THE FROSTY FILES
A Holiday Classic
by Adam Selzer
A Holiday Classic
by Adam Selzer
My teacher, Mr Dawson, said that we all had to do reports on something to do with local history.
Anne wanted to do hers on Josiah Spillings, the guy who built the first iron ore mine in town. She's his great great granddaughter. Her family is still in the iron ore business.
Bryan wanted to do his on William Ward, the guy who was the mayor for a while in the 1970s, but ended up going to jail.
Jason and Madison and Tony got into a big fight over which of them got to do their report on Colonel Tom Presley, the army guy who built the first house in town. Everyone always likes to do reports on him, because he ended up getting eaten by bears. Or possibly wolves. No one really knows for sure. But he definitely got eaten.
I didn't even have to think about it. I knew right away that I was going to do my report on the Great Living Snowman of 1958.
Everyone in town knows about the Great Living Snowman of 1958. A bunch of kids were making a snowman out behind this very school one day, with coal eyes, a corn cob pipe (which you could take to school without getting expelled back then), and a button for a nose. Some people think the nose was a carrot, but it was a button.
Anyway, it was just an ordinary snowman until they put a hat on his head. But the minute they did, he came to life and started running around and having snowball fights and stuff. He ran out of the playground and into the town square, where all the shoppers were - the old town square, by Douglas Street. This was way before they built all the new strip malls up on Cedar and started calling it the New Town Square.
The snowman even talked! Witnesses say that he was saying that he would soon melt away, but that one day he'd be back - he was sort of a prophet, in a way. And he played by his own rules, too. When the traffic cop told him to stop, he barely even slowed down!
So that's what I told Mr. Dawson I wanted to do my report about.
"No way, Jarod," said Mr. Dawson. "I want you to do a report on town history, not on a local legend."
"But it's true!" I said. "It really happened! There's even a picture!"
And we looked online and found the only known picture of the living snowman. It was a murky, black and white one that was in the newspapers on Christmas Day in 1958. You could see a couple of kids running along behind it, smiling and laughing.
"You see, Jarson," said Mr. Dawson. "This isn't really a picture of a snowman who came to life. It's just a picture of a regular snowman that someone built on the sidewalk."
"No!" I said. "It's really running around."
"If it is," said Mr. Dawson, "then it's just a guy in a snowman suit."
"The whole story is a myth," said Madison, who is a total know-it-all. "My Dad said he's searched all through the police reports from 1958, and there isn't one since report of a walking snowman disobeying a traffic cop. And no one has claimed to have seen it themselves since 1961!"
"Exactly," said Mr. Dawson. "The whole story about the snowman running around was just made up by the newspapers to go along with a cute picture of the kids playing with a snowman. Anyone else who said that they saw it was probably a drunk. Why don't you do your report on Ed Krupa, the guy who opened the first coffee shop in the town square? Maybe you could even interview Ed. He's still alive, you know."
I told Mr. Dawson I would think about it.
But I was really going to do my report on the snowman, anyway.
I knew that it was real. It had to be.
Why would they have even printed the picture if it wasn't real? It wasn't a great photo - it's a little murky and blurry. If they were just taking a picture of a regular snowman or a guy in a suit, you'd think they would have gotten a better picture. And why would there have been a police report to begin with? It's not like the snowman actually got a ticket or anything.
Mr. Dawson is kind of a jerk, and he doesn't believe in anything weird. When I tried to do a report on the Loch Ness Monster, he told me I couldn't because it wasn't real, even though it totally is. And he says there's no such thing as aliens or anything like that. He only believes in things that can be proven by science.
So I decided I was going to prove that the snowman was real. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it, but I believed that the living snowman of 1958 was a true story, not just a local legend, and I was going to make other people believe it, too.
That night, I asked my parents if they knew anything about the snowman. They were both born and raised right here in town, and now they're both management consultants downtown (Cedar Avenue, not the old downtown, where the snowman ran around). We were having turkey for dinner - we had turkey once a week around the holidays. That's part of why Christmas is awesome.
"Say," said. "You guys have both heard about the Living Snowman of 1958, right?"
"Sure," said Dad, through a mouthful of turkey. "We've all heard about that."
My mom started humming the famous song about the snowman, which is how most people know about the story. It would have really put our town on the map, except that they never mention the name of the town in the song. People from out of town never believe us when we say it's about something that happened here.
"It's a true story, isn't it?" I asked. "I always heard that it was."
Dad finished chewing and Mom finished humming.
"Well," said Dad, "I wasn't born yet in 1958, you know. But when I was a kid, my friend Carl's mom always told us that it was true. She said that she knew one of the kids who built the snowman who came to life."
