By Mary Olson – Athabasca, Alta.
As a small girl, I remember winters with deep snow. It would pile up in drifts against the trees in a small pasture in our yard, that, in the summer, was sometimes a pig pasture and sometimes a field of potatoes. The wind moved the snow so that it formed hard undulating hills of it. What fun it was to slide up and down those snowdrifts!
To the west and north of our farm was muskeg land with water or ice and muskrat and beaver dams. One winter the water froze very hard and the wind blew making the ice clear of snow. There were clear ice paths nearly all the way to Bowden, Alta.
My brother and I would skate, often at night, on those ice ways. Our parents warned us not to go too near the beaver dams where the ice would be soft. Guess we were lucky we never hit any soft spots.
At school we had such fun with other children sliding on cardboard down the hills around the school. If we could find a long enough piece of cardboard, two or three of us could ride at the same time. It was hard to wait for recess and noonhour, to race out to the snow slide.
Of course, when we could, we skated at the open-air rink in town, and later on curled at the curling rink there too. My brother played hockey and it was great fun to watch his games. I’d been skating on the rink, the night that I developed pneumonia, so I missed the next three months of winter fun.
Skating on Bowden Lake and cooking wieners around a campfire was a wonderful winter pastime. I’ve always loved a good campfire but those around the lake were special.
It was usually pitch-dark and the only light was from the roaring campfire. After skating for a while on the lake, we’d come back and warm up by the fire. I remember the clear, cold nights with the sound of blades on ice, the crackling fire, and the chatter of friends.
It seems to me that winters were much colder in the ‘40s. We usually had a week or more of raging blizzards when we couldn’t get to school and everything shut down.
Our house was always warm and cozy and we had lots of time to play games and indulge in mom’s good food. After a few days, the sky would glow in the west with a Chinook Arch and we’d wake up to water dripping from the eaves.