Winter fun in the old days

Winter of 1949

During the winter of 1949, the countryside in Syracuse was a white-out of snow. Drifts were six feet high in places, roads were impassable, and school was closed for a week. The snow was deeper than three feet and then the winds blew the snow into large long drifts. The snow was packed, and even cattle could walk over fences without sinking. That winter was one no one will forget.

Winter of 1949

The winters were very cold back then. Fog would hang around for weeks, and often, cold spells lasted beyond a month. Ice skating was a popular fun thing to do because the ice stayed frozen for most of the winter. There are many ponds in Syracuse, and if the ice got roughed up in one area, skaters would move to a different pond. The favorite spot was Miller’s Pond, which is just off 4000 W 2700 S, west of Larry Miller’s house. The pond is still there today but hasn’t had ice thick enough for years. On Saturday, Sunday, and Friday nights there would be twenty or more skaters comprised mostly of boys. I was one of them and we would set large tires afire so we could stay warm and thaw out our hands and feet. The black smoke could be seen a mile away. We should have died from breathing that crap. We reeked of burning tire smoke.

There was a fence that crossed the pond on one end that was meant to keep the cattle from wandering off. After dark, it was a memorable event to accidentally hit that fence while skating around 20 mph. We’d try our best to avoid hitting a barb on the barbed wire. The ice sometimes was rough, especially where ducks and geese lit, or landed, while the water was freezing. When snow accumulated on top, skating was over.

Ice skating wasn’t the only option as a recreational activity during the winter. Every kid had a sled but there were no hills in Syracuse. Sometimes, the sled was pulled by a truck or horse, or an occasional hayride on a wagon at a church event. Duck and geese hunting was good until everything froze, then the birds went south. Muskrat trapping was profitable during the winter because winter pelts were top grade.

Church basketball was another winter activity and it was very competitive for teenagers as well as the adults. Practice was after Mutual Improvement Association, or youth activities, on Wednesday nights. If you were at the stake level, you could advance to region. The ultimate goal was all-church. At that level, there were ex-college players who had played at the U or BYU on the adult teams. The basketball program was supposed to promote brotherhood and sportsmanship, but often players had to repent before they played again. Poor refereeing lent itself to games getting out of control.

There were no local theaters; the closest one was in Ogden, fourteen miles away. Instead of traveling to Ogden, there was show night at the church in the cultural hall or gym. A couple would secure a film and operate the projector. The shows were well attended whether it be Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, or Flash Gordon. Winter was a time to slow down, read a good book, and stay warm.

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