Snow days, school closures and old memories

lucy, snowWe have had more snow this winter than in the last two. More bad cold weather too. It’s making me crazy…and grumpy…maybe even on edge a little.

Predictions are for 2 degrees overnight. Our area does not get that kind of cold weather often.


snow handsSchools have been off a couple of days already. Kids have it much easier than I did way back in the day.

First off we hardly ever got a snow day unless it was REALLY bad. I mean REALLY BAD! They didn’t care if the bus was in an accident. No one would sue.

Then if there was a snow day and that’s a BIG if, finding out wasn’t simple.

Remember this was before Al Gore invented the internet. Heck, it was before there were computers and main frames and copiers. Stuff was mimeographed! Or scribed by monks in a back room! Telephones were tethered to the wall. There were no seat belts! I could have died! (I told you I was on the edge…)

Back to finding out if you were off — You would have to get up early in the morning and listen to the local radio station while they would recite the closures alphabetically. If you missed your letter, you were stuck waiting another 15 minutes (time was longer then too) to listen again.

On a normal school day you always wanted to sleep a little longer but when there was a chance of a snow day, it was so easy to get up early. After all, you had to listen to the radio very carefully.

Today you can check on the internet for closings and many schools and businesses have an auto call system that will text out the message. All you have to do is roll over and check your phone. How cool is that?

There wasn’t any fleece or Polartec back then either. When it was cold you wore a heavy Melton wool coat with a quilted lining that weighed 20 pounds. Add a scarf, mittens, knee-high boots, wool leggings and a stupid hat and your clothes could weigh more than you did. If you were knocked over it took three of your besties to get you upright. You were warm though.

I remember one especially bad cold snap when I was in fifth grade. School normally ended at 3 p.m. but they started to get everyone dressed to go home around 2:15. It took all that time to locate the stuff and get the kids suited up. Remember all coats were grey wool and all scarves were red plaid. In a class of 30 kids, that is a lot of stuff that all look alike except for Bernard’s.

Bernard had a really odd shape — sort of like a donut without the hole — so his stuff was easy to identify. By the way, despite his odd shape no one ever picked on him.

If ever there was a target for harassment, he was it. He made nerd look acceptable. He’s probably the head of a techie company now and very, very wealthy.

I am sure it was the nuns who saved him. Say what you will about those crazy ladies, they could keep 30 kids in line with a look. It’s a lot like an evil eye. You don’t want to get it or life will be bad and not only in school.

You did not go home and tell your parents that your teacher scolded you or you got scolded again. That doesn’t happen anymore either.

Amazingly we all lived to adulthood. If my mother were listening about now, she would add, “At least you didn’t have to walk two miles to school in waist deep snow.” I guess each generation has their stories but I can’t quite imagine how today’s children will talk about the difficulties of their youth to their children.

“When we had a day off, I had to wake up and look at my phone for a text. At least you get the message directly in your brain” or something like that. I can hardly wait.

So what was it like when your school was closed for weather?

Photo credits: The first is from the Charles Schultz organization. The second is floating around the internet. All I can tell is that MJ did it in 2001.

42 thoughts on “Snow days, school closures and old memories

  1. Hi Kate! Well I hardly ever got off from school because the nuns were right there, they lived there you know so they didn’t care how many kids showed up. One or twenty they just walked over from the convent and taught who showed up. I remember getting up and listening to the radio and then being bored all day. In the afternoon we would ice skate, sled or walk to town and eat fries and ice cream sundaes at the dime store.. 🙂 Nice thinking back to those days. We usually went to mass before school started and sat around and ate egg sandwiches after mass. I am typing this at 2:45am because I can’t sleep. I understand the weather making you on edge. Weather extremes giving me a cranky too.


    • Welcome to my cranky world. Snowing here now, 60 tomorrow. I was bused to Catholic school but the nuns did live next door to the church-school. I remember one nun saying that when the weather was bad so were the kids. (Of course, that couldn’t have been me….)


  2. I remember having to turn on the tv and watch the school names scroll by on the bottom if they were closed or delayed. We live close to both our Elementary and Middle School so we could walk, but had to take a bus to High School.
    If you’ve seen A Christmas Story, all the little kids looked like Ralphie’s little brother all bundled up. That is how I pictured you when you talked of needing 3 of your besties to help you up if you fell over.


  3. This made me think boy…Sheridan School on Tesiny Avenue in Bridgeport Connecticut always closed. We got to go sleigh riding on our pizza pans which I blame for my flat ass. I do…it froze it that way never to thaw. I remember tights and undershirts, turtlenecks and an orange parka I loved so much my mother would hide once the weather got warm…I’d love to be in L.A .right now, smog or no smog. Nice essay.


  4. When I first started teaching (way back 20 years ago) we had a “snow chain.” It was a list with everyone’s phone numbers on it. The first person would get the call and start the chain until the last person received the call. If you were lucky enough to be the last person on the list, you could roll over and go back to sleep. Because it took a while to complete the whole chain, we often got calls at 3 or 4 in the morning. Try going back to sleep after being startled awake at that hour then having to turn on the light to dial the phone to call the next person. The auto call system is a definite improvement.


