Winter Tales…

Long-time readers of my blog know that I was born in Ohio, and spent the first eight years of my life there.  Winter in Ohio is kind of “hit and miss”…sometimes you have snow, but not very much, and sometimes it gets cold, but not very cold (at least, not by Canadian standards, where I live now!)…

When there was snow in Ohio, my brother, Jeff, and I would put on our snowpants and boots, and take out our sleds, which had metal runners…generally, they didn’t work very well because more than three inches is a lot of snow in Ohio, and doesn’t happen a lot!  We had better luck with our red “flying saucer”…which looked a lot like a giant Frisbee with rope handles.  Our back yard in Oregon (a suburb of Toledo) had a big hill which was fine for “flying.”

We moved to Ontario when I was eight…Jeff and I were ecstatic to live where there was snow pretty much continuously from mid-November through February (and sometimes March)!  Our parents bought us a big wooden toboggan, and we also had Crazy Carpets to use by ourselves.  We had lots of snow the winter of 1970-71…my dad would pile the snow he shovelled out of our driveway at the end of it, where there was a deep ditch.  With the snowpile being about ten or twelve feet high, we had a great long run from the top of the pile down into the ditch…often we didn’t even bother using vehicles…we’d just slide on the bums of our snow-encrusted layers of jeans (we’d outgrown our snowpants by then – we’d just put on 2 or 3 pairs of pants and play until we were soaked to the skin!).

Here's a picture of Jeff and I standing on top of our snowpile in the winter of 1970-71...yes, those are power/phone lines beside our heads!

We had great fun sliding behind/beside the Rednersville house too!  I remember at least one occasion when my brother and I were on the toboggan together and going very fast, when suddenly, we stopped dead and we both flew off the toboggan landing face-first in the snow.  We weren’t hurt, and couldn’t stop laughing because when I emerged from the snowbank, the snow had packed itself into my glasses!

There was a big field beside the house.  One winter, we’d had freezing rain, which had created a beautiful crust on about eight inches of snow…it was so slippery, you could barely walk on it!  Our family decided to take advantage of the excellent conditions and got out the toboggan.  That was the only time I recall my mom actually going out sliding with us (Dad came out quite often).  Mom sat on the toboggan by herself, and Dad let go when she was ready.  A minute or two later, we heard a thump and a blood-curdling yell: “Dave…I think I broke my back!”  My mom had “found” the one apple tree in the middle of the field!  Dad made his way out to the scene of the accident, loaded Mom back onto the toboggan, and pulled it to the car.  After we were all in, we left for the emergency room.  Mom’s back wasn’t broken, just badly bruised!

We were lucky at the Rednersville house to have 43 acres of land with a big hill behind us.  With our friends, Jimmy and Dougie, we could go to the top of the hill, and slide several hundred feet, almost all the way back to the house.  Crazy Carpets were the best vehicle for that, once the trail was established.  One winter, there was a friendly dog around which we christened “Wolfie” because he sort of looked like one.  Wolfie used to like to jump on our backs as we hurtled down the hill on our stomachs on our Crazy Carpets.  The worst injury we ever got was ending up in thorn bushes!

A couple of times, my best friend, Angela, took me out “Skidooing” in the woods behind her house.  We were about eleven, I think (snowmobiles were a lot smaller then).  That was always fun!  My dad hated it when snowmobilers trespassed on our property…he’d go out and yell at them until they left!

I moved to New Brunswick in 1984…winter was different again…you could have snow in late October, right through April sometimes!  There is also not much of a spring…you can literally go from wearing your parka to wearing shorts (and back again, sometimes several times).  There is no gradual warming like we had in Ontario.

I lived in Moncton in February of 1992 when an all-time snowfall record was broken…Moncton had a total of fourteen feet of snow that month in THREE storms.  The biggest storm was on February 1st.  At the time, I worked at a non-profit agency which was about a 10-block walk from our apartment, and we didn’t have a car.  Buses were off the road.  I walked to work, wearing a skirt (I was wearing other clothes too!).  When we got to the building, there was a snowbank about twelve feet high in front of it!  I met one of my co-workers outside, and together we decided to go around the corner and get a coffee, in hopes that our boss might arrive soon, equipped with a shovel to dig a path to the front door!  We had our coffee, and went back to work…everything was as it was when we left.  Since it was already past time to start work, I decided to bite the bullet, and climb the snowbank!  I probably didn’t resemble a mountain goat very much in my long black wool coat, and knee-high boots as I clambered up the hill.  When we arrived in the office, there was our boss, clad in a snowmobile suit…she had come in the back door, and hadn’t thought about us trying to get in the front!  I never liked her!

