I've stated before how kids with no money and time on their hands will be much more creative than rich kids in finding ways to amuse themselves. Playing in the snow was no exception. Our mothers were glad to have us out of the house. After dressing us in bulky snowsuits, galoshes (boots that used metal snaps to close), hats with ear flaps and mittens pinned to our coat sleeves, we were ready to hit the streets. To get out the door we first needed to shovel a path to the sidewalk. (I now see how our mothers counted on our eagerness to play to get the sidewalks cleared,) Once that was done we sprinkled coal ashes from the furnace onto the icy walkways to help people walk without slipping. Not pretty, but effective.
All the snow shoveled from the sidewalks was piled near the curb. After a bad storm the mound could be four or five feet tall, and since the houses were attached, the mound ran all the way down the block. This offered the perfect opportunity to make a snow tunnel. We would dig out the snow to make a main tunnel running the length of maybe half a block, and then create different entrances perpendicular to the main tunnel so that you could enter in front of your house and exit five or six houses down the street. You may say there was no real purpose to all this hard work since we could easily travel the same distance by just walking down the cleared sidewalk, but we were kids with nothing to do and more energy than you can imagine.
Another favorite snow day activity was sledding. Most of us had those big Flexible Flyer sleds with the metal runners. Unlike the plastic junk they sell today, these were made to hold three or four kids piled on one sled. There was a vacant lot in the middle of our block that was elevated maybe ten feet above street level. It was just enough of a hill to ride a sled down, the only problem being we needed a lookout to check for traffic since the path down the hill took your sled right into and across the street. Sometimes we daisy-chained sleds together and came down the hill in groups, collapsing in a laughing heap in the snowbank that served as our brakes. This was a risky game to be sure, but we never lost anybody.
Snowball fights were a must. Parents today would probably frown on the idea of their kid getting into a snowball fight, but they were mostly harmless. Really nasty kids (who probably grew up to be lawyers) would put rocks inside the snowballs they packed, but we discouraged this practice by beating the crap out of any kid caught doing it. We would take cover behind the cars on either side of the street and let fly. There was a certain snow consistency that was perfect for making round, firm snowballs; powdery snow didn't work as well. It wasn't easy throwing with all those layers of clothes, but we managed well enough.
Around lunchtime, when we couldn't feel our fingers and toes anymore, we retreated to our respective houses for a break. Off came the wet gloves and hats to be placed on the hot radiator in the hall to dry out before the afternoon games. The galoshes and soaked clothes would come off, and I remember my mother rubbing me down with a towel before feeding me my favorite wintertime lunch, Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup with Uneeda Biscuit crackers crushed into it. I found out later in life that this soup has enough salt in it to drive your blood pressure through the roof, but back then it was pure ambrosia. After lunch, suit up and repeat.
I think of snow as a four-letter word. I wish I could recapture that love of the snow that I had as a child, but as long as I have to shovel it and not be able to drive around in it, I flatly declare to the world that ...I HATE @#$%&* SNOW!
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