I don’t think cold is as cold as it used to be.
Way back when I was in grade school, I remember getting up on a winter morning and running downstairs to the kitchen where my mother had our clothes spread out on chairs in front of the opened oven so we could warm up by getting dressed. We lived in a very nice house, but the upstairs just wasn’t heated.
The only time I remember schools closing when I was a student was during the “Great Blizzard of 1950.” Or it could have been anywhere from ‘48 through ‘51. I never was especially good at remembering historic dates.
I remember slogging through four blocks of hip-high snow, finally up to the Fourth Street entrance of what is now the junior high, but was then the junior and senior high, only to find a notebook paper sign on the door. “School closed. Go back home.”
We stood there in stunned silence. School never closed when it was supposed to be open back in those days. Even when most of the male population skipped school the first day of hunting season, school was still in session. (And I never really believed that all of those boys went hunting.)
We stood there in the snowdrifts for a while trying to figure out why the school was closed. Then we went home and, like the kids today, savored the marvelous freedom of an unexpected day off.
I remember when I was teaching, it was really cold, but by then we had snow days sometimes. If it snowed during the night the radio was tuned to WDRK as the kids and I listened and hoped school would be canceled.
It was while I was teaching that we got our first early dismissal because of the weather. The cheers from those assembled were deafening, and that was just when the principal told the teachers.
That same year they decided we had to save energy, so they covered all the windows with long narrow sheets of Styrofoam. The students didn’t seem to mind, but I nearly went stir crazy. Then I told the custodian we were going to have an art lesson and the students were all going to paint outdoor scenes on all the Styrofoam at my room’s windows. He chose to remove one panel so I could see out.
I remember getting up early so I could scrape my car windows before driving to school. My husband Bill went to work much earlier than I did so he just scraped his own windows. Of course, when the kids were still home they scraped the windows and warmed the car. It was as close to driving as they could get until they were old enough for driver’s permits. But, they all grew up and moved out, and I was out there scraping by myself as the wind whistled wickedly around. It was really cold then.
Now we’re retired. Bill does the car window scraping, snow blowing and shoveling. I just sit inside the nice warm house and listen to his “choice” words about how the dedicated workers plow the streets at the expense of our clean sidewalks and driveway. That’s not exactly how he says it, but I know that by spring he’ll be glad cars could park on the carefully plowed streets by the ice-chunked sidewalk and driveway in front of the house after the blizzards, like I am now.
After 40 years of marriage we agree about most things and keep our mouths shut about the rest. But on the subject of how cold it is, he thinks cold is just as cold as it ever was. But I just don’t think cold is as cold as it use to be.
Author’s Note: This column was first published in the Daily Advocate on Jan. 22, 1997.