After the latest round of snowstorms in Mister Boomer’s region, he has noticed the lack of snowmen visible in the neighborhood. While it’s true that these particular snowfalls were icier, leaving the snow uncooperative for snowman-making, after consulting on the subject with some boomer friends, they concurred: in general there appear to be fewer snowmen being made than when we were kids.
The most cynical of this boomer panel attributes the drop in snowman frequency to the fact that, as one boomer put it, “It’s impossible to get my kids to go outside.” Others noted the schedules kids are expected to keep, leaving them little time for outside play. Others still point to the the Generation Gap between the ages; where making a snowman was once considered fun, and every bit a part of the suburban social norm, it now seems passé as community rules, smaller front and back yards, and less viable areas of public parks make the activity far more difficult than it ever was. Besides, most kids over the age of eight just don’t want to make snowmen.
The snowmen our generation made were hardly discernible from those of our parents’ generation. For us, the definitive description of a classic snowman has to be as sung in the tune, Frosty the Snowman. The song was released by Gene Autry (who also sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to us) in 1950. The famous animated version with Jimmy Durante narrating and singing the song didn’t come along until 1969.
Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.
The snowman’s top hat and scarf were mentioned later on in the song.
With this in mind, then, let the snowman smackdown begin:
THEN: Most often boomers made a snowman with a group of kids of varying ages. That allowed the youngest to be tasked with making the head, while the older kids could roll the base and torso. The goal was always the biggest snowman the group could physically manage to assemble.
NOW: It appears snowman making is not of much interest to kids by the time they reach the age of eight, leaving the activity to the younger set, accompanied by a parent. The result is not only fewer snowmen, but smaller ones. Some seem to be nothing more than hand-packed snowballs rather than the classic three stacked rolls of our generation.
ADVANTAGE: Boomers. Unsupervised outdoor activity with children of all ages playing together taught life lessons while providing great exercise.
THEN: We were the last generation to be able to use chunks of coal for a snowman’s eyes, mouth and buttons. Actually, Mister Boomer had an aunt who still heated her house with a coal-burning furnace in the 1950s, but the houses in his neighborhood were all fueled by natural gas. Consequently, that meant his neighborhood didn’t use the classic Frosty coal, but rather, small rocks or buttons from their mothers’ sewing baskets. More often than not, boomers used a carrot for a nose that added dimension to the face.
NOW: You’ll see small rocks used for eyes and mouths, and Mister Boomer has even observed a rare sighting of charcoal briquets employed as a coal substitute, but more often than not, today’s snowmen have eyes that consist of a poke of a finger, while the mouth is a hand slash to form a smiley face rather than the connect-the-dots smile preferred in our generation. Some carrots are visible as snowmen noses today, but it’s possible that carrots aren’t as prevalent in the fridge as they were in our day and that may explain the quantity disparity.
ADVANTAGE: Boomers. When working in a monotone medium such as snow, one cannot dismiss the importance of contrast.
THEN: While boomers seldom added a corncob pipe — though one was available in Mister B’s basement from previous Halloween costume props — scarves and hats were definitely required. For Mister B and his siblings, one of his grandfather’s old hats resided in the basement for Halloween costuming and snowman wardrobes. There was never a worry in the neighborhood that hats and scarves would be stolen. They remained until they were removed by the builders.
NOW: Hats are rare, though an occasional toque or watch cap shows up. The same is true of scarves. For the most part, snowmen appear unadorned.
ADVANTAGE: Boomers. Really, you’d let your snowman sit out there in all his naked glory?
THEN: Attempts were made to add hands. Most often these were tree twigs stuck in the sides of the center torso ball. Occasionally boomers would have a “hand” hold an upside-down broom, or an old pair of mittens might be placed over the twigs, jazz-hand style.
NOW: Tree twig hands are still seen on occasion, though it’s been Mister Boomer’s observations that modern snowmen tend to be armless.
ADVANTAGE: Boomers. Just because a new generation tries to redefine the parameters of acceptable snowman-ness, doesn’t make it so.
So, evolution marches on as the venerable snowman of our youth joins the ever-growing list of things that are changing with the times. To that, Mister B lends a grumpy old man exclamation of, “Bah, humbug.”
What have you noticed about snowmen in your area, boomers?