Memories of a Perkins’ winter wonderland

We’ve put together some stories from Perkins’ alumni that capture the magic of wintertime at Perkins.

Howe Building in the snow in 1913.

There’s always been something magical about winter at Perkins. The halls of the Howe Building echo with sounds of the Holiday Concert and the Tower serves as a beacon of comfort on a snowy day. The photo above shows the Tower in 1913, with tree branches casting shadows across the with the snow-covered orchard and yard. We’ve found some stories from Perkins alumni in the Perkins Archives that capture their memories of winter days.

A letter from Vernon Boyd

In December 1953, Vernon Boyd, who was a student at Perkins from 1937 until 1951, wrote a letter to Alice M. Carpenter, who was the Dean of Girls. An excerpt from his letter was printed in the December 1960 issue of The Lantern as Boyd shares that his thoughts about Perkins increase as Christmas approaches. In his letter, he writes about his memory of leaving the night of his last Christmas Concert: “I stepped through the door of Moulton Cottage into a lightly falling snow. The flakes drifted quietly down as if they knew that this night was something to be remembered and treasured. The bells in the Tower rang out, slightly muffled by the falling snow, in a last benediction of peace that still echoes in my heart.” 

He goes on to describe how the moment affected him: “My world, my thoughts, my dreams all stopped for one brief moment to savor the peace before the press of life again enveloped them and me. A moment in space and time, stored up and kept in a man’s heart to be treasured for a lifetime.” 

Sledding, skating, and snowball fights

In her oral history, Barbara (Silvia) Dustin, who was a student from 1947 to 1952 remembers a horse named Jenny who used to pull them across the snowy athletic fields on a sleigh. Helen (Gerdes) Raschi also shared fond memories of snow at Perkins during her time as a student from 1945 to 1951. She describes that there was plenty to do even when blizzards came, like “tobogganing behind Brooks cottage” or ice skating on the Pond. She loved it when the snow came, she explained, “because we used to roll in it and [have] snowball fights.” 

The smell of fresh winter greens

Dorothy Ingersoll, Eleanor Thayer, and Rhoda Pill reminisced about holiday seasons at Perkins in their oral history with Larry Melander. Ingersoll shared a similar feeling to Boyd as she explained, “I think everybody, this is a genuine feeling… that nobody that’s been through here, [ever been to Perkins] will ever forget Christmas at Perkins.” She described the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas as, “a really happy time” as the campus transformed to a winter wonderland with decorated cottages. “We had parties in the cottages,” she remembered,” and the boys would make wreaths…so they put [them] on the door.” Ingersoll told of how the smell of fresh winter greens would overwhelm her when she opened the doors to the cottages and Howe Building. She also remembered skating on the Perkins Pond on the weekends and the feel of snow on her face early in the morning. 

Cozy fireplaces 

In the 1925 Annual Report, Helen McEvoy wrote that “Every night a fire may be built on the hearth, and those who wish enjoy its ruddy warmth.” 

Paul Nadeau, a student from 1952 to 1968 remembers the holiday season as being “the best time at Perkins…really a wonderful, wonderful time….” 

The feeling endures

Today, the winter holidays are still a special time at Perkins. The annual Holiday Concert kicks off the holiday season and celebrates in song with choral and instrumental works from the Perkins Student Chorus, Music Makers, and Handbell Ensemble. A holiday tree and swag decorations greet the community when they return from Thanksgiving break, creating a festive atmosphere that carries through the winter. In front of the Howe Building, a pine tree is lit with bright lights and plays holiday tunes for passersby. The Perkins campus is filled with a cheerful warmth despite the chilly New England winds. 

Works cited:

Suggested citation

Coit, Susanna. “Memories of a Perkins’ winter wonderland.” Perkins Archives Blog, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown MA. December 12, 2023.

Examples of digitized materials on Flickr

Digital collections on the Perkins Archives Flickr site

Pages from the 1899-1903 Kindergarten scrapbook.

Digitized Perkins Kindergarten scrapbooks

Kevin holds a brailler while a group of people around him take a look, including Shirley Temple.

Remembering former Perkins Director Kevin Lessard