A Little (or A Lot) Of Snow Is No Problem

February 10, 2007|By JACQUES KELLY

The snow on the front porch this week was nothing. It was like fluffy Ivory Flakes. You could broom it away in less time that it takes to sweep up after an October leaf storm. Nevertheless, all public schools were closed. Lazy.

I mean, really. Baltimore, you can do better than that.

I learned early on that snow was no impediment. In fact, it was an opportunity to get out there and shovel -- and then get out there and make the most of the day.

On occasion, school would be called off. This would mean a portable radio would have to be brought into the kitchen from the basement -- the old house on Guilford Avenue was no electronics showcase.

Amid the frying of breakfast bacon and the overcooking of the oatmeal, we'd listen for Galen Fromme on WBAL to read off the list of school names -- many of them institutions so small you heard their names mentioned only in January and February.

The hapless radio guys would be stumbling through Baltimore's arcane academic thicket. I was listening for Baltimore Academy of the Visitation, which got pressed between Bais Yaakov and Bryn Mawr. Then one of my elders would enter the kitchen and ram a slice of bread into the electric toaster, setting off a loud pop of radio static and mangling the closings report.

We were never quite sure that Visitation Academy was open or closed. It was run by cloistered nuns whose lives were not ruled by radio or television. Mostly, we forged on, as did a lot of fellow Baltimoreans -- and we made it, somehow. But not always. A very nasty snow and ice incident that began March 19, 1958, took down electric power lines and crippled the streetcar fleet. Even the Baltimore Transit Co.'s huge snow-sweeping car, which ordinarily defied the weather, was sidelined by the foul conditions.

The buses were always mobbed on snow days and the passengers' wet wool coats gave off a yucky smell. When schools were closed, we often made off to the movies, whose operators must have had to sleep on cots in the aisles. Getting out was far preferable than the utter boredom of a snow day spent at home.

The blizzard of 1966 began on a Sunday morning, and while there was a slight drop in attendance at church, the pews were not empty. But it kept up, and the snow just outpaced the efforts of the guys in plows and salt trucks.

As I recall, that one shut the city down for a week. I got back to Loyola High School at Blakefield the next Monday, having made a small fortune in the intervening days shoveling sidewalks for neighbors. As we opened our books, the teacher seemed to be far ahead of us. Then I learned the school had opened for classes on Wednesday of the previous week.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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