Friday, January 7, 2005

Winter Wonderlands, 1966, 1976, 1986

Weekend Assignment #42: Share your favorite story of Winter cold -- preferably (but not necessarily) involving something freezing inconveniently and humorously.

Extra credit: Name a song that reminds you of winter that's not Christmas-themed.

(Note: the pictures are explained farther down in this entry.  Photos by JBlocher, 1986.)

I've already told some of my stories about winter in this journal.  For example, I think I mentioned the time my mom got tired of waiting for me to come out of my guitar teacher's house (late), and drove home without me.  I followed the abandoned railroad tracks back to Cherry Manor near my house, switching my poorly-balanced, cheap cardboard guitar case from one hand to the other every few hundred feet.  It was a kind of peaceful walk home through the snow.  Montreal,1986
I was annoyed, but I wasn't lost, and I was pleased to discover it wasn't really too long a walk, just a couple of miles. When I got home I ran my red hands (I hadn't worn gloves) under warm water, but that hurt, as if the water were hot.  So I experimented with the water temperature.  It was interesting.

Here's another memory. In January 1966 I was nine years old.  The Blizzard of '66 was a big deal at the time, as big as the Great Blackout of '65 had been.  That Sunday morning, we could see it was more than just a snowstorm.  My dad drove up to the P&C in Manlius right after the snow plow made F-M Road temporarily passable.  Dad's Rambler American was part of a line of cars that followed the plow into the village.  Dad wanted to stock up on bread and milk, in case we couldn't get out again for the next several days. I didn't understand why he was doing it. I figured the P&C wouldn't even be open, because this was in the era of Sunday Blue Laws.  But I guess the P&C opened for blizzards, even on a Sunday, because Dad returned with the bread and milk, and a story about how many other people were at the P&C doing the same thing..

Montreal, 1986.The wind was blowing and bitter, and the snow in the front yard was a good three feet deep.  My brother Steve and I made an igloo, or at least a tunnel through the snow.  I think my parents both helped during the early stages of the project.  School was closed all week.  Toward the end of that week, school buses could easily have made it from my house to school, but we still had snow days.  Maybe the buses still couldn't climb the hills in outlying areas.  I remember walking into the village with a friend, but I don't remember who the friend was.  We were on the sidewalk, but we couldn't see the road beside us at times.  Between the sidewalk and High Street was a wall of plowed snow, a good five or six feet high.

1966 was the most memorable blizzard for me, but growing up near Syracuse, I saw my share of snow days, and several other blizzards.  The one that nearly stranded me and Steve in Sims Hall while he did his bio lab--must have been about 1969--was another interesting moment in time.  Niagara Falls, 1986.

When I got to college myself the first time around, there were several memorable cold weather moments, especially in 1976 or so. I occasionally had to cross the steep, icy sidewalk outside Haven Hall on my knees to avoid falling, and make sure not to wreck my beloved baby blue cordouroy jeans with the flare legs and all the pockets.  It was embarrassing, but necessary, especially with my bad ankles. Another time, I cracked a rib sliding uncontrollably down a sidewalk outside Sims.

The ice I got in my hair almost every Monday night on my way to visit my boyfriend, Bob, was more a matter of optional fun. The first time, I had just washed my hair, and was astonished at the result.  But I thought it was an interesting phenomenon, so I often washed my hair before walking down to South Salina Street at night in winter. And I'm not just mentioning this because of John Scalzi's similar experience.

Oh! Oh! Oh!  I almost forgot to show you pictures of the greatest winter freeze experience I ever had!  It wasn't the snow scupture contest in Montreal, with the life-sized upright piano made of snow and the ice dolphins. That was cool, but I can top it.  During our 1986 travels, right after Montreal, John and I went to Niagara Falls in midwinter. 

Long-time readers may remember that 1986 was the year we put our stuff into storage in Columbus Ohio, put our mattress on fake milk crates in the back of a 1984 Dodge van, put Jenny Dog on the mattress, and drove around looking for someplace it wasn't winter. When even Florida was kind of wet and windy and miserable, we drove up to Syracuse to visit my dad on his birthday, and continued north to where it was really winter. Montreal was part of that. So was Niagara Falls.  After that we came west, which is how we ended up living in Tucson.

