By Rich Whalen
Childhood memories of winter in Metrowest bring forth a flood of recollections that are filled with warmth, laughter and delight. The almost teenage years bring with it independence, more responsibility but never lacking the enthusiasm for fun.
The weather elements of snow, cold and wind dominate the types of activities available for the children. This is with the ever-growing friendships of this age and the increasing watchfulness and anticipation of the parents makes an interesting mix as the winter season fun commences.
My experience with this time of life was in Natick during the very early 1950s, memories abound! My winter childhood personality was most influenced by my friends, neighborhood and parents. Giant snowstorms were the most important events. It meant getting out into this wonderland as soon as possible trudging through the snow with shovel in hand, trying to get to my customers for snow removal and then racing to the other houses with my friends to bargain a price to clear their walkways and driveways. Returning home for those great winter breakfasts was worth the work but those boots with the frozen metal buckles had to be conquered and the wet mittens, hat, and coat had to be placed under the steam radiator.
I remember my father placing two sets of metal chains on the rear tires of the car in order to get to work. Many times we walked in the narrow tire tracks formed by the cars along the unplowed streets. In Natick Center the plows and a huge escalator type machine with men shoveling snow into it helped clear the streets. Sand not chemicals was spread on the streets turning the remaining snow into a brown sugar type material. The rest of the day was filled with building snow forts creating angels in the snow or sliding on a hilly section of one of our neighborhood streets. We were able to convince the plowing and sanding crews to conveniently miss this particular area of our neighborhood. There were hours of fun as we made trains with our sleds had snowball fights, built snowman and yes ate the snow as our thirst demanded. As the sun set and the snow gained a crust we happily pulled our sleds to our homes. The weekends found many of us being taken out by our parents to a golf course to slide and toboggan on the hillsides. Outdoors was where we wanted to be but of course most of us did not have televisions and the Internet did not exist.
As winter takes hold of our Metrowest neighborhoods we have more time to reflect think of your childhood during those winters. There is something magical about a snowstorm and as a child explores and learns about the fun and beauty of the season a winter personality is born.
* Longtime Natick resident Rich Whalen shared his memories of being a child in the 1950s in snowy Natick. Sadly, Rich passed away on September 2, 2023, but many will remember him walking around Natick Center daily with his wife, Mary, and as a beloved teacher at Kennedy Middle School. Rich loved the weather and storytelling. We hope you enjoyed his memory of winter and reminded you of some of your own.