Back before the climate changed we used to have snow most winters – although we did have unseasonable weather too – there was the famous Christmas Day where we sat eating our Christmas diner with the back door wide open because it was so warm. However, there was also the Christmas trip to Sheffield in the winter of 1962-3 which took us eight hours not four, in a small unheated Austin A35…
At junior school there was one particular part of the playground which always froze and where the big boys had their slide. There were other smaller slides but once I went on the big slide and there was that wonderful feeling of running and then sliding across the playground and a quick trot at the end to keep on your feet. All the girls wore skirts and socks so bare legs were vulnerable to trips and spills – and the boys were in shorts, no long trousers, not even in the coldest weather.
When I was at secondary school there was the memorable time when the school bus didn’t turn p. The city had been brought to a virtual standstill by the snow. Thinking about it, it must have been that same winter of 1962-3, because later I always cycled to school. We stood in a queue waiting for the bus, all the young girls like me in ankle socks, only the older girls were allowed to wear stockings – this was before the days of tights. We must have been perishing cold! When the bus didn’t arrive, the older girls decided we should walk to school, across the other side of town, over four miles away. So of we set, through the snow, and walked to school.
Many years later when i was a teacher living in Manchester, I used to catch the bus to Oldham where the school was. Oldham is on the edge of the Pennines; I’ve just checked and its at an altitude of over 700 feet… not that much but enough to mean there was snow up there when Manchester was merely a bit chilly! On one occasion, I caught the bus, but it stopped at the bottom of the hill leading up to the school. I got off and set off walking… this time I did have tights on, but I also had high-heeled shoes… I met a couple of male teachers who had abandoned their car near the bus stop and linking arms, we struggled up to work. When we got there, along with three others, we were the only teachers, plus the caretaker and several hundred students. They had all walked to school through the snow and the drifts. We sat them all in the school hall, and gradually as more staff fought their way in from the surrounding hills, we divided them into classes and sent then to classrooms. The weather was so bad, that we sent them all home again after lunch.
A colleague at the same school told me about when she was a student herself. She lived further north in the town of Todmorden in what is now West Yorkshire. She lived a way out of the town and always had snow to contend with as a child going to school. Her mother always set her and her brothers off, whatever the weather, and when the lanes were clogged with snow, they walked there along the tops of the field walls and hedges.
I wrote earlier about the few inches of soft snow we had, and how the education authority closed all the schools in this low-lying level town… I don’t want to go on about the olden days, but i couldn’t help remembering my experiences of going to school and snow.