Winter Gift: Snowy Day

Beecher Street Gang circa 1968

Beecher Street Gang circa 1968

Winter is my least favorite season, but as a child, there was one precious gift that winter sometime delivered:  a snow day.  It was so exciting to hear the WFIN announcer share that “North Baltimore Schools have been closed.”  And, it was magical thinking about what the unplanned day had in store for us, especially if there was a good covering of snow on the ground. 

 After some initial television watching and eating breakfast at a more relaxed pace than a normal school day, it wasn’t long before we were piling into boots, hats, gloves, and snow pants to begin our great outdoor escapade.  As soon as one family from the Beecher Street gang started playing outdoors, it was only a matter of moments before kids from other families joined us.  And then the fun began!

 Based on the amount and packing quality of the snow, we initially had to determine if it was a snowball day, a snowman day, or best of all, a snow fort building day.   As soon as we agreed upon our creation, we started to work:  making snowballs for ammunition or rolling big snowballs in the yard to construct a snowman or a snow fort.  

 On the best packing days, we could roll huge snowballs, but we sometimes forgot to plan how we would lift the completed project onto the second or third level of the snowman.   Together we tried to lift them; sometimes we succeeded but often we did not. 

 Snowmen always created another complication near the end of the project.  Once we had three nice snowballs stacked on one another, there came the inevitable discussion about how we would dress the snowman.  Would he have a hat and scarf?  Who had a long carrot at home for the nose?  What could we use as eyes?

 After hours and hours of playing in the snow, we would finally get so cold that we needed to go home to warm up and dry our clothes before we headed out for more winter adventures.  As I recall the best snow days of my childhood, I can still remember those cold red marks around the top of my boots and above my gloves.  And I can still remember that huge pile of boots, coats, hats and mittens strewn about the laundry room when we came in to warm up.  (I later learned that snow days aren’t quite as much fun for moms as the kids.)

 I do have one regret about childhood winters in North Baltimore; even though our childhood snow days seem magical, I realize in hindsight that we were deprived of a snow treat that most children take for granted:  easy access to a sledding hill.  This is definitely one disadvantage to growing up in a region that is one of the flattest places in America.  As we got older, we did drag our sleds to the water treatment plant near the city park and sometimes, our parents drove us to other sledding opportunities at Van Buren State Park, but we never really experienced an action-packed exhilarating day of sledding.

 So, the next snowy day when you’re grumbling under your breath as you are scraping your car and dreading a slippery morning commute, remember that there is likely a long list of local school closures being announced on the radio and lucky schoolchildren are awakening to one of winter’s most exciting surprise gifts:  an unplanned day of snowy adventure.

The Game

Regardless of where your college football loyalties lie, the rivalry week of the OSU-Michigan game is always one of the most fun weeks of the year in northwest Ohio, especially in North Baltimore which is located nearly equidistant between the two rival colleges.

 My high school years at NBHS were the last of the famous Woody Hayes/Bo Schembechler “Ten Year War,” likely the most fiercely contested decade ever in the legendary border battle.  In fact, there are still unresolved issues about this era as evidenced by a new television documentary called “TieBreaker” about the 1973 OSU-Michigan game.  After the game ended in a tie on the field, only a secret vote by the Big Ten Athletic Directors could determine which team would compete in the Rose Bowl.  In North Baltimore, I can still remember the excitement in our home when we learned that OSU had surprisingly been chosen to play in the Rose Bowl on the following afternoon.

 The following season (1974), there was a student-organized spirit day at NBHS on the Friday before “The Game.”  NB students wore t-shirts and jerseys supporting their favorite team.  On game day, my family was invited to watch “The Game” on the other side of East Broadway with the Reynolds family.  I clearly remember that exciting battle.  OSU won 12-10 on four field goals by Tom Klaban.  Michigan had a chance to win the game on a 33-yard field goal with 18 seconds left and it just barely sailed outside the left goal post.

 The following season, my dad took me to Ohio Stadium for the first time to see the Buckeyes play Minnesota.  I was hooked and couldn’t wait to go to college at the Ohio State University so I could go to all of the Buckeye home games.  I arrived on campus the same year (1978) as highly-acclaimed quarterback, Art Schlichter, but that season was a disaster as it started with a resounding home loss and ended with Coach Hayes punching a Clemson player in the bowl game and being forced to resign.

 My sophomore year at OSU was Coach Earle Bruce’s first season.  As the Buckeyes started clicking off win after win, one of my roommates suggested that we try to get one of the few student tickets available for the upcoming OSU-Michigan game at Ann Arbor.  On a chilly evening, we sat outside all night on the granite steps of the Ohio Union for a chance to buy tickets.  Even though it was extremely uncomfortable, it proved to be a great investment as the 1979 OSU-Michigan game was a classic.  The #2 ranked Buckeyes blocked a punt for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to earn an 18-15 victory and a trip to the Rose Bowl.  My roommates and I even followed the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl that season, a memory I still treasure.

 I’ve gone to many OSU-Michigan games since then, but two stick out in my memory.  I’m still laughing about the 1992 game at Columbus.  The Buckeyes, in the midst of a four game losing slump to the “Team Up North,” scored with 4 minutes left in the game to pull within a point of the #5 ranked Wolverines.  Coach John Cooper elected to kick an extra point and settle for the tie.  OSU President E. Gordon Gee proudly proclaimed the 13-13 tie as “one of our greatest wins ever.”  Can you believe that the OSU Board of Trustees rehired that guy a second time?

 The best OSU-Michigan game I attended was the 2006 game at Columbus when the Buckeyes and Wolverines were ranked #1 and #2 in the BCS poll.  To add further drama to the game, former Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler had delivered an inspirational speech to the Wolverines after practice earlier in the week and then died two days before “The Game.”  The stakes couldn’t have been higher for the 2006 Border Battle as the Wolverines took the field planning to win one for Bo.

 At the beginning of the game, I remember feeling frustrated because some of the Buckeye fans sitting near us were exceptionally annoying.  But, by the time the Buckeyes secured a 42-39 victory, I no longer cared how irritating those fans were because we were all hugging each other.  The Buckeyes were heading for a national championship game!

 Anyone who is a fan of Big Ten football knows that records go out the window for the OSU-Michigan game because anything can, and often does, happen.  The OSU-Michigan game gives friends and co-workers an opportunity to participate in friendly banter and wagering during the week preceding the game.  And best of all, “The Game” is a great opportunity for us to slow down during this busy season to gather to watch a football game and to determine bragging rights for another year.  O–H!