I tried to find public domain photos of the big Moncton snowstorm on the Internet, but failed.  I remember a paint store on St. George St. cutting “windows” in the snowbank in front of their store and setting paint cans in them to let people know they were there!

Winters in Moncton could be very cold too…I remember one year that we had three solid weeks of windchills between -30 and -36 C. (which is almost the same temperature in Fahrenheit).  School was never cancelled for cold weather, and every day I walked Kaylee the three blocks to her elementary school.  It’s a wonder we didn’t turn into Popsicles!

I moved to Saint John, New Brunswick in November of 1997.  Winters are milder in this area due to the proximity to the ocean.  There are a lot of freeze/thaw cycles, and a lot more ice.  We had some freezing rain in November of 2007 when my dad was undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer.  About 6:30 a.m., he was walking to the bus stop to go to the hospital, and ended up flat on his back in the driveway two doors from our house.  He got up, and continued on his way.  While Dad was having his treatment, he mentioned that he’d had a fall and that he might need an X-ray.  The X-ray confirmed that he’d cracked five ribs.  I didn’t find out about the accident until several hours later…when I asked Dad why he didn’t just come back home, he said, “I didn’t want to mess up their schedule at radiation!”  Sometimes, my dad’s so stoic, I just want to shake him!  I was glad he wasn’t more seriously injured though!

We moved to Hammond River the following year…there’s a little more snow here than in town, and it gets a little colder, but we love it!  I’ve got the best snowplow guy in the world, which is a good thing because our driveway is a quarter mile long…way too much to shovel!  He always has us plowed out by 7 a.m.  When we can get them off their computers, the kids go out sliding, or skating at the little pond down the road.  Here’s a photo of Jim and I taken in January of 2009…not much snow then:

Wendy and Jim beside our house in Hammond River...that's the back yard behind us, and the view of the hills on the other side of the river...

 It’s been raining all week, with more to come…I hope we get some snow before Christmas!


Filed under family, friends, memories, nature

29 responses to “Winter Tales…

  1. I can’t imagine it being that cold. Can you even breathe?

    I’m near Pittsburgh and let me tell you, this winter it’s a big old hit. It feels like February out there!

    • It’s hard to breathe with the scarf wrapped over your mouth and nose, Joey! I think global warming has a lot to do with the crazy winters we’re having now…it was probably 50 F. here yesterday…not normal at all for mid-December! Wendy

  2. Great post! I love snow and can’t wait to get home for the holidays (the

  3. Sorry, my silly dog walked on the keyboard and sent the comment before completed.

    At any rate, can’t wait for Holiday snow in the US. I head home tomorrow!

    Happy Holidays from Haiti,

  4. Wow, that’s some kind of cold and some kind of snow! I love the stories of your childhood, Wendy – must have been funny to see you with your glasses packed with snow!
    London is unbelievably freezing (compared to Cape Town!) so I can’t imagine temperatures of -36 C. I’ve often wondered if, after -2 or so, does it matter? 🙂
    Sunshine xx

    • Glad you liked the stories, Sunshine! The difference between -2 C. and -36 is huge…-2 is a beautiful day for a walk, but not much good for sliding (too warm!). Ideal sliding temperature would be about -10 C. (cold enough for good slliding snow, but not cold enough to be terribly uncomfortable! Most people here don’t even wear a hat until it’s -10 or colder (except for baseball caps, which are worn year-round by both genders!). Hugs, Wendy

  5. 14 feet of snow! I can’t imagine what that would even look like!

    You may know snow–and sledding–better than anyone else I know–it’s like you have your PhD in cold weather. It’s nice to see an Ohio girl move on bigger, better winters. We have about 6 inches in Columbus today, FYI. 🙂

    You and Jim are adorable. Plus, what an amazing backdrop for a home. Wow!

    • I wish I could have found photos, Maura! It was pretty unbelievable, even for us! I loved playing outside, and was very happy to have a place where your toboggan doesn’t get stuck in the mud! I heard about your snow! I still have relatives near Columbus! We’re very fortunate to live in Hammond River…it is beautiful! Wendy

  6. I’m with Maura. I can’t imagine 14 feet of snow. We had a “big” snow the other day here in Nashville — 2 to 3 inches! It was so bad, they made the decision last night to call off school again today, even though the streets are clear and most of the snow is gone already. You can’t be too careful!

