Back when I was young: The snow experience

They say that one of the signs you’re getting old is that you find yourself, more and more often, using phrases such as: When I was a boy/girl, Back when I was young, In my day, When I was a kid. Well, you get the idea. Rather than fight this tendency I’ve decided to embrace it by posting, on occasion, blog entries the title of which will begin with “Back when I was Young”.

I welcome others to post similar pieces and let me know so I can link to them here.

Snow blower

Back when I was young, the snow experience was different. I say the experience as I’m sure the snow was the same – I don’t think the recipe has changed. I’m certainly not a meteorologist nor climatologist – in fact if I can just get the gist of most things I’m happy – so I’ll leave the global warming debate to those with the knowledge to make sensible statements. What I find interesting is how the experience of snow has changed in Montreal. What spurred this thought was the one-day record snowfall of 45 centimeters (almost 18 inches) last December 27th that brought back many childhood memories.

Last month’s big snowfall was the largest single-day accumulation on record, and you have to go back to 1971 to find the last time we had a record-setting snowfall. At that time you could expect two or three “snow days” off school a year (and if there was a good snow storm you might get two consecutive days off). For reasons unknown to me the amount of snow we receive during a winter seems to have diminished over the years.


The way snow was dealt with then was different to snow clearing and removal operations today. As it was falling the snow used to be cleared to the side of the road by plows to allow passage of cars; pretty much what they do today. However, once the snow stopped falling and it was time to remove it the accepted method used to be to use a snow-blower to blow the snow onto people’s front lawns thereby creating a small mountain range all along the street.

Homeowners had to clear their walkway, but the snow accumulated on their lawns with each snowfall, looking a little like a cartoon dinosaur’s back. So many of us used to walk along these snowy up-and-down (up on the lawns; down on the walkways) ranges to school that we’d make a flat top suitable for two “lanes” of kids! The photo at left shows the actual street I used to walk along to get to school. Alas, even after a record snowfall there is no mountain ridge.

In the 1970s the main method of ensuring traction for cars on the snow-covered icy roads was sand, studded snow-tires and chains on the tires of emergency vehicles and snow removal trucks. These studs and chains played havoc with the road surface and have since been outlawed. Without the studs and chains, the sand was insufficient.  In their place is the increased use of coarse rock salt which does a fine job, but unfortunately if blown onto lawns, as the snow melts in the spring the salt in it destroys the grass: so much for the mountain range. All the snow had to be removed and up until 1999 they would cart it away in trucks and dump it in the river. Today, snow is dumped in a former quarry, 11 snow dumps and 16 sewer chutes, according to The Gazette.

I’m not complaining about the lack of snow, but a good old snowstorm used to be an event!

Published by DCMontreal

DCMontreal - Deegan Charles Stubbs - is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

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