A good portion of the country has experienced more snow this season than in previous years, but a recent storm that dropped nearly a foot of snow in Mister Boomer’s area took him on a nostalgic ride to the winter days of his boomer youth.
There was always plenty of snow in the Midwest, and boomers were not the type of children who would be content to stay inside and look at the weather from a window. Rather, boomers were in the elements before, during and after any storms, making snowmen, making snow angels, sledding, ice skating and doing whatever else they could imagine.
When school days coincided with snowfalls, it was understood that the boomer children would go to school as they always did. If students rode a bus, the bus would be there to pick them up the vast majority of times. If the students walked to school, a few inches of snow — or even more — would not even slow them down. School being cancelled on account of snow was a rare occurrence. Mister Boomer can only recall one incident in the 1960s when the snowfall was deep enough — nearly two feet over two days — that his father didn’t go to work and the schools were closed. The city where Mister B lived didn’t own snow plow equipment at that time. Only the main county roads were plowed. Naturally, he and his siblings celebrated by spending the day outside (first helping his father and Brother Boomer shovel the family sidewalk and driveway, of course).
Yet the wave of nostalgia that rushed over Mister B this week wasn’t remembrances of snowfalls past, but, rather, of boot bags. Mister Boomer dreaded the boot bag even more than the black rubber galoshes. His parochial school required every student to have one, so dripping boots wouldn’t track water into the classrooms. The boot bag was in essence a drawstring tote just big enough to hold a pair of children’s boots. It was generally made of vinyl or fabric on the outside, with a vinyl layer inside to capture any stray moisture that remained after wiping — another requirement. The school sold them right on the supply cart that was wheeled around from classroom to classroom once a week. Vinyl fabric in the 1960s could be rather brittle, so new bags were pretty much needed every year when tears occurred.
At Mister B’s school, the process worked like this: Upon entering the school’s flagstone lobby, students were instructed to sit on a short stone ledge and remove their boots by teachers on duty. Every student carried a rag from their home rag bag to wipe excess ice and snow from their boots, then they would place them into their personal boot bag. Bags were then stacked in one corner of the lobby until school was dismissed and students could retrieve them.
For the school, it was the best possible scenario — no boots allowed beyond the lobby. Since galoshes were worn over shoes, there was no need to carry a pair of shoes to wear in the classroom. But carrying the boot bag was necessary, and Mister Boomer hated that. He hated it even more knowing that the public school had no such rule.
By the time Mister Boomer entered high school, he jettisoned the boot bag and the galoshes along with it. Except for the deepest snowfalls, he wore chukka boots — fleece-lined half boots with suede uppers. Unlike his elementary school days, his high school had no rules about leaving boots in the lobby. Mister B wore his chukkas all day.
Nostalgia is a fickle mistress. One minute she can bring a smile to your face, and the next, she’s showing you your childhood trauma of clunky, far from cool boot bags.
What has nostalgia conjured up for you this winter, boomers?