A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snow Day!

Skipper and I enjoying a Snow Day, 1969
Cold winter mornings, with a blanket of snow covering the ground, were moments of great excitement when I was a kid. We knew we would be getting a day off from school; the only problem was, we had to wait for the official announcement. That meant sticking close to the TV in the living room, the little gas stove turned up as high as it would go, watching Frank Blair on the Today Show and waiting for Channel 5 to cut in with their 5-minute newscast at 7:25. There was no such thing as a “crawl” across the bottom of the screen in those days; the technology didn’t exist. No, we had to wait for an actual human to read a list of the schools that were going to be closed. Sure enough, near the end of the list, the newsman would say “Waldron,” and shouts of glee would ring out in living rooms across the city. Snow Day!

With what seemed like the weight of the world unexpectedly lifted off our shoulders, my sister and I would plan the day. The first order of business: a little celebratory hot chocolate. Mama made it with milk heated in a pan over the stove and some Hershey’s Cocoa from the can in the cabinet. Then maybe some pancakes, since we had time for a leisurely breakfast. Sufficiently fueled, it was time for our first excursion outdoors. This was primarily a walk-around, just to see how deep the snow was and how slick the street was (already considering the potential of another day off tomorrow). This was also the first opportunity to taste the snow. This was always done with some reluctance, because there was strong support among some kids for the theory that the first snow of the year was potentially radioactive. But, pushing our fears aside, we would make huge snowballs, not for throwing, but for eating. In the back yard, we had a storage building that we called the Smokehouse, which had a low enough roof that we could break off an icicle for an additional treat. Eventually, our feet would get cold, and we knew it was time to go back inside for a bit.

As we warmed around our little gas stove, the house was filled with the aroma of the beans and cornbread that Mama was cooking in the kitchen. A second cup of hot chocolate, and it was time to enjoy a little daytime TV while we waited to go outside again. At our house, we got only one channel, Channel 5 from Fort Smith. In those days, it was known as KFSA, the call letters standing for Fort Smith Arkansas. But, since Channel 5 was the only station in town, it wasn’t limited to one network. As John Candler used to say every morning during the station sign-on, “KFSA is affiliated with both the NBC and the CBS television networks, and is authorized, under contract, to transmit some ABC programs.” Which was actually a pretty sweet deal, because Channel 5 could pick the most popular programs from each network and broadcast them.

After the Today Show went off at 8:00, Channel 5 switched over to CBS and broadcast Captain Kangaroo. Although aimed at kids younger than us, we still liked to hear The Captain tell stories and visit with Grandfather Clock, whose eyes and mouth moved in a moderately frightening manner, and Mr. Green Jeans, and of course Mr. Moose, a puppet who invariable tricked The Captain into standing there talking while a cascade of ping pong balls fell around him. There was a particularly good block of programming beginning at 9:00, with reruns of I Love Lucy, and at 9:30, reruns of The Real McCoys, and at 10:00, reruns of The Andy Griffith Show which had been renamed Andy of Mayberry (to avoid confusion with current versions of The Andy Griffith Show which still aired on Monday nights) and at 10:30 The Dick Van Dyke Morning Show (again, reruns of the still currently running Dick Van Dyke Show). It took a really great snow to pull me away from the latter half of that programming block. At 11:00, it was time for Love of Life, which was my signal to return to the outdoors.

If the snow was ok for building, I would usually build a snow fort. Others could build their snowmen, but I took a more practical approach. In the event that a spontaneous snowball fight should develop, it was always good to have a snow fort to retreat to. We didn’t really have any good sledding hills nearby, other than the sloped bank in front of our house, which was steep enough to slide down, but you couldn’t go very far. We usually just tromped around in the snow with no particular destination in mind. Lucky, our faithful dog, was content to follow us around. Tom, our cat, had usually managed to sneak into the house and was lying low somewhere by the fire.

