Favourite Books

  • The Green Mile
  • Animal Farm
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Lord of the Rings
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Winter of 62

1962 was the year my family moved 180 miles up the A$$hole of the world, according to my Mother. Apparently we were leaving Prince Rupert, which WAS the A$$hole, and proceeding 180 miles up a canal to begin our new life.
  Unlike my Mother, I did not think we had gone up the anus, at all. I believed we had left the nether parts, and arrived in a child's paradise. It truly was! Our two bedroom home was huge! My brother's crib took up a small area, and I had the rest of the room to myself.
  I had it made, the first few years. I was not old enough to deal with a 2 year old, so I was free to spend days and evenings with my friends. Not sure how, but our yard became a popular site. Maybe it was the sand box my Dad built to keep my brother occupied? It had a little wooden roof, to protect the sand from the rain, which seemed to fall most of the week. Our yard also had huge boards, likely some project my Mom had in mind, that didn't get completed quickly. Those boards became everything from airplanes, to houses, within moments, simply by moving them about. We had a wonderful grocery store in the bush. We had little broccoli, berries, lettuce, and rhubbard, even pies. The pies were almost always made out of muck, and on plates, which we stole out of the kitchen. My Mother seldom had enough spoons to set the table, they would disappear out into the yard, to help whip up the pies. The berries, well, they were real enough, we had thimble berries, raspberries, huckleberries, you name it. Broccoli,  not sure what the heck tree they came from, but you could open the leaves, and inside would be another layer of tightly wrapped leaves, that went on and on.
  In school we learned how to make cardboard money. We would get together in a group, and cut up a ton of cash, to be used in our grocery store. We would also use the money to pay for our plane trips, every one of us wanted to be the pilot at the top of the big board, or, the stewardess, who got to walk up and down it, and the wings,balancing themselves  between the many passengers.
  At the edge of the yard, we had a million Fireweed, and between them, massive stinging nettles.The tasty berries would be hidden in amongst the nettles. Stinging nettles are all sting, except for the roots, if you get hit by them, the name says it all, you begin to sting. The sting itches, you scratch, the bumps rise up, and you turn beet red. It is unbearable. The only "cure" for this, was either calamine lotion, or...baking soda, and vinegar. Either way, you would be coated in a white or pink layer of crunchy stuff, and underneath, the sting would continue. Fireweed were arrows, they were whips, the bigger ones could hurt, but often busted, the smaller ones, were like cattails, welts were common. The braver you got, the deadlier the weapon. I bet I only used stinging nettles a couple of times, because, unless you had good gloves, the idiot welding the nasty thing would get punished as well.
 Hidden among the weapons were trails. These trails would take you to various places, one went to Gary and Lori's, one went directly across the street from Netonia's. one went past the side of the old Water Tower, where you crossed the road, and continued down a dirt road, past Brother Bill's, to Marina's, and the other one went along side the Mayor's house , where if you looked hard enough through his fence, you could glimpse his fish pond (I am sure that was the only one in town).
  We spent days, with tin pails, and jars, and even cardboard boxes, down by the creek when the Ooligans ran. The creek would be so full of these tiny fish, we would just scoop them up. My Mom would request this, because she would put a layer on her little garden patch (which the carrots never survived past slightly orange slivers, before getting consumed by starving children) to rot and fertilize. She wasn't the only one, it seemed for a short time, the whole town reeked of rotting fish! Each run, we would haul the tin wash tub out, and try to grow the Ooligan. Poor thing, first step was to give him ice cold water from the hose, and make sure it was nice and clean. Not sure if they starved, or died from shock, sticklebacks, suffered the same fate,pollywogs, tadpoles, frogs, all went through the washtub, lasting at most a few days.
  We had culverts all over, I suppose they were stockpiled for highways, but, to us they were great places to play. Lord, I wonder how I did play in them, spiders must have been all over. The culverts would be piled high, and we would spend hours playing hide and seek, climbing all over them. Funny, it is likely they rolled, but I can't remember anyone getting hurt.
  We also had wooden sidewalks. They were probably starting to rot when I moved there, but, they stayed for many years, giving us a perfect place to find snails, worms and such. Yes, I did climb under my share of sidewalks, again, not sure how I managed with my insane arachnophobia. I can still remember the noise of a wagon being pulled along those sidewalks, and laying flat on my back, hiding under the boards as an adult walked overhead.
  We had the old water tower. Not like in the movies, it wasn't very high, it was the corrugated building beside the tower that we spent the most time in. I can't remember us destroying things, because we all figured getting inside was against the law, so we tried to make sure no one knew we could do this. Cripes, if I recall correctly, we would pull open a loose piece on one side, and all slide in to the building.Nothing inside but huge metal machinery that was rusted, and old tools that apparently were not good enough to head home with anyone. I remember that building getting the first graffiti from our young hands, Cindy B and Donny A, heavy hitting stuff back in the day, piece of fluff now.
  The summer of 62 was just the beginning , Halloween eve, the best part of childhood began. Now, Halloween in my home town was a huge deal. We all had those awesome masks that the moment moisture hit it, the colours would start to flow onto your face. Of course, I don't remember very many Halloween trick or treat nights that didn't consist of rain. We eventually pulled the masks off, because they would start to fall apart, but, hey, we had coloured faces, so, we would continue until we hit every single house in town! We would meet up with different groups who would set us onto a house they had hit, that gave away the real good stuff, like Candied Apples, or Popcorn balls. Back in my childhood, we never ever worried about needles hidden in children's treats, parents never ever got close to putting their hands into our pillow case to "check things out". My  friends Grandmother, Marie would have these enormous bags set aside for Cindy and her friends, in truth, there was enough in those bags, that we didn't have to go to any other house, but with the excess, that candy lasted us darn near till Christmas!
