Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Day! (Part 1)

Until I was twelve years old, I didn't know what a Snow Day even was. My boyhood in the Southwest--ten years in Oklahoma, two in Texas--accounts for it. I don't remember much snow at all between 1944 (birth) and 1956 (when we moved to Ohio)--never much more than a dusting. We did get a bad ice storm once, though--sometime between 1953 and 1955 (the years we were back in Okla. after our Tex. exile, courtesy of the Korean War).

We lived on Elm Ave. in Enid, and our house sat at the bottom of a hill. Elm Ave. ran right to the top--and beyond, of course (no matter what I thought at the time, Enid was not the end of the Flat Earth). Anyway, one winter day we got an ice storm, a storm so bad that cars had a hard time getting up "our" hill. Most took a more circuitous route to to wherever they were going. (As bad as it was, they did not cancel school, however: Sooners are not wusses.)

Later in the day, I decided our hill was now a perfect sledding site. I conned my little brother, Davi, into going up the hill with me. It was so slick that we had to stay in the grass--and even that was an adventure. But eventually we got to the top, where Davi (already at age 6 or so he was wiser than I) decided he would not make the descent on our Flexible Flyer. But I would. Fearless I. Feckless I.

I flopped down on that wooden frame and realized within seconds that I had absolutely no control of the sled. I turned the wooden handles at the front. Nothing. That wasn't necessarily a problem, but the car parked in front of our house was a problem: I was heading right for it.

And then under it, where something underneath (I never have been good at knowing what's under a car--except the road, of course) met my head and decided it was time to stop. Immediately.

Blood on the ice. Yelps from me (laughter from Davi--or is that just my memory?). Inside the house where my mother looked at me as if I were the dumbest child in Garfield County. My mother knew me well.

Anyway, after the move to Ohio I experienced the wonder of Snow Days for the first time. My very first year (or was it the second?) we had nearly an entire week of canceled classes. The problem was not cold; it was the buses. The Hiram Township roads could be impassable in deep snow (some roads were still dirt), and if the buses couldn't go, neither did the school. (By the way, my mother, teaching high school English in nearby Garrettsville at the time, had to go to classes the final day of our extended holiday; she was not happy.)

(Hiram had a great sledding hill our first winter there--Squire Hill. We could sled all the way down to near the college football field. But then--adults screwed it up. Built a gym and field house at the bottom, and now the Kennedy Center--the student union--squats fatly on that once-divine sledding hill.)

We had a few snow days just about every year when I was the Hiram Local Schools. I loved them all--except on those days when we had basketball games scheduled. I hated to miss playing a game, and we did take some amazing icy bus rides to places like Atwater and Suffield and Randolph. You know it's cold when you can hear the tires crunch inside a yellow bus full of horny adolescents.

Not that school bus problems were ordinarily my problem. We lived close enough to the school (a mile? a bit less?) that my brothers and I walked every day, rain or shine or ice or tornado or tsunami or Armageddon or whatever. Or sub-zero. As I said, they never called school around us for cold--not unless the temps had frozen some pipes at the buildings, but I don't recall that ever happening in Hiram. Not until high school did I get rides to school--with my lucky township buddies who had wheels and would stop to pick me up down at the bottom of our driveway. Luxury!

Oh, and once we arrived at school, there was no gathering in a warm spot inside until classes started. Custodian Sherm Leach did not unlock the doors until moments before home room, so we huddled outside on cold days. Sometimes we could see Mr. Leach (okay, we called him "Sherm" among ourselves) standing just inside the door--warm! warm! warm!--leaning on a broom, looking at his watch, counting seconds. I can't really blame him, though. We trashed his building every day without a second thought--or even a first thought--about what it meant for him. Cold winter days were Payback for Sherm Leach.

When I attended Hiram College, the school never called classes for snow or cold. Never--not the four years I was a student there. (It happens all the time now. To be fair: Hiram was largely a residential school in my era--1962-66--and has many day students now.) Today--January 28, 2014--Hiram College has canceled classes, by the way. Too cold.

But the college did have a "Snow Day" back in my day--classes cancelled, snow-sculpting competitions on the campus, informal meals (we otherwise had to "dress for dinner"), free movie in the auditorium ... was there a dance, too? (A Snow Ball?)  I didn't really do much on "Snow Day" except sleep late, break my vow (to myself) about catching up on my homework, and go to the movie with my friends. And no snow sculpture! My Southwest background (my hatred for very cold temperatures) had made me a less-than-eager Michelangelo-in-the-Snow.

NEXT: When I became a teacher, I had mixed feelings about Snow Days.

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