DJ: Ashes, snow tires and a healthy dose of tenacity welcomed winter driving, not whining

CINCINNATI -- Mark Twains observation that “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme” comes to mind as we wend our way through another winter.

We’ve had the requisite December snow, followed by the typical January deep freeze. We will endure at the least one more cold snap and three significant snowfalls, the last descending some time in March. I say this without fear of equivocation nor aid from the Farmer’s Almanac or Doppler radar. It is just the way things are in the Tri-State. I have 63 years of empirical evidence to back my theory, owing to near total recall of the last 59 such episodes.

I grew up on Glenway Avenue in Price Hill. Though dotted by occasional plateaus, it posed an ascent that once necessitated an incline. Stationed at every intersection over the course of the steeper climbs, were big yellow barrels full of either rock salt or more often ashes. Clinkers my dad called them, culled I can only surmise from coal burning power plants. Lifting the lid you’d likely find an empty coffee can.

The concept was mind-numbingly simple: If a motorist got stuck going up the hill, they would retrieve a couple cans of this magic elixir and deposit it where the tires could gain some purchase on the ice or snow. Now consider that this was in the mid 1950’s when most cars were rear wheel drive so traction was a real problem.

That fact alone leads me to assert that notwithstanding the advent of wind chill factors, polar vortices and other such climatic tommyrot, it was slicker back then.

Yet by virtue of this inexpensive process, people got to work, school or home with little to none of the histrionics -- let alone beet juice infusions that we endure nowadays.

Years ago, old dudes put snow tires on their back wheels without being prompted by social media or consumer advocates. They just knew.

And with the same certainty that the Amish sense it is time to shed the black hats for white, they’d peel them off at the first sign of spring to save the tread for another year. Then again, this process was facilitated by the use of bumper jacks. Imagine that --- a device that would clamp onto the chrome vanguard of a 1956 Buick and without so much as inflicting a mar on the finish, hoisted its mass with little to no effort. And certainly without a call to AAA.

Snow and ice weren’t to be feared, but welcomed.

It provided industrious young lads an opportunity to make some pin money. Never once did I exhaust my hard earned shekels on pins but that’s what it was called. And kind of like an early introduction to the IRS, I had to report my earnings to mom, forking over what deemed a disproportionate share for safe keeping at the Warsaw Avenue Provident Bank branch. And the rest, a bare pittance as I saw it, was mine. 

No longer though. Now a forecast of snow that wouldn’t register on the nuisance dandruff scale, results in school being canceled.

And the only barrels evident are orange and impede rather than facilitate our travels.

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