At noon, it was back indoors to warm up and have lunch. The beans would have cooked several hours in the Presto-cooker, and the cornbread had just come out of the oven, cooked in the iron skillet that was a wedding present for Mama and Daddy many years before. I would crumble the cornbread on my plate and pile the beans on top. It was never too cold for iced tea, which completed the feast. I don’t know what Mama ate for lunch when it wasn’t a snow day, but on an occasion like this she really outdid herself. For dessert, she might cut the center out of some canned biscuits and fry them in hot oil to make donuts, which she glazed with icing made from powdered sugar. And of course, sometime that afternoon we would have snow ice cream. Mama would go outside and find some clean snow, and bring it back inside and mix it with Pet milk and sugar. Delicious!
Even Mama had a little fun on Snow Days

After lunch, another little TV session was in order. This time, it was game shows. At 1:00, Password came on, with Allen Ludden as host. At 1:30, it was Art Linkletter’s House Party, which featured a hugely popular segment in which Art interviewed four kids sitting in tall chairs, producing hilarious responses to seemingly innocent questions. At 2:00, Gary Moore hosted To Tell the Truth, a show in which celebrity panelists had to guess which of three guests was in fact who or what he claimed to be. At 2:30, it was soap opera time again, with The Edge of Night and The Secret Storm coming on, so it was time to go back outside. This was reality check time, because you could get a sense of whether or not the streets were beginning to clear and whether or not the snow was melting, so you sort of begin to get an idea whether or not your impromptu vacation was likely to be extended or not.

At about 3:30, a new show came on ABC called Where the Action Is. This show later changed its name to The Happening, and actually only lasted for a couple of years or so. The show was produced by Dick Clark, producer of the wildly popular American Bandstand show on Saturday afternoons. This show was on every day at 3:30, and featured pop music acts performing their songs in various locations around Southern California. Every show featured different artists, but regular performers included one of our most popular singing groups, Paul Revere and the Raiders. Their lead singer, Mark Lindsey, was very popular with the girls, and the keyboard player, who I guess was Paul Revere, had the grill of a Ford Mustang in front of his keyboard, which I thought was really cool. They all dressed like Patriots from the 1700’s, and I remember some sort of contest that required Mark Lindsey to cut off his ponytail, which I believe was then awarded to some young swooning female. Between 4:00 and 5:00, Channel 5 showed reruns of two great westerns, Maverick and Sugarfoot.

By that time, it didn’t really feel like a snow day anymore; the normal routine had pretty much returned. But sometimes, when you watched the 6:00 news, you got the advance word that tomorrow, again, would be…a SNOW DAY!


  1. Billy - How in the world do you remember all this stuff !!!! Even the daily line-up of what was on TV !!! That is amazing... and brings back so many memories !!!

  2. Comments from Facebook:

    Lydia Blalock Butler I think some of us might still like snow days!!! LOL
    November 29 at 8:09pm
    Judy Montgomery wonderful stories.
    November 29 at 8:17pm
    Janet Musgrove Mama sure knew how to make snow day extra special for us! I can just taste those beans and cornbread and her canned biscuit donuts could rival Krispie Kreme! Wonderful memories!
    November 29 at 9:06pm
    Debbie Burnett Pyles Oh Janet you just reminded me of Grandma's donuts, and her Chocolate gravy Yummmmy
    November 29 at 10:19pm
    Teresa Culpepper Thanks for the memories........
    November 29 at 10:24pm
    Linda Vaughn I would love some snow days.
    November 29 at 11:20pm
    Jaunita Sue Call the snow days like that where very slim i only think of one day and it was when i was little
    November 30 at 6:17am

  3. Oh, man, that's great stuff! Nothing was quite so exciting for a kid as finding out school was cancelled because of the snow. And my TV memories of such days are very similar to your (although I'm maybe a bit older, because I recall Bud Collyer hosting "To Tell The Truth", and I watched "Concentration", hosted by Hugh Downs.)