  5. First, those cartoons are riot. Second, you brought back so many memories that I’d forgotten…and they made me laugh too. When I used to teach school, I would still have to listen to the radio to find out if school was out. No special professional courtesies there! And, yes, it is frigid outside right now!


  6. I grew up outside the Washington, D.C. area. They didn’t close schools back then as often as they do now. I do remember being off for a week during the blizzard of 1978. By the way, I’m so thankful Al Gore invented the internet, otherwise we’d never be having these great conversations. 🙂


  7. We had snow days now and then. They were great days of snow forts and sledding. Even shoveling the drive and walk was fun on a snow day. Then going in to a warm house and having hot chocolate. Fond memories but I am fine with memories I don’t need to live it again. Right now it is in the twenties and windy. Will be cold a couple of days but it is supposed to be in the 60’s this week end. Weird.


  8. I would be in a bad mood, too, Kate. But I had to laugh at your recollections of times past. Even though there is a huge difference in our climate conditions, somehow the memories from school still felt very much like what I remember. I’ve never had a “snow day” or a weather-related school closure, but I have been at school when an earthquake hit and we had to be sent home. Or when I was a child we had occasional “smog days” when we weren’t sent home, but couldn’t go outside to play. See? I’m trying to commiserate with anything I can add that makes me more sympathetic. In your current bad mood you probably aren’t real fond of someone from Southern California talking about anything weather-related. I understand!!


  9. I don’t remember many – if any – snow days, but I’m sure we must have had a few. I don’t even remember the radio announcements of school closings EXCEPT when I worked on the radio and had to announce them. One station did not do it alphabetically. I thought that was just nuts.

    Hang in there, Kate. Summer’s only 6 months away. Can you believe my oldest daughter and her family are traveling to Central New York this week because they wanted to see snow. My soon-to-be 13-year-old granddaughter has never seen snow. They might get more than they bargained for.

    Safe travels, every one, no matter where you live … or what the weather and road conditions are like. 😉


  10. Ah, those phones on tethers. I remember them well. We always got the warnings about frost bite: If you can’t feel your toes, stomp them. If you still can’t feel them, it’s time to go home…and bring your little sister, too.


    • I remember telling my mother I wasn’t cold when I was freezing because I didn’t want to go in. I never wanted those snow days to end because they were so fun. I can’t remember hot chocolate though but there must have been some.


  11. As a school nurse in a Catholic school, I totally related to this one. I am still watching the tv to see if the great school gods have enough sense to call school off tomorrow. Just in case it might be uncomfortable for the little darlings. I am tired and need to sleep.


  12. Good share, Kate. Maybe kids won’t even “go to school” in the future ~ they’ll attend from home via Skype . . . or be programmed at birth with all the knowledge they need.


  13. Such laughs! Waking up early hoping they would call school…listening to the entire list of districts and schools in disbelief when overlooked.
    We were thrilled in middle school one cold period that girls got to wear pants to school – warm for once while changing classes – the main building was over crowded and there were rows and rows of shacks/temporary buildings outside with shell walkways (usually flooded). No complaints about those old wooden buildings – they had warm warm heaters and big opening windows on both sides in hot weather.


    • Oh yes, I was out of school before girls could wear pants, hence the wool leggings that you had to pull on and then take off. Even with knee high socks the lady parts would get cold! Of course we were too cool in high school to wear them.


  14. During my entire time in school we only had one day off for weather. Our superintendent was strict and did not see inclement weather as a reason to call off school. So we always had to go to school, frozen [or drenched] urchins that we were.


    • I don’t really remember very many. When I was in grade school, we had a very bad storm that gave us 3 days off in a row (Wheee!) and maybe one or two when I was in high school but that’s about it. We never had late starts which are very popular now. Sometimes our buses just ran late because the travel was slow.


      • When I was in high school we had optional late starts because our school system didn’t have any buses, so some kids had to walk miles in the dark to get to school. As a way of keeping them safer, we all could show up during a specified range of time depending on where you lived. Kind of wacky, thinking back on it.


  15. In discussing school transportation, my husband told me he had to walk well over a mile to get to school. He would ride on his brothers handlebars until he was old enough to have his own bike. We had bus transportation so we were lucky. Not so back in my Mom’s day.


  16. Thanks for the great chuckle. It even got me looking up my 1950s route to high school – on google maps, for heavens sake! It was 1 1/2 miles, and a long part of it was up a windswept hill. But yes, my dad walked many miles to school out in the country, even as a little boy — and they all loved school in that one room place with all ages. I, on the other hand, was feeling stuck and depressed because the taxpayers in this urban area are too cheap to pay for cleaning sidewalks. And so on. I wonder if boomers growing old, will have an impact on changing policies…. I hope I live long enough to find out 🙂


    • A mile and a half is a long walk. My mother had to walk about that too in all sorts of weather. Today we have a 2 hour delay and the roads are perfectly clear. It’s cold but you can dress for that. Today’s kids aren’t near as hardy as those of older generations.


      • Oh so true! But in my old age I’ve been getting a little wimpy too! Especially about icy sidewalks. Having fallen about four times it’s a modern miracle that my stainless steel hip hasn’t broken! Gotta get back in touch with an ‘I can conquer all’ attitude 🙂 And maybe carry a bucket of sand everywhere I go!


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