This recent snow storm/blizzard (whatever) started me to thinking about the good old days in the Village of South Meriden and how such a storm would be handled.
First off, during the late 1940s and early 50s, TVs were just beginning to show up and, if there was a storm brewing, you were told about it once and then you handled it.
We had an extra-large driveway at our home on Hanover Road and we shoveled the whole driveway every snowstorm. And when you did your own driveway, you did not get paid for your efforts. The pay was having a roof over our heads.
Prior to our latest snow storm, I turned on the TV to watch a show and the show was not on because of reports on the “blizzard” that had yet to arrive.
OK, so I went to the next channel. Same thing.
And the next and the next. All of the shows had been taken off so we could be “updated” on the snow storm. Heck, I could get an update simply by looking out the window.
We know the snow is coming even though there are different reports from two different computers. Hey, we live in New England, the land of the ski resorts, and we get snowed on every winter.
We know the roads are going to be a bit treacherous, but that is not going to deter some lame-brains from putting the pedal to the metal and ending up in a ditch or, even worse, taking someone out with them.
When we were younger, Edna and I would walk to Siering’s Market on Main Street with my wicker basket backpack and do our shopping in a snow storm and loved it.
And where would we be without one of the TV reporters pushing some of the snow aside to show us how deep it is, even though it is like that on my driveway? Schools are closed so the kids can spend the day on some kind of electronic device playing games or, even worse ,on one of those super-violent shooting games that are so prevalent today.
Yeah, I know, I’m beginning to sound like some old curmudgeon who likes to grumble about anything. You know what? Maybe I am.
Of course, in my 81 years on this earth I have seen some drastic changes, some good and some not so good. We now have a world that sees children disappearing from the face of the earth, leaving heartbroken parents to wonder and grieve over their demise. Whatever happened to the “good old days,” as I like to call them?
Of course, almost all of the gang that I grew up with in the Village of South Meriden are now gone. But the memories linger on. I’ve often said and I do believe it with all my heart that, in my lifetime, we did see the world at its best, even with living through WWII.
Children were safer in my world than they are today. We used to walk a mile to Hanover School in the morning and some days come back home for a quick lunch and then walk back again. In the course of some school days we would walk four miles without parental guidance. Today, parents are afraid to leave the kids at the end of their driveway unattended as they wait for the school bus.
The years were tougher on our folks than they were on us kids simply because our parents let us live in a kid’s world. In the beginning, we were too young to understand the tragedies and hard times that came with WWII, but by the mid-40s we understood what was going on.
And, yes, it snowed back then, even in blizzard proportions. If we did not make it to school because of the snow, it was understood, but there was also a different reason. As soon as the snow storm started to abate, the kids would hit the streets of the Village, shovels in hand, as they looked for a way to make a dollar or two shoveling driveways or sidewalks.
I had a lady on our street who was a source of steady income for me during the winter. When it snowed, and we had plenty of snow storms, I would shovel her sidewalks for a dollar and a candy bar. It never got any better than that.
To make two dollars shoveling a driveway and sidewalk was considered “easy money” back then. And today you rarely see kids out looking for some snow shoveling jobs. They also want top dollar for their efforts. Some deserve it, some don’t.
Even more thought provoking was the fact that we were never bored even when we were hit with a blizzard. When is the last time you saw a bunch of kids making “snow forts” as they got ready to do battle in a good old fashioned snowball fight?
Uh-oh, did I say the wrong thing? An act of “violence” like a snowball fight might get them expelled from school today. But we did it back in the mid-40s without any repercussions. Even on school grounds. Why are things so different now?
Even when I attended junior high school, the snow never altered our routine that much. Heck, there were even days that we would choose to walk home to the Village rather than take the bus, or in some cases we missed the bus. And fleets of yellow school buses were unheard of back then. Bus transportation to our schools, Lincoln Junior High and Meriden High, was provided by, I believe, the Connecticut Bus Company. They were buses that ran usual routes with some to South Meriden with the school kids.
We knew each bus driver by first name and they knew who we were mostly by last name. And, yes, they came for us rain, snow or shine.
Of course, I do remember a couple of incidents that might shake up a couple of today’s parents or even our parents back then. But back then they were just incidents that went with everyday life. Our bus route to South Meriden would take us up Columbus Avenue and down Highland. On a snowy day the roads could get a bit slippery, especially if the bus did not get a chance to put on tire chains.
One time the bus was having a hard time getting traction and the driver yelled, “Everyone get to the back of the bus.” The added weight of all of us in the rear gave the bus the traction needed to get up over the hill.
This next one will send chills up parental spines.
One time while going up Columbus Avenue in a snow storm the bus slid off to the side of the road and it looked like it was going to be there for a while. I’m telling you this now because the driver is long gone and there can be no ramifications for him. Our gang from the Village numbered about a dozen and he had all of the boys get out and push the bus back onto the road.
I remember this as plain as if it was yesterday.
I am definitely NOT saying that this was right, but we lived in a different time back then. You had to take care of things yourself. There were no radio- controlled wreckers, sand trucks or other vehicles. The bus did not have a radio. It was sink or swim. We swam and, looking back, miraculously no one was hurt.
As unbelievable as it may sound, kids back in the late 40s and early 50s were able to keep busy without the use of all of the electronic gadgets they “have” to own today.
One of my favorite pastimes after a new snow was to get on a fresh fox or rabbit track and see where it would take me. I followed a fox all the way into Cheshire along the Quinnipiac River after one snow storm. I found where it had cached a dead squirrel and a dead grouse. I caught sight of the fox once and that was a thrill.
Making money shoveling snow, ice skating after clearing off a pond, sledding and skiing, snowball fights, tracking wildlife or simply taking a walk in the woods: Get the kids to try something else besides sitting in front of the TV or a computer.
And to the TV folks: YES, I know it is snowing; give us some real news.
See ya’ and god Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.
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