It has been said that everyone talks about the weather but that no one can do anything about it and that certainly seems to be the case this year. There is no doubt that this winter there has been plenty of weather to talk about and it looks like the coming week will bring even more fodder for discussion.
There is one element of this seemingly endless winter that many people are missing which I call a “generational winter.” At least once every generation, we need a winter that will provide stories that will be told to future generations of children and grandchildren.
For me, the winter for stories was the winter of ’76-’77, my senior year of high school. That winter in Dayton, Ohio over a thirty-day period from January 10 through February 8, the AVERAGE temperature was 10.6 degrees and the low point was a temperature of -21 and I do not recall anyone talking about what the wind chill was that winter. I understand that “cold” is a relative term, but any way you look at it, -21 is cold!! That was the winter that just some fifty miles south in Cincinnati, the Ohio River froze enough that people walked or drove on the ice to the not so sunny Kentucky shore.
I know we missed some school that year, but I am pretty certain it was on days that there was a lot of snow, not just because of the cold temperatures. In those days, the snorkel parkas were in vogue, so I would pull my snorkel out a foot in front of my face and as long as I was not facing the wind it was not too bad. I remember getting in my car one night when the upholstery cracked when I sat down because the seats were brittle from the cold, the power steering was frozen up and the speedometer looked like a metronome gone wild.
It seems like these days, they close school whenever there is a dusting of snow or a chilly temperature. It leads one to wonder if today’s kids are not as tough as we were. I think it has to do with fashion and sense. As I said, back in my day, when winter came around we pulled out the winter clothes and packed up the summer stuff. Maybe if kids today did not wear shorts and soccer sandals year round, they could survive out at the bus stop for a few minutes when the thermometer approaches zero.
As cold as the winter of ’76 – ’77 was, many would tell you that the winter of ’77 – ’78 was even worse. That was when southern Ohio had the only certifiable blizzard of my lifetime when in late January three storms dropped over three feet of snow. The only story I have of that blizzard is getting pictures from family and friends in the mail (the picture above is one my Mom set me of our house). For not only did I have enough sense to dress warmly in January of 1977, I had enough sense to apply to a college located in delightful DeLand, Florida (Go Stetson Hatters) where not a flake of snow was seen in 1978. However that winter as I made my way across campus early one slightly chilly morning my roommate who was from south Florida paused as we chatted and exclaimed rather excitedly, “Look! I can see my breath! I’ve never seen my breath before!” I guess “cold” really is a relative term.
So, take heart, winter will eventually loosen its grasp on us (baseball pitchers and catchers report for spring training in less than two weeks), the temperature will rise and the days will grow longer. But you will be left with stories to tell. However, the drama of these is waning too. Our parents told us about walking uphill both ways to a school that had no heat. I can tell stories about going to high school in cold temperatures with the heat set low due to the oil embargo/energy crises. I guess today’s high school students will tell their kids about the times it was so cold that school was canceled and they had to put on long pants while they played video games all day.
Bundle up! It’s cold out there.