It?s Snowing---Get the Can and the Pole !!

by Harry T. Roman


"Will you guys get away from that window!"

"Holy cow, look at it come down, Dad! Nothing better than snow on a Sunday night before school"

"It does look much worse than before.......better bring the shovels up from the basement and put them on the back porch. And bring up the 'can and the pole', just to make sure."

Unless you grew up in Newark, you might not know what Dad meant when he said the 'can and the pole', but these were essential snow tools in the life of an urban dweller. Every family had these tools or interesting variations of such in their basement or garage, because once you shoveled out your family parking spot, the can and the pole protected it.

It went something like this. The can was usually a horribly battered, old galvanized can with the top missing. The more grotesque this can looked, the more intimidating. Ours could barely stand up by itself anymore, the proud victor of many an epic street battle. That old twisted hunk of metal had been in continuous service for almost 20 years, protecting to the death our coveted parking spot. It was retired from a former more genteel life as the ash can for our old coal- burning boiler. Like a junkyard dog, the old can sat, menacing any would-be interloper from stealing Dad's shoveled out parking spot in a snow choked street. Now for the pole.

An equally intimidating part of the can and pole partnership, the pole was there to reach up over the snow piles to give potential parking place stealers a courtesy warning that a battered old can lurked just within to exact its due on any car trying to back into the space. Sometimes a family might fly its colors from the pole to show defiantly its intent to protect its "terra firma". Over the years I have seen all sorts of flags dangling from poles----an old bandana of red or yellow, pieces of brightly colored cloth from long torn up clothing, a small American flag, bicycle handlebar streamers, and once a homemade flag with a nasty scowling face emblazoned on it. Hey, whatever works.

A really old can like ours needed some reinforcement to help it stand after the pole was placed in it. Sometimes we would load it with chunk ice or hardened snow from the street. But that stuff can melt and run out the holes in the can. A much better and more intimidating method is to use some old broken cinderblocks, strategically piled in so as to be poking out of the top of it. 'Go ahead pal, try backing in with that ready to meet your paint job.'

I have seen cans with short spike poles sticking out of the sides, ready to impale an offending car. Looked like a WWII Navy mine. This is war folks. One must have a parking space during winter. This is no joking matter. Several car honks in a recognized family code alerted children to come out and move the can so Dad could squeeze in after work. It's all about teamwork in the winter.

Our neighbors did not have a can. They had a rusted metal chair that was the last remaining one from an old kitchen dinette seat--an ugly red brocade upholstery job that could cause uncontrollable vomiting by anyone who looked at it while backing up. Dad always used to warn us...

"Don't stare at that old chair, and if you do, barf outside in the snow not in the house!"

“But how can you miss it Pop, it’s staring at you when you open the front door?”

“Do your best to shield your eyes. Mr. Malochi’s cat went blind after looking at it. I am telling you that thing is cursed.”

Our neighbors did not need a pole either. The "vomit chair" did the trick all by itself---not as old and gloried in battle as our can, but effective in a crude way. A visual obstacle if ever there was one. It had all the charisma of a patch of poison sumac.

Heavy snow also meant you couldn't get much company or family visitors.....nowhere to park their cars, unless you were a fortunate family that had a driveway or there was a small business nearby that let you use their plowed out parking spaces after business hours.

Parking places adjacent to empty lots were fair game, but you had to risk getting caught in the snow drifts. Neighborhood rules clearly specified only one bona fide parking space to a family. This made things very interesting when older children got to drive and maybe had their own car…….

"Hey Harry, where you going to park your '57 Chevy when the snow comes?" joked Mrs. Scorciamente a nearby neighbor.

"Dad said I could park it on the front porch....…………….yours!"

"Whap!" She hit me with her pocketbook. No sense of humor. See I told you this winter parking space issue was volatile. I'll fix her. I'll kick her can over! You wait and see.


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