In case you don't know, let me tell you that Niagara Falls is near one of the winter storm capitals of the whole country, Buffalo.  They've got lake effect snow, big time. Lake effect snow is caused by a cold front coming down from Canada, picking up water from the Great Lakes along the way.  Buffalo is the poster child for lake effect snow, and lots of wind as well.  It's blizzard country. My brother Steve once totalled a car in a storm there, and had to stay overnight at the fire station.  Niagara Falls is something like 20 miles from Buffalo, so you know it gets snowy there.  And icy!  They've got lots of water there, and even the rapids don't keep it all from freezing.

It was cold the day we went there in late February, 1986, but it was beautiful, and eerie (and Erie), and nearly deserted.  The best moment was when we were above the falls on a little island with some trees.  I mean, this was not far from the actual waterfall, maybe 100 feet if memory serves.  The water around the island was frozen for several feet in every direction.  At one point I actually walked out onto that ice.  I stood on the Niagara River, just above Horseshoe(?) Falls on the American side, and lived!  No barrel needed!

Then some one-hour photo place in wherever it was we went next ruined the pictures.  The snow andice came out murky and gray.  In 1986, there wasn't much we could do about this except sigh and put the photos away, but nowadays even the free photo editor on the Compaq is up to the task of making these pictures presentable.  Yay! The bad news is that the Compaq's screen makes colors seem paler than they are, so I've had to lighten the pictures some more at the office. They're not perfect, but they're better.

Extra Credit:

Which one of these popular holiday songs mentions Christmas (well, sort of)?
         a) Jingle Bells
         b) Winter Wonderland
         c) Over the River and Through the Woods
         d) Deck the Hall

It's a shame that nearly every song that mentions winter weather, from Baby It's Cold Outside to Sleigh Ride to  Marshmallow World, becomes part of the Christmas songbook.  It means that they get played in December as a break from traditional carols and the grandma with the reindeer, and are then shelved for eleven months.  What, we can't sing about winter in January and February?



justcherie said...

No wonder you live in warm climate now!  Great stories!

alphawoman1 said...

Wow!  Great entry and wonderful snow pictures!

plittle said...

My Niagara Falls 'connection' consists of the simple fact that I've been there several times. It's only about an hour and a half drive from the Toronto area. (any chance you were in Toronto during the summer of 2003?) Not sure what facts you were hoping I'd verify. Sure sounds like you were there. We in Toronto, who grew up watching Buffalo TV stations, feel for their 'lake effect snow' predicament. Not!

eeyorehmg said...

AFAIK, "Hazy Shade of Winter" (Simon and Garfunkel) has never made it into the Christmas songbook. But the S&G song that always reminds me of winter is "I Am a Rock," with its opening line of "A winter's day, in a deep and dark December."

I never thought of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" as a Christmas song, either, but it was used in "Elf," so I guess it is, now.

eeyorehmg said...

Oh, the other extra credit question ... I'm going to guess "Over the River and Through the Woods," only because I admit to not knowing all the words.

My first thought was "Deck the Halls," because I know there are other verses to it that are rarely sung -- like "The Star-spangled Banner" and "America" (the "God Save the Queen" knockoff, not the Simon and Garfunkel song about bus travel) -- but I don't figure you for the type that would slip in a trick question. And I also don't think you're the type that would consider "yuletide" the same as "Christmas."

sakishler said...

I feel I have missed out! My experience with snow and ice is very limited. It snowed maybe two or three days during the four years I lived in Eugene, Oregon. And it was never anything to write home about (well, if you were from California, it WAS something to write home about - but that's only if you take the expression literally). Boy, I'm tired.

deabvt said...

Another beautiful posying. Thanks for sharing your memories, and the Pics!

ryanagi said...

Grr! That commenter stole my "winter song". LOL But I am going for the Bangles version of Hazy Shade of Winter. I just knew that Niagara would look really cool in the winter time. And it does!

pixiedustnme said...

Oh, now I'm going to have to go dig out my snow sculpture pictures from Michigan Tech University.....that's on the south end of Lake Superior for those of you who have no clue where it is.  I LOVE snow sculpture contests.  Thanx for the great memories! -kelly

ondinemonet said...


i enjoyed this entry very much...Scalzi was right...very cool pictures! I love the piano and th one with the car being pushed! I really enjoy you!

Always, Carly :)

bgilmore725 said...

Just so's you know, I visited the entry you linked to in your recent entry... wow, that was a lot of snow. I must have been living in Berlin, Germany at the time because I don't remember a blizzard. I had been living in NH just before we moved to Germany, and though we had some awesome snowy winters, I don't remember going through a blizzard like that. great pictures of Niagra Falls... I've never been there in winter. bea