Winters

Winter, in a sense, was an off-season for me. Softball at the school grounds and baseball at North Park would have to wait for the school year to end. And although reading the sports page continued to be a daily ritual, it was not the same without reading about the Cardinals, the Giants, and the Dodgers. We did talk baseball during the winter months, but essentially we had to wait for the opening of major league play in April to once again begin that cycle in our lives. So I spent much of my time listening to the radio, reading, setting pins, doing some bowling, horsing around and hanging out at some of my friends homes, and, like most everyone else, I ice skated.

The skating rink was at Jefferson school only two short blocks away. The City Recreation Department began flooding in December if the weather permitted and it usually took four or five good waterings to make the rink skateable. To hurry things up a few of us, eager to get the season started, would help the adult in charge water and, if a storm rolled in, shovel snow from the iced area.

A warming house was provided. At Jefferson it was located in a small basement room where wooden planks were laid down to protect the concrete floors from the sharpness of our spates and, in addition, provide a degree of safety for the skaters.

The ice rink was a good place to get together, have a game of chase, show-off and send shaved ice in the air at someone you wanted to impress, which was just about anyone skating that night.

Much of our skating, depending on the circumstance, was to get a little closer to some good-looking girl. Some touching, brushing, a gentle push - the typical teen-age stuff - was a way to get acquainted. Ending up in a snow bank with a girl by virtue of being at the tail end of a pump-pump pull-away game was something some of us rarely attained. But the most romantic and often unsettling activity was to hold hands and skate around the rink in full view of everyone else.

And radio proved to be a real friend during those cold winter days. I usually listened to it lying flat on the floor with my head facing the speaker. That way I felt closer to the drama unfolding in those places beyond our living room. It was the place I wanted to be on a cold, wintry night.

Tom Mix was a western that I listened to on a semi-regular basis. Shredded Ralston was the sponsor, and I remember liking their jingle as well as the program itself.

Oh, it's Shredded Ralston time for breakfast
starts the day off shining bright.
Gives you lots of cowboy energy
and the flavor that's just right,
It's delicious and nutritious
with lots of vitamins to eat.
Take a tip from Tom, go and tell your mom
Shredded Ralston can't be beat.

After enough prodding Ma finally bought a box of this cowboy energy. I tried it once. My favorite hot cereal remained farina.

My mother enjoyed the radio. In the afternoon while ironing, cooking or doing something in the kitchen, she listened to three of her favorites: The Romance of Helen Trent, Stella Dallas, and Ma Perkins. The stories were sad and the organ music that accompanied them added to their drama. And women, like my mother, could escape, for awhile at least, the humdrum of their daily lives as they went about their household duties.

In the evening, sitting on the davenport, darning socks, knitting or crocheting she would listen to her favorites. She loved the characters on Fibber McGee and Molly and always laughed at the sound effects that came from their celebrated closet when McGee mistakenly opened the door.

I was glued to the radio when WOSH broadcast the Oshkosh All Star basketball games. I took my position next to the radio with pencil and paper in hand tallying the points each All Star scored. This statistical running account of each of those contests enhanced the individual nature of the play. I rooted for Charlie Shipp to hit those two-handed set shots, and for Lefty Edwards and later Rob Carpenter to score enough to keep up with the conference scoring leaders. I listened to and kept score in the game Carpenter scored a then-unheard-of 40 points.