Snow Days in the Golden Olden Days
Trudging through the Snow Day Memories
There’s nothing quite like the first big snowstorm of the year to bring back the memories of “snow days in the old days.” My wife Margaret is the oldest of 10 children, so she has lots of snow day memories in her household, and I’ve asked her to share some of the Snow Day traditions her family enjoyed.
I remember sitting in the kitchen listening to Bob Steele on the Hartford radio station. My Mom was making oatmeal on the stove, which was not a favorite in our household. Bob Steele was just finishing the definition of the Word of the Day. Our kitchen was warm and cozy, but through the window we could see the wind blowing and the snow coming down fast and hard. The snowflakes had that special blizzard potential we recognized even as kids. The door blew open, and my father and brothers came in covered in snow and freezing after shoveling the driveway. And then Bob Steele announced on the radio that school was cancelled in our town. A cry of joy erupted among all my brothers and sisters. We were so excited! We marched in a “No School Today” parade all around our home!
No school meant hanging out in our pajamas, having a leisurely breakfast—not a rushed school day one. My mom added bacon and eggs to the oatmeal menu. We even got to have real maple syrup, which made the oatmeal taste so much better. We hung out together playing games with the younger kids and reading books and watching morning TV programs. Captain Kangaroo and Leave it to Beaver were our favorites. I loved those relaxing snow day mornings that seemed to go on forever.
Around 10 a.m. we began the hunt for winter outdoor play clothes. The beautiful matching colorful parkas of high-tech cold resistance materials did not exist back in the fifties. Down to the cellar we stomped to rummage through a huge bin next to our costume box. This bin was full of pairs of old boots (galoshes that buckled up the front), old worn-out jackets, coats, snow pants, old sweaters, patched wool trousers, woolen socks, ropes & belts to keep pants up, piles of hand-knitted hats, scarves and mittens. I think these were hand-me-downs from our grandparents’ era! It took some time for all of us to get bundled up. I’m sure we looked like a ragamuffin bunch, but we were warm!
We played outdoors for a few hours of snow fun—making forts, snow ball fights, and playing King of the Mountain if the drifts were high enough. Then we all marched into the house for lunch with rosy cheeks and frozen fingers and toes. Lunch was always grilled cheese and Campbell’s tomato soup; a meal often had but one that tasted so much better on a snow day. We hung our wet clothes throughout the house on the radiators and on the clothes line in the cellar. Our home reeked of that special odor only old, wet, wool clothes could give off.
Next on the Snow Day agenda was story time, naps for the little kids and reading for the big kids. If we were quiet enough, my Mom would let us watch “Queen for the Day,” a popular TV program where some deserving mom would win a washer or dryer or some other large appliance. The clap-o-meter determined who the winner would be. Of course we were fascinated by the clap-o-meter and wondered why anyone would want that type of prize!
The hardier children would head back outdoors in semi-dry clothes to make a huge snowman to greet our Dad as he drove in the driveway after work. I will never forget the cold purple-gray of the sky on those late winter afternoons.
Our favorite meal on those nights was pot roast that had been cooking all afternoon, filling the house with an enticing aroma. It was served with huge helpings of mashed potatoes. Finally, we had Toll House chocolate chip cookies my Mom had made in the afternoon with the kids who had opted out of the afternoon snow outing. The cookies were devoured with hot chocolate topped with Reddi-wip or marshmallows. Snow Days were some of the best days of all in my family, and we still talk about our favorite memories of them when we get together.