IF YOU live in Baltimore and are dreaming of a white Christmas, the chances are slim. The last white Christmas here was in 1966. Since then, it's been wet and it's been warm; it's even been cold and icy. There's even been a touch of snow.
But if you have in mind the kind of white Christmas Irving Berlin set to words and music -- well, it hasn't happened much in Baltimore.
But in 1966 it did.
Christmas that year was on a Sunday, and all day Friday and into Christmas Eve, snow was predicted for Saturday. A storm was sweeping up from the Carolinas and Virginia; happily for the romantics, the weatherman was calling for a Christmas card, an Irving Berlin kind of white Christmas.
In 1966, as is the custom in Baltimore when snow is predicted, panic set in. And since it was a time of year for the usual craziness of last-minute Christmas shopping, the situation was even worse. Howard Street, then still among the most popular of Baltimore shopping streets, was bedlam. One shopper exclaimed, "This is nuts! Get me outta here!"
But as Christmas Eve approached, the weatherman's prediction grew firmer, more precise. Snow would start in the early hours of Christmas Eve. When the children looked out Christmas morning, they might see the footprints of Santa's reindeer in the fresh snow.
This time the weatherman called the snow right. And how!
A snowstorm with 30-mile-an-hour winds whipped across the state Saturday morning, and snow fell throughout the day.
Baltimore got up to eight inches of snow, bringing December's total to a record 19.3 inches. (Who says there's no global warming?) There were the usual babies born in a blizzard (only these were Christmas babies), while, on the Jewish Sabbath, members of Menorah Lodge of B'nai B'rith volunteered at the Police Department so that Christian telegraph clerks, gas pump operators and elevator operators could spend Christmas Eve with their families.
In other years we have had teasers: in 1969, a light sprinkling of snow; in 1970, all of half an inch; in 1975, one-tenth of an inch; in 1976, three-tenths of an inch. Last Christmas was a cold one, and snow that had fallen weeks earlier had by Christmas Day turned into dirty ice patches. It wasn't exactly what Irving Berlin had in mind.
But back to Christmas, 1966. By mid-afternoon on Christmas Day the sun came out and the temperature climbed into the 30s. White Christmas became wet Christmas.
That was 24 years ago.
Maybe the law of averages says it's time again, time for treetops to glisten and children to listen . . .
Well, you know.
Happy Holidays from . . . GILBERT SANDLER