Winter Requiem



“How long have you lived here? Ah, you haven’t seen a REAL winter.”

(Last year, as a newcomer to Ipswich, I got this all the time.)

“You came here from Arizona WHEN? Bah! I remember in ’66, when the snow was so high, we had to shovel our way out of our house through our CHIMNEY!”

We’re Ipswichers. We pride ourselves on awful winters. Winters so bad, they can only be described in CAPITAL letters.

“Ha! You haven’t seen WINTER yet. In March of ’53, we got five feet of snow in a single hour — five hours in a row — five days a week for five weeks.”

It isn’t Ipswich if there isn’t a wintry horror story.

“You’ve been here how long? Just you wait. I remember in ’47, when the snow fell SO fast, the selectmen were trapped in a board meeting, and people fought their way out of their driveways through 15-foot drifts to get to them and shovel more snow onto the door.”

“You ain’t seen NOTHIN’! In ’39 the snow was so high on the beach, the Crane Estate looked like it was sitting on level ground. It took so long for plows to dig out the folks on Argilla Road, they found artists still frozen at their easels from the ’37 storm.”

“You came to Ipswich when? Aw, forget about it. You haven’t been through a SERIOUS winter yet. I remember in the Blizzard of ’22, the wind coming down from Canada was so cold and so strong, the snow was blowing sideways along Central Street and couldn’t make the turn at Choate Bridge, and it piled up like an icy wall on the front of the Christian Science Reading Room, and it was so thick that Christian Scientists were trapped inside, and kitchen workers from the Choate Bridge Pub came to try to chip them out, but it was so cold they had to go back and turn on their ovens to heat up ice picks and salad tongs and meat tenderizers and spatulas; otherwise they couldn’t even make a dent in the ice, and even then, it was April before they got them out.”

Ah yes, previous winters were bad. But now that I’ve lived through this most recent winter, I’ve truly “arrived.” The pressure is off. When the subject comes up, I can rhapsodize winterish with any longtime Ipswicher. (“In the winter of 2011, the snow in our neighborhood was so high, we shoveled STRAIGHT DOWN to uncover the street lights!”)

Now, however, winter is passing. We have survived The Snow, and we will now very likely survive The Melting. As the deceptive covering of snow slides away, a newcomer can finally begin to truly understand Ipswich topography, simply by taking a walk around downtown in the rain and being observant. Look over there: you can see that the Ipswich River is fed by the Market Street Tributary, which is fed by the North Main Street Falls, ultimately emptying into the Union Street Mudslide….

“How long you been here? You haven’t seen SPRING yet! I remember when the water was so high, a passing kayak was punctured by the First Church steeple!”



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