path. Mostly, the game consisted of racing around, gasping in the sharp winter air, slipping and sliding and falling as you rounded the corners and arguing who was tagged.

The snow formed lumps on our woollen mitts. When you got home, you'd put the snow-matted mitts on the fluted hot-water radiators where they sizzled and gave off a dank odour and dripped water on the floor. And your mother would tell you to take them down to the basement and put them on the furnace to dry.

I suppose the most fun for boys was throwing snowballs at girls. I remember one winter's day, tossing snowballs at some pig-tailed, freckle-faced girls on our way to King Edward Public School. Some teacher must have seen me and ratfinked.
I was summoned to the office of the principal, Old Man Stonehouse.

Mr. Stonehouse, I have long since come to realize, was one hell of a teacher. I have an almost reverent respect for a man who could teach even me the seven times table. But to get back to my story.

Mr. Stonehouse leaned back in his oak swivel-chair, turned away from his roll-top desk, fingered the gold watch chain on the vest of his grey tweed suit, adjusted his silver-rimmed glasses, and fixed a most severe eye upon me.

"Well, Allan, what is this I hear about you? Throwing snowballs at the girls! What have you to say for yourself, young man?"

I didn't have anything to say for myself.

I dug my toe into the fringe of the faded flowered carpet and made a great show of studying this operation as if it were essential to my continued existence on this planet.

Then a strange thing happened. Mr. Stonehouse began to mellow. Oh, he understood. After all, what was snow for if it wasn't to make into snowballs? Why, as a boy, he had thrown snowballs at the girls many a day.

I stop studying the carpet fringe and dare to look up. Hey, this guy's alright. I'm going to get off scot-free (I smiled)!

However, my kindly mentor continued, he had to submit to punishment for HIS misdeeds (the smiled faded). And although it had been more painful for him than it would be for me, he would have to punish me for MY misdeed (I frowned).

Out from the centre desk drawer came the fearsome leather strap. I left his office rubbing my reddened hands on my wool sweater and fighting back the tears. Boy, if I could get my hands on the guy who snitched on me!

Of course, we had other activities associated with snow. There were the snowmen. The crowning touches on our snowman were the faces and buttons created out of coal we filched down in the coal bin. And the Derby hat one of the boys was always able to find in the attic. And the old pipe donated by someone's grandfather.

There were also winter terrors in our young lives. I remember one cold winter day when an older "smart-alec" told me to put my tongue on the metal mail box at the corner of Wyandotte Street and Victoria Road (Chilver, if you're under 50 years of age.) Of course, my tongue stuck to the cold iron and I was terrified. I jerked back. I think I left part of my tongue there.

We dressed for the snow. If you're old enough, you'll remember when boys wore woollen knee britches with grey woollen socks up to the knees.

The girls all wore heavy woollen snowsuits. They were always blue. And they did very little for their pubescent figures. The average snowsuit added about thirty pounds to the average girl's figure. The shapeliest girl in grade ten looked like a sack of potatoes in one of those suits. But we didn't care. If she slipped the inevitable hood back off her head and let the snow sparkle on her hair, any girl became beautiful.

I remember once during a snowball fight, one of the girls fell and threw a finger out of joint. The bone was almost protruding through her skin. After we overcame our fright, some of us boys tried to pull at her finger and force the bone back into place. We failed, of course, and finally had to take her home.

But I remember the strange sensation of holding the girl's cold hand in mine. I didn't know at the time, but I was growing up. And I have carried the memory of it with me all of these years.

Well, that's about all I have to say about snow. Somehow it isn't the same any more. All it means now is that it's time to put on the snow tires.

I miss being a kid in the winter.

Related Articles:

Saving Patty
Breaking the Ice

Al Roach Links


 

 

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