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Blum Cover

Sample Chapter: "Winter Memories" (pp. 68-72)

Memories of Madison: Hallie Lou's Scrapbook

by Hallie Lou Whitfield Blum

How we looked forward to snow and what great games we concocted. The old standby was to make angels in new snow by lying down and swishing our arms to create wings. We also played Fox and Geese, chasing each other around a big circle.

Boys built elaborate snow forts and launched snowball attacks from them. I dreaded being a victim. They would spy me coming along the sidewalk, plan strategy and then hit me in the back or legs. Those same boys would never throw snowballs at adults, and I longed for the day when I would move across that invisible line from childhood to adulthood.

When conditions were just right, we would sled down Highland Avenue and totter slowly back up. It was especially magical when we were allowed to sled at night and could see street and house lights whiz past.

My big brothers dared to flash all the way down the street to University Avenue, praying that traffic would not be in the way. They also had fun on the hills at Blackhawk Country Club, but this was out of my permitted region.

Ice skating was popular, too. Lake Mendota was close, but it often had bumps and cracks, plus mysterious booming and cracking noises. Our favorite place was Vilas Park. We swooped along the smooth ice on lagoons there, around curves and under bridges. There was no warming house, and frostbite was a constant hazard.

Lest one think we did nothing but play all winter, there was plenty of snow to shovel. We took turns, piling it high enough to play King of the Mountain.

The city's sidewalks were cleared by a man with a wooden plow and a horse. It was great fun to watch and follow him. I heard from older kids that they were sometimes lucky enough to sneak rides on the runners of farmers' sleighs as they plied up and down Regent Street. I was never that fortunate.

I loved oranges plain or as juice, but when I was growing up they were a summertime thing. I don't know whether it was that few reached the Madison stores in winter or that they cost too much. Probably both factors were at work. At any rate, our winter fruit staple was prunes, which always appeared at breakfast. As a kid, the only good use of prunes that I knew of was in prune whip for dessert. That was a rare treat.

Coping with long underwear was always a challenge. We attempted to perfect a neat fold of the bulky underwear near the ankle so that our stocking could be pulled smoothly over them. Some girls seemed seemed to have more clever fingers, but I puffed and struggled each morning, only to have huge bulges under my stockings. These mortified me all day until I could pull on my high-top rubber overshoes with their clanking buckles.

How I envy children of today who can pull on knit tights and cover them with snowsuit pants in the twinkling of a zipper.