Boomers Knew Their Snow Business

Recent snowfalls in Mister Boomer’s current neighborhood triggered his Wayback Machine to the winters of his boomer youth. Several snowfalls over the course of a week have produced different types of snow as conditions and temperatures changed. Mister B recalled that, as boomers, we were snow connoisseurs. It’s well documented that our generation spent a lot of time outdoors, regardless of weather. This included the winter; dress in layers and head out into the elements for hours at a time. After a step off the front porch, boomers could tell what type of snow was falling. This was important because it could dictate the type of play that was about to transpire. Mister B recalls three basic types of snow, though combinations of the three were possible:

1. Wet snow: The heaviest of the snowfalls due to the water content; when temperatures and moisture in the air were just right, wet snow blanketed the neighborhood. The snowflakes could be large and snow depths often amounted to four or more inches. For a good number of boomers, especially the boys, this was the favored type because it packed well. Play in wet snow could then be centered around building snowmen and snow forts, that would be put to good use in snowball fights. Warm gloves were essential, and, if not made of water resistant material, double gloves became a necessity. Occasional trips back inside for a quick warm-up and change of socks and gloves might be in order. Sledding, though possible, was not ideal in this type of snow as the sled’s runners could bog down, especially if the snow fell quickly and resulted in deeper snow depths. It was, however, the best snow for making some money, as homeowners could have struggles with the weight of shoveling.

2. Icy snow: When snow and ice crystals mixed, with the proportions leaning toward the icy, the snow that stuck on the ground was slick and solid. This surface made for good sledding, as boomers’ sleds and saucers could glide down a hill with less friction. These icy properties made it a terrible choice for snowball fights, though some masochists among us (you know who you are) took great delight in blasting the sides of faces with hard-packed ice balls. These boomers could be seen coaxing a snowball over time, like a sculptor shaping clay, far beyond the scoop-pack-throw immediacy of the typical snowball fight. In their private game, extra points were earned if the targeted kid’s face produced a red spot, or chunks of icy crystals remained behind a pair of glasses. Boomers in Mister B’s neighborhood avoided asking for snow removal jobs in this type of snow, because it often involved lots of ice chopping to reveal the sidewalk below.

3. Powdery snow: When humidity levels are low and the air is dry but cold, a powdery snow falls. This type of snow was impossible to pack, like grabbing a handful of granulated sugar. Ergo, it was a terrible choice for making snowmen or snowballs. Nonetheless, intrepid snow bullies would attempt to get a handful down a boomer’s back, delivering their payload by pulling open the space between the scarf and the coat. The powdery surface made it decent for sledding, but the ideal play mode for powdery snow was for making snow angels. It was terrible for trying to earn money while shoveling, because it was light enough to be removed by homeowners with a broom.

At any given time, a combination of the three might occur, but boomers knew their snow and what they could do with it. Do you recall shifting your play priorities based on the type of snow that fell, boomers?

Boomers Dream of a White Christmas

If you’re a boomer dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones you used to know, then you are not alone. As the song illustrates, a white Christmas is defined as a measurable amount of snow on the ground for the holiday … and therein lies the connection to: like we used to know. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the areas of the country most likely to get December snowfalls has been changing for at least 30 years now. There are variations from state to state, of course — nature doesn’t like to work in straight lines — but as a general rule, the snow demarcation markers have been trending northward. Consequently, areas that may have seen white Christmases in our boomer years are now left with snowless holidays four and five decades later.

Mister Boomer can attest to this by personal observation. In the region where he spent his boomer years of the 1950s and ’60s, every Christmas was a white Christmas. Snow generally started falling the first week of December and additional snow fell every week until Christmas. That guaranteed several inches of snow on the ground for the holiday, but it often snowed on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as well. For that reason, Mister B’s local weather men often referred to “white Christmas” as actually receiving snow on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This further defined the term to include fresh snow for maximum glistening.

To young boomers, a white Christmas went hand in hand with a series of snow-related Christmas gifts. After all, boomer kids would spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s more outdoors than indoors. Mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, long johns, boots, sleds, saucers, ice skates, hockey sticks and the perennial Christmas gift of socks, spanned the gift-receivable range from very welcome to sighs and groans. In the end, the double pair of gloves protected our hands from frostbite as the top pair was wet before the first snowball fight was over. Tree tops may have glistened, but a chill wind required layers of clothing, starting with long johns. All the better to make snow angels without feeling the frost. With hats firmly in place, scarves were wrapped around our faces in what, in retrospect, looks eerily similar to sporting this year’s obligatory face mask. All the better to ward off the snow and ice crystals tossed up from our sled runners. To young boomers, a white Christmas was winter fun.

Another aspect of a white Christmas that Mister Boomer really enjoyed was how fresh snow on rooftops and shrubbery softened the brightness of Christmas lights. Large, teardrop light bulbs would glow beneath a thin veil of freshly fallen snow, reflecting outward in a beautiful diffusion of color. While there was (and is) a case to be made for the garish brightness of the holiday, there was something immensely peaceful about a snowy night that muffled the jazz horn that house decorations played.

As for Mister B, the crossover from boomer years to adulthood meant more shoveling, and winter driving. White Christmases weren’t as welcome. As the 1970s wore on, his region experienced an occasional snowless holiday. Into the 1980s, there were more snowless Christmases than white ones.

How about you, boomers? Are you dreaming of a white Christmas this year, or will you have your fill of snow before the New Year is here?