Remembering joyful news of a snow day
With winter approaching, more memories are surfacing of snowstorms years ago.
Tom Pikul, who grew up in the 1950s on Park Hill in Amsterdam near the Pulaski Bridge, recalled the childhood pleasures of snow days.
“An especially snowy night was the herald of a fantastic possibility: schools closing the next day,” Pikul wrote. “I would go off to sleep in hopeful anticipation of good news the next morning. Once awake in my bed, I could hear the radio in the kitchen tuned to WCSS and prayed that enough snow had fallen so that the announcer would say in his litany of the lucky, ‘And all Amsterdam district schools are now closed.’ ”
Pikul also looked forward to his birthday, Christmas morning and the first day of summer vacation. But these days were fixed, Pikul said, “A snow day, however, had the charm and magic of the unpredictable.”
Parents and people who had to go to work didn’t share in the excitement, but Pikul said he was gleeful entering the stove-warmed kitchen for breakfast. “No school outfit was out this morning, but my winter play clothes were there on the rocker.”
In the backyard, fun awaited. Good packing show meant a snowman, a snow fort, a snowball fight, a tunnel or an igloo.
Pikul said, “There was the wonder of the cold tiny bite of that first fat flake to hit your stuck-out tongue, while others touched your cheeks or gathered on your clothes, and the first mouthful of snow melted slowly to flow coldly down your throat.
“Back in the kitchen, fingers and toes that tingled and stung from the cold now throbbed uncomfortably, but getting so frozen and wet were more than made up for with a hot cup of chocolate. Beanie, socks, gloves and pants were set to dry on a radiator or draped over the open hot oven door. Then it was outside again after the sensual feel of slipping back into the now dry and toasty warm clothes.”
More on 1958
The February 1958 storms that isolated rural residents of the Mohawk Valley were recalled by Mary Lou Hotaling Coughlin, who wrote that she and a friend drove through an arch of snow over Mariaville Road that month. Coughlin said so much snow fell then that the highway department was called to plow to the milk house at W.W. Jeffers’ farm on Scotch Church Road in Pattersonville.
My cousin, Barbara Segen Gould, lived then on Touareuna Road between the town of Amsterdam and Glenville. Gould has a picture showing her standing on a drift that is higher than the apple tree branch her swing was attached to. She recalled that two plows came to open their road after they were snowed in for a week.
Touareuna Road is said by historian Nelson Greene to be a translation of a Mohawk word meaning neighboring hills. Greene said Touareuna Hill was the site of a battle between the Mohawks and Mohicans in 1669 that ended in victory for the Mohawks.
A plateau atop the hill was the location of Camp Touareuna in World War I. A detachment of New York National Guard camped there while guarding the Barge Canal and railroad below.
Greene wrote a three-volume history called “The Mohawk Valley — Gateway to the West, 1614-1925.” Greene was born in Little Falls. His father Horace Greene moved to Fort Plain and owned the Mohawk Valley Register newspaper in the early 1900s.
Nelson Greene contributed articles on local history to his father’s newspaper. He also studied art in New York City. In addition to his books on Mohawk Valley history, Greene became editor of the Fort Plain Standard newspaper.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Reach him at 346-6657 or at email@example.com.