"So it's true?" I asked.
"I don't know," said Dad. "Carl's mom was kind of a weirdo, you know. She also claimed to have dated Frank Sinatra. And everyone knows she didn't."
"I knew a woman who says she was there, too," said Mom. "But I always thought she was nuts. She believed in things like unicorns and elves."
And she started humming again. Mom hums a lot. It's her thing.
The next day was Saturday, and I decided to start conducting an investigation of my own. I was going to get to the bottom of the whole snowman thing once and for all!
So I got all of my investigating gear ready to go - I packed up a camera, an audio recorder, a tape measure, and a bunch of other stuff. Pretty much the same stuff people use when they go hunting for Bigfoot, except that they always bring hiking boots and beef jerky. I didn't have either of those things, but I didn't expect to do much hiking, and snowmen probably aren't into beef jerky, the way Bigfoot is.
My first stop was the schoolyard - the actual place where the snowman came to life. I took some pictures of the scene, but there wasn't much left there to see. No footprints or anything.
I walked from there to the old town square, where the snowman ran. Most of the stores there were closed, except for a coffee shop and a place that sells candles shaped like wizards and stuff. Neither of those would have been open in 1958.
But down on the corner was an old barber shop. I'd been there before - it's run by a guy named Dr. Farmer. I don't know if he's actually a doctor of hair care, but I sort of doubt it - the only haircut he really knows how to give is a buzz cut. But he was a pretty old guy. His store was probably there in 1958.
So I stepped inside. Dr. Farmer was there, giving an old guy a buzz cut.
"Hi, Dr. Farmer," I said.
He looked at me and frowned - I think maybe he thought I had too much hair. It's a well known fact that if you have enough hair to comb, that's too much hair for Dr. Farmer.
"What do you want, sonny?" he asked. "A haircut, I hope!"
"No," I said. "I'm just doing an investigation. Was this shop here in 1958?"
"My father opened this shop in 1952," said Dr. Farmer. "So yes. It was."
"Were YOU here in 1958?" I asked.
"I came in after school sometimes in those days," he said. "What's it to you?"
"I'm looking for people who actually saw the snowman come to life back in 1958," I said. "I think he probably ran right past this store just before the traffic cop told him to stop."
Dr. Farmer just laughed. So did the guy who was getting a buzz cut.
"Sonny," he said. "I don't know what they're teaching you in that school nowadays, but the living snowman story is just a myth that somebody made up to sell records."
"What made you think that was a true story?" asked the guy in the chair. "Snow can't come to life!"
"The boy's parents are probably hippies," said Dr. Farmer to the guy, like I couldn't hear him. "Filling his head with nonsense and letting him grow his hair out long!"
They both laughed, and Dr. Farmer asked if I wanted a haircut or not. I didn't, so I left.
I wandered all through the square, retracing what I figured was the route that the snowman would have taken, and standing on the spot where the blurry photo that was in the newspaper was actually shot.
But there wasn't really much I could see there, so I ended up just going to the library.
"Hi!" I said to the librarian. "Do you have anything about the snowman that came to life in 1958?"
"You mean the song?" asked the librarian. "We have several versions of the song available in our sound recordings section."
"No, I don't need the song," I said. "I want information about the actual event. The day the snowman came to life."
She shook her head. "I'm afraid not," she said.
"But it's a true story, right?" I said. "Everyone thinks I'm crazy, but I think the story is true!"
I thought back and tried to remember where I'd heard it was true myself - it was mostly just from kids at school. The kind who told all kinds of stories that weren't true. Maybe the thing about the snowman really WAS just a local legend.
Just then, I felt a tap on the shoulder and turned around to see an old guy standing behind me.
"Right you are!" said the guy. "Most people think it's just a story the newspaper made up and sold to some songwriter, but I see that you must be a very smart boy!"
"I suppose I am," I said. "What do you know about the snowman?"
"Everything!" said the old guy. And he pulled out a picture from his back pocket - the blurry picture from the newspaper that Mr. Dawson said was fake. Only his wasn't printed out from a web page - it was all faded, yellow, and old. It must have come from the actual newspaper!"
"Have you ever seen this before?" he asked.
"Sure I have," I said. "My teacher thinks it's fake."
"Ha!" the old guy said with a laugh. "I imagine he would. Most people do nowadays. And who can blame them? Whoever heard of a snowman coming to life? But it did! It happened!"
"How do you know?" I asked.
The old guy smiled, and pointed to the boy in the picture. "You see that boy?" he said. "That was me!"
