Friday, December 20, 2013

The Book of Me, Part 15: SNOW!

This is my entry prompted by The Book of Me, Written By You project created by Julie Goucher of the Anglers Rest blog. The concept: a series of blogging and writing prompts that help family historians capture their own memories and write about themselvesGo to for more information.

This week's assignment:

The continuation of the 15 month, weekly writing project about my life and memories, created by Julie Goucher.
Do you live in area where you routinely have snow?
How old were you when you first saw snow?
Do you remember it?
Did you make snowmen?
Throw Snowballs
Sledge Rides
What is the image that first came to mind when you read snow?
What does snow 
feel like, 
smell like 
how do you see snow 

I grew up in Chicago.  I know snow.  My first memory of snow being a problem was in January of 1967, when Chicago was hit by a blizzard, and had its all-time record single storm snow total of nearly 2 feet.  My sister was 2-1/2, and once the driveway was shoveled, the piles were higher than her.  My brother and I loved it because it meant no school!  The other thing I remember was getting into the family station wagon and crawling to the grocery store, where all we could buy was powdered milk and frozen bread dough.  I don't recall feeling any sense of hardship over it, but I was only 9, and I'm sure my parents had a different perspective.

photo courtesy of

When I was a kid, I loved snow.  Our yard had lots of trees, and it was so pretty to see the snow sticking to the trees, making everything so quiet with its dampening of the streets.  We built forts, snowmen, and of course, snow angels.  Boy, did I have to a lot to learn.

Fast-forward to 1979.  I was in college, living in an apartment, working multiple jobs, and learning quickly how hard adult life can be.  According to the National Weather Service, the average annual snowfall for the Chicago area is about 34 inches.  That year, it was nearly 90 inches!  It would fall, a foot or more at a time, and then the temperature would plummet, hardening the snow into an icy mass that was nearly impossible to shovel.

To give you an idea of how bad it was, by the end of January, there was nearly 48 inches of  compacted ice on the ground.  Snow plows cleared parking lots, but the entrances/exits were surrounded by piles of snow over 10 feet high.  People would pull out of a lot and get slammed by an oncoming vehicle, simply because there was no way to see anything until they actually pulled out.  Cars started sporting ornaments on their radio antennas to help improve their chances of being seen.
photo courtesy of Jennifer L.

My apartment complex parking lot was so icy I couldn't walk up the incline to get to my building.  My car, a 1978 Chevy Z-28 Camaro, had a stick shift, and it could not navigate the hill to the parking lot.  So, I had to go stay with my parents (about 15 minutes away,) an experience I had really hoped to avoid. (Have you read any of my other posts?  lol)

Not only was the snowfall extreme, so was the cold.  I think we went about 2 weeks without reaching zero (Fahrenheit.)  At times, the wind chill reached 60 below zero.  It was so cold, my car wouldn't start....not because of the battery, but because the ignition switch, located in the clutch, actually froze.  People were actually dying from being stranded in their cars.

Snow stayed on the ground for so long, it turned black. You had to wear boots, or your shoes would be ruined, not to mention freezing your feet.  You had to scrape your windshield and your back window, and believe me, it took quite a bit of effort.

I made the decision to move south in the early 80's.  I spent 25 years in Texas and now have been in central Arkansas for 3 years.  It snows, but it's usually gone in a day or two (except for last Christmas when we got a foot!)  Ice is much worse.  No one can drive on ice.  Ice brings down power lines and tree limbs....but this is about snow.  Not much of it here, and that's fine by me.

I love Chicago.  It's a great city, and it was a wonderful place to grow up.  If you could just move it about 600 miles south, I'd probably still live there.  Now, I have to love it from afar.

Merry Christmas to all...and if you want it to be a white holiday, I wish that for you.  But for me, I hope it melts on the 26th!

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