Sunday, January 13, 2008

winters in Kansas City

Growing up in Kansas City, Kansas in the 60s was something special. And winters were a pleasant part of it.

We lived on 5 acres in what you could call rural Wyandotte County. Some years we got very little snow and others we got a lot. So when everything was blanketed in white, we took full advantage of it.

The temperature decided what we would do that day. If it was warmer (and thus a wet snow), we would make a snowman or have snowball fights.

If it was colder, we would go sledding or just tromp around in it. I remember all the red smiling faces as we played in the snow. I can still see the puffs of steam from the mouths of boisterous kids as they went about their business of having fun.

If we had a really good cold spell, we would go sliding around on the next door neighbor’s frozen pond.

Afterwards, it was just about as much fun when we came inside. We took our wet gloves off and put them on the big heat register in the living room.

I can still hear the sizzle as they slowly dripped into the hot furnace. We had an old gravity furnace in the basement and one big square heat register in the living room. And there were a few cold air return registers in other parts of the house.

The furnace was an old coal furnace that had been converted to natural gas. It still had the automatic coal stoker next to it for many years.

Often times we (me, my brother and sometimes younger sister and maybe the boy next door) would pull up chairs and sit with our stocking feet over the heat. And we would make hot chocolate and talk about all kinds of grand stuff. We might talk about what we had done, or the great things that we planned on doing in the future.

As I write about this, the aroma (of singed brown jersey gloves) surrounds me. And it reminds me of all those nice times in winter, in the 1960s.

There were winter rituals for the cars too. Some people used snow tires, but most people used chains when it got bad. I remember my dad outside putting the tire chains on. He would lay the chains in the snow and drive up on them. That way, he didn’t have to jack the car up.

Jacking the car up in the cold and in the snow was not something you did unless you had to. Sometimes he would have a hard time getting the chains on. We would try to assist, although there wasn’t too much we could do. But after a time (and a few choice words) he would finish.

Tire chains worked quite well on packed snow or ice. Where we lived, the snow plows didn’t make it out for a few days. So chains were just about a necessity.

I can remember riding in the back seat of our 1958 Buick, with my older brother, Larry. The chains would make a most distinctive ringing noise as we plodded down the road. If it was a very long ride we would make up silly little songs.

I can remember a 1960 presidential election song we used to sing. “Nixon, Nixon, he’s our man. Throw Kennedy in the garbage can!”

My Dad was strongly for Nixon and my mom was for Kennedy. For some reason, we sided with our dad. I guess he had more political influence on us then.

My dad has been gone for 25 years now, and if I could talk to him today, I would thank him for moving us to KCK in 1957. It was such a great place and time to grow up.

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