January 9, 2013

Drying mittens, sledding part of childhood memories


This time of year brings back great memories of school plays, making paper chains for the classroom and a gift for the teacher, always a gift for the teacher. Flanders Elementary School in Malone is where I attended the first four years of my schooling. Who can forget the clanging of the radiators heating up to provide more heat or the smell of snow-caked mittens drying on the radiators after recess? 

Toby talked about wearing “galoshes.” For the younger generation, those were black rubber boots with a metal-grated clasp that came halfway up your calf and folded over tight to keep your feet dry. He cannot remember his feet ever getting wet, as opposed to today’s boots. I used to put plastic bags on my kids’ feet, inside their boots, to make sure they didn’t get wet when they went out to play.

Back then, we wore snow pants that eventually got soaked, but we still trudged through the snow, dragging our Radio Flyer sled (that you steered with your feet) up the hill for the umpteenth time, only to slide down again.

The Salmon River flows peacefully through my hometown of Westville. One particular spot would freeze solid during January, and we’d avail ourselves of the opportunity to ice skate. My dad and the neighbors would shovel all the snow into the middle, making a rectangular skating rink. The bonfire was blazing on the shoreline for frequent visits to warm up, and we anticipated the hot chocolate to come. 

In fifth grade, I had the privilege to attend the Cushman Corner one-room schoolhouse in Westville. I didn’t think it was so wonderful at the time, after the beautiful brick Flanders in Malone, but now am so happy I had that experience. 

A daily recess in winter meant mittens drying near the woodstove while we had afternoon classes. Lunch from a lunch pail or brown bag was looked forward to when it was accompanied by a thermos of hot soup.

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