Over the Hill

Wet SLO County winter still a far cry from cold, snow in New York

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Most North County people probably agree this has been a good winter. Multiple rain storms have mortally wounded the drought.

But if a landslide blocked your road, rising water trapped your car or a flood invaded your property, you may not agree. Most of us, though, are probably well-satisfied.

For me, all California winters except one have been better than any of the winters where I grew up — East Penfield, New York. The California exception was the winter of 1968-69, when flooding collapsed several North County bridges, including the one over the Salinas River in San Miguel.

Of course, East Penfield winters don’t have heavy rains. They have low low temperatures, low high temperatures and generous snowfalls. In East Penfield, the average low temperature in January is 18 degrees above zero, the average high is 32 degrees and the average snowfall is 28 inches.

East Penfield isn’t a town, city or village. It’s a crossroads a couple of miles east of the village of Penfield and 12 or 15 miles from the city of Rochester. So those weather statistics I quoted are actually for Rochester or the village of Penfield, according to www.usclimatedata.com.

I lived on a little farm in East Penfield from my birth in 1930 until 1944. I went to the one-room East Penfield School. One teacher taught first through seventh grades. When I last visited East Penfield in 2002, I saw the schoolhouse had been converted into a private home.

Our farm was about a quarter of a mile from the school. I walked to and from it. When the wind blew snow, I walked backward into it. In later years, I rode my bike if there was no snow.

In those days, most of the houses that I saw had “snow sheds” on at least one of their porches. The house’s other outside doors would not be used until spring. A snow shed looked like an outdoor closet. It had temporary wooden walls which were installed in the fall and removed in the spring.

The porch roof became the shed’s roof. One of the shed’s temporary walls had a door. The shed was sort of an airlock between the house and the winter. It kept snowdrifts from piling up against the house door, and it kept the wind out.

The shed also was a place to brush the snow off our clothes and leave our galoshes so we wouldn’t track snow, water or dirt into the house. In those days, whenever we went out in snow or rain, we wore galoshes or rubbers over our shoes.

Galoshes are boots that can be opened and worn over shoes. Rubbers are low-cut, slip-on shoe coverings made of rubber. Both can be taken off and left in entryways (or snow sheds.) But I don’t see many people wearing them anymore, at least not around here. I guess they aren’t cool.

I wish we did wear them, though. The soles of so many of today’s shoes are grooved with elaborate, deep treads. They can carry mud into our houses in defiance of the best doormats and shoe scrapers.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.