Gary Brown: It was snowier back when I was a kid, or was it?

Gary Brown

The secret to getting people to agree with a column about how the winters were harsher when we were children is to publish it on a day when the temperature is supposed to be in the mid-60s.

Plenty of potential true believers are walking around in spring jackets.

Winter in the old days had to be worse than this. As memory serves, plowed snow was piled higher than the tops of cars beside roads during winter when I was growing up. The snow in the back yard drifted higher than my head. When I stepped into an unshoveled driveway, I fell into new snow up to my knees.

Of course, curbs seemed higher in those days, too. And how hard does a wind have to blow to drift snow higher than the head of a 5-year-old? For that matter, maybe the snow in the driveway seemed high because my knees weren’t, and even as I aged, it seemed like it got even higher when I was holding the shovel.

Memory faulty

That’s the problem with memories. They’re filled with forgotten facts and personal biases, and they are distorted by circumstances. A driveway seems longer when you’re shoveling snow than it does when you’re walking to the mailbox in the middle of summer.

I remember the temperature of winter being frigid when I was a child, for example. But then I was sled-riding at the time, and throwing snowballs until my gloves were so wet that I had to keep my fingers moving just to prevent ice from forming at my knuckles. I was walking through deep drifts while wearing unbuckled boots and letting snow fall down inside so it could melt about my ankles. I was riding lickety-split down a hill face-first into falling flakes, while feeling a wind chill freeze my nose and cheeks.

So, decades later, my memory of those days is returning home to hold frostbitten feet and hands over a hot-air register until they stopped hurting and just tingled.

I never have to do that anymore. I guess the winters must not be as bad as they were when I was a youngster. Or maybe it’s just that I haven’t gone sled riding in 25 or 30 years. And I don’t throw snowballs while I’m wearing leather dress gloves.

Frozen facts

“Yeah, but didn’t it snow more when we were younger?” you ask, because it still is as warm at the end of this column as it was in the beginning, and there isn’t a snow day in sight.

And then, when the temperature is seasonal and the snow returns, and school is called off, you will insist that you remember getting fewer days off from school for snow in the old days. “They didn’t just stop the buses from running anytime the roads were white,” you will claim. “We went to school.”

And if buses got bogged down in drifts in those days, the pupils pushed the buses through the snow to school and back home at night. For miles. Uphill. Both ways.

But, that is a column for publication in a blizzard, when you might believe it.