Dawn Reader

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

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Snow Day! (Part 2)

As I wrote the other day, I did not ever experience a Snow Day until I was in junior high school in Ohio; the custom (and the need) simply did not exist back in Enid, Oklahoma, or Amarillo, Texas, where I spent my boyhood years. But once I began experiencing Snow Days in Ohio, I came to cherish them, of course, just as most every other kid I knew did--except, later, in high school, when the holidays sometimes caused the cancellation not just of school but also of basketball games, a vile practice that showed the school authorities had no idea about ... priorities.

As I also wrote the other day, I had no Snow Days when I was at Hiram College (1962-1966), though they are not all unusual these days (Hiram has many more commuting students than when I was there).

When I began my teaching career (Aurora City Schools; Aurora, Ohio) in the fall of 1966, I once again adored Snow Days. In my first few years I struggled mightily, trying to learn how to get all my work done--class preparations, grading, reporting, and on and on. As I've written in my teaching memoir (Schoolboy, Kindle Direct, 2012--Link to the book), I faced 200 seventh graders that first fall, every day (five classes of forty students each), and I had very little material to help me. There was a file cabinet in my room. It was empty. I had only the textbooks, my desperate imagination, my thin experience, and my fear to fuel my days.

So when a Snow Day arrived, I was so profoundly grateful I slept till noon (oh, did teaching enervate me!), then spent the rest of the day trying to catch up--usually failing.

Later on, though, I grew more ambivalent about Snow Days. After I'd figured out how to get all (well, most) of my work done, after I'd become more adept at planning my days, weeks, terms, years, when I'd started doing two or three play productions a year, I became more--what?--possessive of "my" time at school--and resentful when something else intruded: someone else's field trip, a surprise assembly ... a Snow Day.

I had each class planned down to the day--the same with play practices--so when I had to make an adjustment (as adults routinely do), I behaved more like a child--pouting, taking it personally when the flakes flew and the mercury plunged.  I remember one specific time when an oil/energy crisis caused the schools to decide to close early each day--meaning I couldn't run play practices. We started practicing at various cast members' homes and managed to pull off that production. But I was certain that all of that had been arranged to inconvenience me.

After I retired from Aurora (January 1997), I rested a few years, then started teaching part-time at Western Reserve Academy (fall 2001), a college-prep high school (2/3 boarding students, 1/3 day students) just a couple of blocks from our house in Hudson, Ohio. WRA never had Snow Days, either. In a way it was like being back in Oklahoma--in more than one way: In the late spring and early fall when my classroom, unaware of this new invention called "air conditioning," would sometimes resemble a CrockPot. Yes, it could be Oklahoma-Hot at times.

Coda: I told the story the other day about a boyhood sledding accident on the hill in front of our house in Enid, Okla. And it reminded me of an article I'd read in a magazine years ago about the famed "Cresta Run," a toboggan run in St. Moritz, Switzerland. (Here's a link to some information about it; here's another link to a YouTube video showing someone running the Run!) I remembered a detail from that article--that at the end of the season, the mothers in the region would smash the ice with axes and other tools so that their children wouldn't try it and, oh, say, end up under a car (the way I did in Enid).

I was positive that I'd read that article back in Enid, but with trusty Google as my guide and with the vague memory that journalist Paul Gallico had written the piece, I discovered that it had appeared in True, The Man's Magazine (did readers not know the magazine was aimed at men? did they have to be told?). The piece was called "Suicide on Ice," and here's that final paragraph (or some of it) that I remembered nearly sixty years after I read it:

A curious ceremony takes place at the end of each Cresta season in St. Moritz .... All the mothers in the vicinity thereupon come running to the ice track bearing pickaxes, shoves, hatchets and hammers. In a swarm they assault the course, blasting holes, chopping, reaming and otherwise making it unfit for use. They are seeing to it that their sons, daughters and small fry on their luges and sleds cannot encounter the temptation of more than 10 or 15 yards at a stretch of Cresta Run on which to break their little necks. It is a tribute to the element of danger that is at the heart of the fascination of Cresta Run (62).

Oh, by the way, "Suicide on Ice" appears in the January 1957 issue; we were in Hiram by then, so I couldn't have read it in Oklahoma. It must have been in the old Hiram School library, which was at the front end of the large narrow upstairs room we used for study halls. We would never have subscribed to True at home (too ... earthy?), so, one day in January 1957 (I was in 7th grade), I must have decided (again) to eschew my homework and to go up front and read a magazine instead--never dreaming where it all would lead.

TRUE--with the piece about the Cresta Run.

No comments:

Post a Comment