I took the picture from him and looked at the boy in it closely, then up at the old guy. I could tell it was him, all right. He was a whole lot older now, of course, but there was this weird thing about his face, like you could still see the face of the boy in the picture poking out through all of the wrinkles. But mostly it was his eyes. His eyes in the picture had this sort of glimmer to them - I guess you would even say they glowed, if you wanted to get all dramatic about it - and his eyes now had it too. His eyes were kid eyes, not old man eyes.
"So, you saw the whole thing?" I asked.
"Believe it or not," he said, "I saw it all. I helped built the snowman. Let's have a seat, and I'll tell you all about it."
We walked over to one of the study areas in the library, and I set up my audio recorder so I could get a proper testimony from an eye witness. I was making progress!
"So, what's your name, sir?" I asked.
He chuckled. "My name is Henry Woods," he said. "And I'm not a knight. You know what that means?"
"What?" I asked.
"It means you don't have to call me 'sir.'"
"Okay," I said. "I'll just call you Henry, then. What can you tell me about the snowman?"
"Well, first of all," said Henry, "there's one line in the song that people always forget - the sun was hot that day. We had gotten a good snow the week before, but it had just become unseasonably warm. The snow was starting to melt. But that made it easy to work with."
"So it was easy to build the snowman?"
"Of course it was. For one thing, there were four of us working on him. Besides me, there was Suzy Bernowski - she married a fella from Ohio and moved there in 1970. And Walter Clement - he ran a grocery store up until about 10 years ago, when he died. And Joey Wilkins - he ran a heating and cooling business til he moved to Florida last year. Now he just does cooling. Never gets too cold down there."
"So you're the only one left in town?"
Henry nodded. "We built that snowman together after school. Gave him a broom that we took from the janitor's closet, and a couple of bricks of coal for eyes. Suzy's dad was a foreman down at the mine, so she wanted his eyes to be made out of iron ore, but the mine was a long way away, and we had plenty of coal around. It was the only way to stay warm in the winter around here, til Joey opened his heating business."
"And a corncob pipe, right?" I asked.
"Of course!" said Henry. "Though now that I think back on it, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I can't imagine why we assumed a snow man would be a heavy smoker - if he inhaled, he'd melt from the inside out! Now, you seem to be quite the expert, so can you tell me what we used for a nose?"
"A button!" I said.
"You are correct, sir!" said Henry. "I'm glad to hear you say that, because most people nowadays seem to think we used a carrot, even though that song says button very specifically. That's one of the few things the song got right!"
"The song was wrong about other stuff?"
"Absolutely," said Henry. "Made a lot of stuff up. The guy who wrote it just wanted to write a good song, not to tell the real story. But more on that later. In the mean time. . . would you like to see the actual button?"
"You have it?" I asked, as my eyes got wide.
"As a matter of fact, I have the button right here!"
He opened up his wallet, stuck his finger into one of the slots that you're supposed to use to hold credit cards and pulled out a big, black button. It looked pretty old - I couldn't tell what it was made out of, but it wasn't plastic, like most buttons.
"That's it?" I said. "That's the actual button that you used for a nose?"
"It certainly is," said Henry, proudly.
He put it down on the desk, and I took a whole bunch of pictures of it.
"Now, one thing the song got wrong," said Henry, "is that the magic that brought the snowman to life was in some old hat that we found. But really, that hat was the first thing we put on him."
"Really?" I asked.
"Sure!" said Henry. "it's a pain in the neck to have a top hat sitting around - one good gust of wind, and the thing blows away! As soon as we had a head, we put that hat on it. Nope. It was the button that brought the snowman to life!"
"Wow!" I siad. "How do you suppose it happened?"
"How the heck should I know?" said Henry. "I'm no biologist. All I know is that as soon as I put that button on his nose, that snowman started to move! He didn't begin to dance around, like they say in the song. I don't suppose any creature could start dancing around the moment they came to life. He had to stretch out a little bit first. Then he started to talk."
"What did he say?" I asked.
"Well, first he looked at us really hard - I don't think he could see all that well. His eyes were made of coal, after all. I can't imagine that you get very good vision out of those. Then he said 'hi, kids! My name is Werner."
"WERNER?" I said. "I thought his name was Frosty!"
"Nope," said Henry. "That's what the song said, but his name was Werner and he spoke with a thick German accent. But his English was pretty good. He asked us if there was anything good to do in this town."
"What did you tell him?"
"We said, well, not really! People talk a lot about the good old days, you know, but this town was actually really boring. I couldn't even start making a snow man without three kids running up to help! So we suggested he just go for a walk in the town square."
"Was he really as fun-loving and exciting as they said in the song?"
