Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


February 19, 2010

Tough sledding? No more demanding than ’61 Olympics in Abb’s Valley

Yes, this is the kind of February and the winter that you older readers remember. Has it been that long ago that Dad had to get the chains out of the garage, lay them on the ground and back the car up to link them around the rear wheels? Remember, too, that school bus drivers had to get up early and fasten the chains before starting out to pick up the children. I wonder if you even know any neighbors now who still have chains that would fit the vehicle.

It is nothing less than amazing the changes made to our driving habits by (1) the availability of four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles and (2) radial, all-season tires.

I drove from Abb’s Valley to Bluefield four years to go to college, had an 8 a.m. class every semester but one, and was never late for roll call. Incredibly, those trips were made in a two-wheel drive car, with the high-tech advantage of having two 50-pound bags of feed (one situated over each rear wheel) in the trunk plus studded snow tires. I had no idea that I was not supposed to be able to make that trip every day or I would have just stayed home. Today’s improvements in vehicles and road equipment probably make most of us old-timers wonder just how in the world we survived.

I have yet to see any children, however, on their sleds during this winter winterland period. It seemed there was a generation that grew up in the “no snow” zone where winters were tepid, at best, or either everything fell at once, like the blizzard of March 1993 when about 30 inches of the white stuff hit the East Coast within a couple of days. Maybe the sled companies went out of business. All the boys in my isolated neighborhood had a sled to ride and every now and then somebody would find an inner tube we could use.

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