Another real story of growing up in North Philly on Mercy Row:
Philly- A Kid’s Winter Wonderland
When I was a kid growing up in Philly it was always a bit of a letdown after Christmas and New Year’s Day. The hubbub of the holidays was gone and people settled down to work and school. There wouldn’t be another day off until Presidents Day in February- Unless it snowed.
Snow- ahhhh it was like ambrosia to us kids. Yeah I know ambrosia is about taste and smell, but to me and my friends back then snow was better than the best Philly cheese steak. So forgive me for using that word. It didn’t matter if it was 1 inch or 2 feet we loved it.
Having a snow day was like winning the lottery. No school and all day out in the snow with occasional visits to the house for a sandwich or a cup of coco. What could be better? Only one thing: our sleds. Not everyone had a sled, but a metal trash can lid or even an old inner tube could substitute.
We were lucky because it seemed like we got a lot of snow in the 1950s and early 60s. I don’t know if it was more than now but as a kid it seemed like it. When the first flake fell we would excitedly look out the window every couple of minutes to see if the snow was “laying”. Every kid went to bed with high expectations that we would be hit with the largest snow fall in history. In the morning we would get out of bed and rush to the window, hearts beating fast and thinking about all the fun things we were going to do. When we had the first few flakes my Grandfather would say “I hope it keeps up.” We would say yeah and jump around the room. Then he would finish by saying “That way it won’t come down.”
Most of the time we were disappointed, but sometimes the snow was blanketing the dirty asphalt and concrete making the neighborhood a beautiful winter wonderland. By the end of the day the sidewalks would be crusted with gray and black ash from people’s coal furnaces (our answer to using salt) and the illusion of the pristine city evaporated. We didn’t care as long as the snow didn’t evaporate with it.
As I said, sleds were very important. In-between snowball fights and building snow forts, we would take our sleds to Howard and Clearfield Streets (just one block from my house) where Howard Street had the best hill. Down we would go, not thinking about any cars that might be coming across the intersection of Lippincott and Howard Streets. There were near misses for sure, but I never saw any accidents there.
Sometimes we would drag our sleds to McPherson Park between Clearfield Street and Indiana Ave and E and F Street. There was a library there and the largest area of grass in Kensington (I think). Not that it was that large, but to us it was just right. The hills made for great sledding competitions. Many hours of sliding through parked cars on Clearfield Street were had. Yeah sometimes we hit the cars, and a few times kids did get banged up, but hey it was a snow day!
When the snow melted from the streets we would eke out a few more sled rides going down a 10 foot embankment at one of the nearby factories. When the snow finally melted we would begin again to anticipate the next great snow storm.
So next time it snows (a rarity here in Atlanta) don’t bitch and moan. Go out and build a snow fort, sled down a hill or have a snow fight and remember your childhood.