"I suppose so," said Henry. "Let me tell you, that snowman was impressed by the town square. There was a lot more going on there in those days. We had a movie theatre and a soda fountain and a malt shop there, and there were always a lot of people nearby. He just loved everything he saw. But he was also kind of sad - ever few minutes he'd say something really morbid about how he was going to melt away soon. That was sort of a downer."
"Did he say anything really interesting?" I asked. "Like, about how he came to life, or about the future?"
"Well, besides predicting his own death, he did happen to say that humans would be living on the moon by the year 2000. But I guess he just wasn't much of a psychic."
"Did the whole thing with the traffic cop really happen?"
Henry nodded. "Sure did. That snowman didn't know much about watching both ways before crossing the street. Ran right out into it while the traffic cop ordered him to stop. He was already melting away by then, and starting to freak out. I think the cop probably thought it was just some guy in a snowman suit. A few minutes later, he'd melted enough that he couldn't move anymore. But he didn't look like he was in any pain or anything. Just a bit melty."
"So he melted that same day?"
"Yes," said Henry. "And they put that picture in the story the next day. Most people never really believed it. At first people thought we'd just had some kid running around in a snowman suit - even though I don't mind saying that you can't see any zipper or buckles on that picture! As the years passed, people started to think that the whole thing was just a myth."
"Did Werner really say he'd be back some day?" I asked.
"Sure did," said Henry. "He foretold his own resurrection. But he hasn't come back so far - like I said, he wasn't much of a psychic."
"Well, he could always still come back another time!" I said. "Did you ever make another snowman using the same button?"
"Can't say that I did," said Henry. "It didn't snow again that year, and we didn't get the kind of snow that'll make a good snowman again til I was a teenager."
I looked out of the window - there was still plenty of snow on the ground from the storm that came through a week before. It was warm enough to have melted the snow just enough to be good for building things.
"Well," I said, "come on! Part of every investigation is to try to reproduce the effect, and we've got the button right here! Let's make a snowman and bring Werner back!"
I ran outside, and Henry followed me. "I haven't made a snowman since I was a boy!" he said.
"There's nothing to it!" I said. And I started to work. Henry joined in, smiling so big I was afraid he'd be sore in the morning.
We made a snowman the usual way, starting by making one enormough ball of snow, then another smaller one, then a third that was even smaller, and stacking them up on top of each other.
We didn't have any coal or a pipe or a hat, but I didn't suppose it mattered. We had the button, and that, according to Henry, was where the magic came from. We were really going to bring a snowman to life! I had my camera ready to go. I'd show Mr. Dawson, all right! And Dr. Farmer and everyone else!
Slowly, Henry walked up to the snowman and put the nose to its head. We waited for a second... and nothing happened.
"It didn't work!" I said.
Henry shrugged. "Maybe it was something in the snow that day," he said. "Or maybe it really WAS the hat. I told you I wasn't a biologist."
"You're a liar!" I said. "You probably made the whole thing up! It really was just a myth!"
"Now, hold on a minute there, son!" said Henry. "You just heard a perfect eyewitness report - that snowman came to life all right. I don't know how it happened, but it did. Some things, you just can't prove, I guess. You just have to believe. And if no one believed in anything, well, Christmas wouldn't be a holiday at all!"
"I guess not," I said. But I was still pretty disappointed.
We left the snowman up, and Henry said he'd be back for the button later. I didn't care - as far as I was concerned, he'd just taken me for a dumb kid who would believe any stupid story he wanted to tell. The button probably just fell off of his coat that morning!
That night, I started working on a report about Ed Krupa, the guy who started the first coffee shop in the town square. But all of a sudden, I heard a tap at my window!
When I turned around, I saw that it had been snowing just enough to put a layer of frost on my window.
In the front, someone had scratched out the words "it's okay to believe!"
And outside, in the snow, was a long trail that could only have been left behind by a moving snowman.
I threw on my coat and spent all night trying to find the snowman - the trail led out to the sidewalk, and then sort of disappeared. I ran around the neighborhood, but I didn't find a thing. The next morning, all I could find was the button, lying in the snow. I tried to get ahold of Henry Woods, but his number wasn't listed. As far as I could tell, he never even existed! Maybe he was a ghost. Or maybe he was just some weirdo from out of town who got his kicks by wandering from town to town playing tricks on kids at the library. But somehow, I still believed every word he told me.
I guess I'll never really have proof - there's nothing that'll ever convince Mr. Dawson that the snowman was real. And I guess I'll never know for sure myself.
But next time I start to doubt, I can just pull out the picture I took of my window that night, and remind myself that it's okay to believe.
After all, Henry was right about one thing - if it wasn't okay to believe in things, there never would have been a Christmas at all.
Copyright 2007, all rights reserved, by Adam Selzer.