By now, the Christmas gifts have been put away and the tree has been packed up or thrown out. It might not be a bad time to think about taking down those outdoor lights, too. Our snowless condition won’t last forever.
And now I am going to start sounding like a geezer.
Back when I was a kid, we had snow all the time. We got our average 40 inches nearly every year, and we liked it. But there were years when the ground was bare at least part of the time.
First and second grades at Hawthorn Elementary were snowy back in the early ‘60s as I remember. We played endless games of Fox and Geese behind the building.
I’d never seen this game until first grade and I was fascinated by it. That’s a pivotal year in most children’s lives and I have a head full of snapshot memories.
I always saved my One A Day Vitamin until the moment I was all set to run around the corner and seize the day. Using the magical thinking of childhood, I thought the pill made me run faster. Mostly, my parents made me take it to fend off chronic tonsillitis.
I don’t know. I think it worked. I seldom got tagged as the fox and wasn’t condemned to chasing my classmates around the cartwheel-shape pattern stomped into the snow.
I’ve written about lining up in the nurse’s suite to receive the new Sabin polio vaccine, a replacement for the Salk inoculation that most of us had already gotten at the doctor’s office. The boy who got sick and threw up that time was also the kid who put his snow boots on the wrong feet and tried to play Fox and Geese like that.
I’m not going to “out” him because I don’t quite remember his name. But I will say this: He was the coolest kid in our class in my eyes.
Third and fourth grades at the New Bethlehem-South Bethlehem Elementary weren’t that memorable weather-wise. We must have gone outside sometime for recess. Mrs. Kata and Mrs. Hindman always seemed to be in good mental health, and that’s what I’m basing my assessment on.
My nearsightedness caught up with me in third grade, and I remember going with my dad to Dr. Bell’s office in Brookville to pick up my first pair of glasses. It was snowy that day, and Dad and I hung out at my grandparents’ “gentleman farm” until my eyewear was ready. This is the place now known as Quiet Creek Herb Farm and School of Country Living.
In fourth grade, I learned to knit during a few winter recesses, so the weather must have been too bad to play outside. I really don’t remember any favorite games from that time, unless it was Chinese jump rope, a game involving a long loop of string that went around the ankles of two girls, plus a third who tried making complex patterns with it and her feet while chanting. The description doesn’t do it justice, and it would be regarded as racist these days.
During those elementary-school years, we still had all our Christmas toys to while away the dark evenings. Television was pretty good, too. The Jetsons, the Flintstones and My Favorite Martian kept us entertained at home, but we visited my grandparents to watch Bonanza because we couldn’t get NBC at our house.
People make jokes about how hard their childhoods were because they had to get up to change the station. Our part of South Bethlehem was like the Wild West because our television antenna only picked up ABC and CBS. I never saw Star Trek until I was in college.
Schoolhouse gypsy that I was, fifth and sixth grades were spent at Mahoning Township Elementary. The big game both years was dodgeball, played in the parking lot at anytime. We finally got playground equipment in the spring of 1967.
By seventh grade, we were outgrowing some of the kiddy games, but a rousing snowball fight made us give up our dignity. There was enough of the right kind of snow to built forts, and some of my brother’s friends attempted skiing down the short hill beside our house. That was always a short and thrilling ride if you were on a sled, never mind a pair of skis.
Sled riding was still acceptable once in a while until we left junior high and turned our attention to serious teenage stuff such as jobs, getting our driver’s licenses, basketball, wrestling and studying seriously.
Winter was simply kind of snowy, nothing remarkable. It was that way until 1978 when Pittsburgh recorded 62 inches for the year. The all-time champ was the winter of 1950-51 when we had something like 82 inches.
Maybe we shouldn’t complain too loudly about our dearth of snow so far this winter. There is still plenty of time for Ma Nature to make our lives interesting.
[Susan Kerr is a semi-retired freelance writer living in her hometown of New Bethlehem. Previously, she was the managing editor of a regional-interest magazine and a business journal in State College.]