About Kids and Snow
by Al Roach
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Allan, what is this I hear about you? Throwing snowballs at the
girls! What have you to say for yourself, young man?"
didn't have anything to say for myself.
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.
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
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)!
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).
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
miss being a kid in the winter.