Let it snow



Last week’s school postponements, caused by Thursday night’s five-inch snow, reminded me of how schools handled snow days when I was a student in the 1950s and 60s.

Not so much.

When I was a kid, when it snowed we still had school, and if kids from the country couldn’t make it, that was OK, they just picked up where they left off when they were able to return to school.

That’s not to say those practices were better than today’s — its just the way things were done then.

We lived six blocks from school, so we always had to go to class — on foot, since Dad was off to work by 7 a.m. We raised our two kids on Cayuga Street, two short walking blocks from school. They didn’t believe me when I told them I had to walk six miles to school every day, uphill both ways. Mary grew up in Pocahontas, just one block from school, so she could even make it home for lunch.

We always knew there had been a big snowfall overnight if Mom called upstairs at 6:30 a.m. and announced she made oatmeal. She never got up that early to make breakfast unless there had been a storm. Oatmeal meant we had to shovel snow before school.

Since Dad wanted to be known as a good neighbor on Geneseo Street, he expected us to clear the Salies’ walk south of us as well, and sometimes Dr. Hansen’s on the corner of Geneseo and Lakeshore Drive. Dad admired Dr. Hansen, who was up and at ‘em with his little black bag at dawn and often didn’t get home until after dark.

We left the house north of us alone because a grouchy old lady lived there who didn’t like kids. At least she didn’t like us. I thought we were likeable enough — all six of us. We were happy when the Crouch family moved in there. They were nice and had kids.

The only extended school closure I can recall was in autumn 1957, when there was a worldwide Asian flu pandemic. Schools in this area were closed for about a week. The flu was an avian variety which originated with wild ducks in China and was picked up by humans. That flu caused the death of nearly two million people worldwide over more than a year.

The only other time I can remember closing school was when St. Mary’s won the CYO diocesan basketball tournament, which was a big deal in the 1950s and 60s. Msgr. Ivis gave the students Monday off so we could celebrate our big championship. I think we beat Fonda OLGC, which made winning even sweeter.

I went to St. Mary’s in the days when private school students couldn’t ride public school buses. St. Mary’s parents operated their own rickety old school bus, which was kept on various farms where parents would take turns driving it.

Since so many more families lived on farms in those days, students — boys mostly, but also some girls — were excused from classes for several days in the spring and fall to help with planting and harvesting crops. Most farm families had a lot of kids to help with the work. Tractors and mechanical harvesters were in general use on the farms then, but equipment wasn’t nearly as big and efficient as today so it took more work then to farm 160 acres than it does today to farm 1,000 acres. Plus there was a wide variety of livestock, including cattle (beef and dairy), hogs, chickens and sheep on most farms to keep the whole family busy with chores. I was a city boy but my farm friends kept me up on their chores in the country.

Let’s hope for an early spring! I’m ready for baseball.