    • I got a kick out of them cancelling school the day before when I read your blog, Todd! Our district makes the decision by 6:30 a.m. the morning of school…there’s a phone number called the Snow Line to call: 555-SNOW. I feel bad for the people whose phone numbers are similar to the Snow Line number! My own kids have misdialled more than once! Wendy

  7. I spent the first thirty years of my life in Ohio and I lived in a different Ohio than you did. We had plenty of snow most winters–not 14 feet–but more than enough for sledding. I remember one year, 1978 I think, snow from the mall parking lot was put in dump trucks and taken to landfills so there would be room for cars to park. There was so much snow packed on the side walks that when walking I was way taller than the stop signs.

    • Hi Patricia: I suspect that different parts of Ohio may get different amounts of snow, just as there is generally more snowfall in Moncton than in Saint John, NB. The part of Ohio I remember living in most was just outside Toledo, in Oregon (1966-1969). Conditions there might have been milder because of being close to Lake Erie. My parents’ families lived in Logan County, near Bellefontaine (central Ohio). We left Ohio in 1969, but travelled there at Christmas every year for the next 15 years. I especially remember just before Christmas, 1978, because that was the time I slipped on ice in the Bellefontaine Walmart parking lot…there was only about an inch of snow on the ground, and there had been about a foot of snow when we left Ontario a few days before! I spent Christmas on my Grandma’s couch with my knee on ice (and crutches)…tore a lot of ligaments in my knee when I fell! There was another Christmas around that time when it was about 60 F. outside…my dad, uncles and cousins were playing football and my dad slipped in wet grass and broke his collarbone! Thanks for stopping by my blog…there are other posts about memories from Ohio in the archives (just look for Ohio tags). Wendy

  8. Your life sounds so wonderful and healthy and Norman Rockwellian (Is that a word?). I’d be the one inside, making hot chocolate for everyone when they got tired of all that happy frolicking in the snow.

    • We did have a good time, Rene…that was back when kids actually played outside! I remember whining about having to come in early in the summer because my parents still made me go to bed at 8:30 when I was 11 (I used to get up at 5:30 or 6 though – payback!). In the winter, we didn’t come in until we could no longer feel our feet, or our pants were soaked all the way through! Good times! Wendy

  9. I’ve never gotten past 3 or 4 feet myself. The picture of you and your brother reminds me of how we would go to work with mom and climb all over the massive mountains of snow left by parking lot plows. They were so massive we could play hide and seek on them. Your memories are great and you or course are skilled in recounting them. Hope you stay warm!

  10. Lovely winter tales Wendy! Snow is one of my favorite things in the world!!

    Growing up in India generally means no snow ever unless you live way up North (which I don’t). My first snow experience was as a kid when Dad was posted in Japan on work. I was so excited & amazed when our school grounds were covered in it…enough for us to make snowmen and have snowball fights 🙂 I can’t wait for Ishaan to have his first glimpse! I’ve seen a lot of snow since then in our travels and it always makes me feel good 🙂

    Love that picture of Jim & you…glorious 🙂 What’s a crazy carpet? Sounds like something that’s a cross between Harry Potter and Arabian Nights 😀

    Hugs, H.

    • Hi Harsha: Glad you’ve had a chance to experience snow…I’m sure Ishaan will love it, too! A Crazy Carpet is just a thin, flat, rectangular piece of hard plastic with holes for handles cut in one end…there should be images on Google. They are very light, and much easier to take back up the hill after you’ve slid down! Hugs, Wendy

  11. Now that’s what I call snow! And to think I got excited over a few snowflakes. Great post, Wendy and I love the photo of you and your brother. Hugs, Diane

  12. You’re in Canada an waiting for snow and I’m in Virginia where it already snowed and is bitter cold. The snow globe has shifted on its axis.

    This brings back memories of growing up in Massachusetts. The year I left I had just survived the blizzard of 1978.

  13. I think British people should read your account – the whole country came to a standstill for a month last December – for about a foot of snow! Same thing this year – you’d think it was 10 feet deep!

    I bet my inch of snow in France would seem quite pointless!

  14. Love the picture of you and your brother. It brings back so many memories from when I was growing up. We spent more time ice skating than on sleds.

    I love the view in your backyard. I can imagine sitting with my cup of coffee and daydreaming as I look out to the rolling hills. Beautiful!


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