  No the best part of childhood in 62 that began Halloween night, was...snow. Oh that snow would only last for the morning, if that, then it would melt, but it was the preview of what would be the first amazing winter of my life. Where I grew up, we got dumped on, and unless you spent a winter in the 60's in my town, you have no concept on what dumped on means! My town holds the awesome title of being the most northerly ice-free port in the world. Now, hey, maybe that title has been taken elsewhere, but, it was ours! We never got iced in, because it stayed just warm enough to snow almost every single day of winter. It snowed so much that we would have to go outside, and shovel the snow away from the windows so you didn't live in a dark cave. It snowed so much that you could walk up to someone's second story window and knock on it. It snowed so much that we would pull our toboggans up onto the roof of the old highways building, and slide off. That Highways building was the best snow slide. The snow plow would push more and more snow up in that yard, and we would often have 3 runs on the hill.These runs went directly onto the road, but we never worried, think there were about 20 cars in town, and hardly anyone drove at nighttime. The big kids (and I admit myself, once or twice) would HookieBob, they would grab onto a car or truck bumper and slide along behind it, again, because I lived in the enchanted town, I don't remember any of my friends ever getting hurt, doing this insane stuff. We strapped on our skates over our winter boots, 2 metal blades with leather straps and buckles, we would attempt to skate along a gravel road with snow on it, hey...we thought it was pretty amazing, if you got into a tire track, sometimes it had a nice shiny layer of compressed snow.
  Back in the 60's girls were not allowed to wear pants to school, we had to wear dresses. Each morning I would put on my dress, and my "tights" then haul the snow pants up, tucking the dress down the legs, slip my tootsies into my lovely snow boots, usually with a bread bag inside,( because they had not dried from the previous night), and stand outside on the porch watching for one of the "big kids", usually PeeWee from across the street, or one of the Cole boys, to walk past on their way to school. The reason I would wait for them was, because they would break trail. The road to school was never plowed in the morning, and would often have 2 feet of snow overnight. To a 6 year old, this was a huge workout to walk the 4 blocks to school. I would simply follow in their footsteps, even though they had "daddy long legs" and their footsteps were so far apart.
  While we were at school in the morning, the "snow blower" would make it's rounds. Now, those of you city folk, would never understand this dreadful monster. It was basically a giant of what folks use in their driveways. This horror was capable of chewing up anything buried under the night's snow. I know for a fact pets were lost to this nightmare when dog chains got caught up and pulled into it's mouth to be blown out the top. You stayed away from that thing, the snow would blow up onto the road sides in mountains, filled with bits and pieces of toys, rocks etc. However, it made the walk home for lunch, much easier than the morning trek. You just had to make sure you did not step onto the polished areas it left, because those were sheer ice.
  So, with the assistance of the "snow blower" snow banks would often be well over 10 feet high. Then once during January or February, we would get a freezing rain. This rain would coat the snow, putting an iron clad "crust" on everything. This crust would allow all the children passage to places they could never reach at other times of the year. Our favourite was the mountain.. We could walk high above the ground all the way to the bottom of the mountain. All the bushes would be covered, it was just a flat white road to anywhere. We would get to the mountain, and then, I cannot believe we actually used to do this, we would climb up as close as we could, to the bottom of the slide path. WTF!!!! We must have all had damp brains, the slide path was the area bare of tree, that all the ice and snow would make it way down, when conditions were right. It was always covered in enormous icicles, icicles bigger than the average adult, cripes, bigger than a house!!That was our destination. I honestly can't believe not a single child became a statistic, if one of my children had ever said they planned to do something this incredibly stupid, I would have locked them up. Thing is, I doubt my parents, or the parents of any other kids, knew we did this. Everything we did, as children was without fear. We had bears in all our back yards, and around every corner, but....our lives did not stop because of this. We often had to watch out the window for the bear to depart before heading out into our yard, .....hey, they left, and we never worried they would return to claw us up. All the walks out onto the "crust" we never had conversations on what we would do if we came upon a bear, they were just facts of life, and we simply figured they had other things to keep them busy...like sleeping under 15 feet of snow in a nice dry area.
  The winter was a time to build snow houses. Houses that would be at the bottom of the incredible dump, we always planned to dig down to the grass, but, I doubt we ever got that deep. We would have steps down into the houses, benches we could rest on, walls, tables, chairs, beds, all made out of snow. Oh heck, most of the time, the stuff we "built" the furniture out of was semi powder, and would fall into pieces upon an attempt to use it. But, we would then slice chunks of the "crust" to build from.
  I moan on a steady basis about winter, now. Likely I would moan if I still lived in my "home town", but...we never suffered the biting agony of -30 winds, and frost bite warnings. We simply spent month after month, waking up and going to sleep with a steady dump of snow.
   As the winter came to an end, the most fabulous music began. The snow and ice on the surrounding mountains heralded the march into spring, it would begin to slide down the mountains. Some snow slides were just that, small rumbles and a quick roar, over in minutes. I would lay in bed at night, and count those slides, they were a joyful sound, not unlike the honk of the geese when they return. Some went beyond slides, and became massive avalanches, in the daylight these were astounding to watch, and in all the years I lived there, perhaps only a few times the snow would travel to the bottom of the mountain and across the river.
  My town had 4 seasons, all of them intensely beautiful. With age, I realize, Winter is my least favourite season. I tend to enjoy the mild ones, Spring and Fall. But, as a 6 year old, that first winter in my very own Mayberry, will remain the winter of a lifetime.