Southern Thing Column

How to make southern snow boots from bread sacks and rubber bands: a memoir

Following is an excerpt from an I wrote a year ago. It’s snowing today at my house, so I’m re-sharing. The link at the bottom takes you to the full column.

When you’re a child, not much compares to the news that school will be closing early because snow is falling. Not only falling, but sticking. And accumulating. Into large drifts, or at least the largest any of us kids had ever seen in Warner Robins, Ga., where snow’s existence was something we questioned along with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

But on Feb. 9, 1973, I somehow hit the jackpot. It had already started as one of the best days of my young life. It was my eighth birthday, which happened to fall on a Friday, and my best friend Lisa was coming home from school with me to spend the night.

A sleepover was like a parole from regular kid life. Rules were suspended. No bedtimes, no Brussels sprouts, no TV restrictions – we could choose from any of the four channels and watch until the station signed off with a flag montage played to the strains of the National Anthem. We could eat in front of the TV and sleep on the floor.

To top it off, my big brother would be required to be nice to me for the duration of my company’s stay, although he typically chose to ignore me under such circumstances, which was even better. It would be a few more years before he started taking notice of the girlfriends who spent the night with me … thank you Jesus and all the disciples.

With a day already so perfect, I never could have imagined I was about to receive the greatest gift of all – better than the puppy I’d gotten for Christmas, whose luster had dulled as I realized his cuteness was matched only by his demands for meals and poop excursions.

Snow, on the other hand, brought with it closed schools and pure childhood magic and, as I would learn, required no care at all. When it surpassed its usefulness, it merely vanished into equally glorious mud sloughs.

As students and teachers watched excitedly from the windows of Shirley Hills Elementary School, we knew this would be no sissy flurry. The flakes began to stick to the grass. Then to cars and buildings. Then the pavement. By the time we reached home, the roads blended with the surroundings, making car travel even more harrowing than was typical in the days before seat belts.

The next morning, I woke to a light unlike any I’d seen. The room was brighter and whiter and shimmery and, to me, heaven-like. I slid from the warmth of the sleeping bag and ran quickly to the sliding glass doors leading to the patio. Tt was heaven! Right there in my back yard. The swing set, the fire pit, Mom’s flower beds – all white shapes that would be indistinguishable from one another if their locations hadn’t been so familiar. When Dad measured, there were 18 inches of snow in our yard – a record-breaking amount.

We couldn’t wait to be in it. We didn’t own ski pants, or snow shoes, or even rain boots. We were armed only with Keds and Toughskins-brand jeans from Sears. So Mom improvised. Like many frugal moms of the time, she saved old bread sacks for throwing out food scraped from plates – there were no plastic grocery bags at the time and the wonder of garbage disposals hadn’t yet reached our socioeconomic group.

The bread bags were to become our snow boots. Each child – my brother, Lisa, me and a smattering of neighbor kids – put on three shirts, a pair of long johns beneath the Toughskins and two pairs of socks. Then our feet were thrust into the bread sacks, which were snugged to our calves with rubber bands from The Daily Sun to prevent leaks. A pair of Dad’s socks went over the sacks before we shoved our now-chubby feet into loosely laced tennis shoes, then donned our heaviest coats, gloves and caps. After 30 minutes of prep time, we were barely able to move. But we were ready.

Click here to read the full column on


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