Column, Looking Back

‘Snow days’

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Recently there has been talk about the possibility of no more snow days in some schools. What a disappointment that would have been when I was a student!

Back in the 50s and 60s remote learning would have been considered “science fiction.” If you weren’t in your classroom, education came to a halt. Learning via computer would have been as unimaginable as the idea of seeing one another while talking on the phone. What seemed like science fiction dreams back then are now a reality.

In today’s world schools can notify teachers and parents about closings by sending one message to their cell phones. But how did we learn that school was cancelled “back in the day?” We found out in one of two ways. Either we huddled close to the radio for an early morning announcement or we waited for the whistle to blow from the Rutland city fire station at 7 a.m.

The excitement of knowing you had a day off made you want to eat, get dressed and head outdoors. I grew up on a street with about a dozen kids. The minute one kid was spotted outside we all asked for permission to go out and play in the snow. As soon as we put on our outdoor clothes we grabbed our sled or metal coaster and headed to our favorite hill.

Houses that fill the nearby streets today were few and far between back in the 50s. For my gang that meant you could slide from Howard Avenue down to Easterly Avenue. It was quite a run especially when the snow got packed down or icy. The biggest problem sometimes was getting onto the sleds. Clothes were bulky and our parents dressed us in so many layers that bending down to get onto a sled or coaster was no easy feat.

In case you don’t know what the coasters of that era looked like, they were metal, silver in color and round in shape. You sat on them with your legs crossed and held on to strap-like handles. You steered with your body, if you were lucky!

Most parents in our neighborhood only had one car and the fathers drove them to their jobs. So a “snow day” meant staying in the neighborhood. But why would we want to go anywhere when sliding could happen right in our own backyard? Our favorite hill was right in the middle of Howard Avenue so parents on either end of the street didn’t have to go far if they were looking for us. But I think when we left the house most parents didn’t expect to see us until it was meal time!

As we got a little older and could venture farther from home we headed to the hilly section of Piedmont. Those hills were shorter in length but steeper. Fortunately, the road at the bottom had very little traffic because that is exactly where we often ended up!

Sleds and coasters weren’t the only sources of neighborhood fun we also had an ice skating rink at the home of Gordon and Eleanor Goodrich. Their son, Steve, was close to my age so he was part of the neighborhood gang. The rink was flooded and maintained just for us kids. I found out just a few years ago that the fellow who helps close our pool is the grandson of Gordon and Eleanor Goodrich. I found myself over 60 years later reminiscing with him about all the fun his grandparents had provided. It’s a small world at times.

Getting snow days felt like such a bonus. Would we rather be sitting in a classroom or playing outside? Hmmm….such an easy choice for a kid!

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