Put the chains on the Olds

As I write this, it’s snowing like there’s no tomorrow — but if there is a tomorrow, that’s when I’ll no doubt be making my third pass with the snow blower, and instead of going out tonight I’ll be making a second pass. Still, I’m hoping this won’t be another winter like 1995-96, which took the cake because it snowed to beat the band a number of times, topping out at 115.2 inches in Hartford, according to the National Weather Service. That record stands as the snowiest winter in Connecticut since they started writing these things down, in 1904, and it was more than enough, as far as I’m concerned.

But the winter of 1993-94 was another biggie, at 91.4 inches, and 2010-11 was no slouch either, coming in at 86.4. I remember that one because I was in Los Angeles during the worst of it, and I recall watching the TV news at an outdoor cafe, where I had seated myself next to one of those California-style outdoor-cafe heaters to take the chill off just in case the temperature should plunge below 60 — watching with great sympathy, mind you — as folks around here tried to dig themselves out and the occasional flat roof collapsed.

My problem now, of course — a big part of it, anyway — is that I seem to continue getting older, no matter what I do, so that now I need the noise of the snow blower to drown out the creaking of my knees and the snap, crackle and pop of other worn-out parts as I trudge up and down the driveway. And even my ears are affected by the cold; that is, they seem to perk up every time the guy on the radio has the nerve to report that it’s 65 in Palm Springs or 70 somewhere else in the Sunbelt.

I used to wonder why old people went to Florida in the winter (a flat, boring place plagued by hungry alligators and swarms of even hungrier mosquitoes). I no longer wonder.

But just in case the old noggin was also affected by the drop in the mercury, I looked up a bunch of statistics, wondering if my memories of snowier winters long past might simply be the result of a brain freeze or something.

Not so. While 1995-96 was the high point, in annual inches, the 1970s and 1980s were lightweights — with only 14.9 inches recorded for the whole winter of 1988-89. Go back to my chief snow-shoveling years, though (from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, when for the most part I was still living with the folks and the folks didn’t see the need to own a snow-removal machine) and those times really were pretty snowy (76.3 inches in 1955-56; 80.2 in 1960-61; 89.1 in 1966-67).

So my memory of that remote era — let’s call it the Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson Ice Age — is that gobs of snow would fall just about every day from October through March; and my brother and I would grit our teeth as we helped Dad shovel the driveway (not that he really needed our help, but more that he believed slave labor would build character); and we’d be just about blinded by the snow and sleet blowing into our eyes and covering our glasses (we both wore them) as we strained to lift shovelfuls of the snow, which was always wet and heavy, never powder; and we’d be wearing those awkward rubber galoshes that zipped up in the front; and, if it got bad enough, Dad would put the chains on the Oldsmobile.

Those memories may not be so far from reality after all.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.



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