Friday, February 11, 2011

The Good Old Days of Wintertime

     To this date I know of any legislative attempt to change our weather to a more pleasant year-round average so we may as well plan on enduring the extremes of both summer and winter.
     For me, my memories of each season are quiet vivid, for I grew up in the days of the Great Depression and comfort was not a high priority item, especially if one lived in the country.
     Of course, there were numerous nice country dwellings, but in general, the majority of the farm houses were box houses, built without a wall framework but instead of wide vertical boards striped with 1x4s to cover the crack between each board. A board of one-inch thickness does not keep out much
    Most of these houses were being lived in without the benefit of any repairs and their original poor construction and the effects of weather had taken their toll, resulting in wide cracks and humps in the floors.
     A winter in 1930 is the one I most often think of in terms of cold. We lived in a fairly well built house--I remember no wide cracks or missing windowpanes. As was the custom, it had two flues for the escaping wood smoke: one for the cook stove and one located in the living room for a wood burning heater.     
     My memory is of a wood heater sitting at an angle in a corner of the living room:  a stack of wood near by, my father’s rocker and a library table with a kerosene lamp lining the wall. My mother’s rocker was also near the table and lamp, for they both spent a few hours reading each night.
      As a four-year old, I was constantly on the move, standing by the heater until my legs were red and burning and then returning to my play across the room for only a few minutes before another thawing session by the stove.
      When I think of past winters, that is my first memory of being cold. Children’s winter clothing in those days was far different from that of today.  Although there were“long johns” for the boys, the girls had to contend with dresses and cotton stockings, which would not stay in place and were hated heartily. Surely there were under vests but I don’t remember any.

It was cold and you lived with it.
     By the time I was ten we had moved into our very own home with four large rooms and two wonderful porches all interestingly dilapidated
     This house was also of box construction, but as a much larger one, it showed more serious effects of settling, creating cracks along in the flooring that made sweeping out the dirt an easy chore.  Its large “L” shaped back porch had buckled with the settling resulting in a huge hump at one end.
     The walls were insulated with layers of newspapers and magazine pages that today would probably be worth more than the old house itself.
     None of these flaws bothered me in the least, for I loved that old house at first sight.
     In this house the heater had a short wall of its own making it easier to crowd around when the weather turned cold. Despite this old house’s construction flaws, it never seemed to be as severely cold as the earlier one…  except for the north bedroom with its one north window. I expect a glass of water would have frozen hard overnight.

     School closings were unheard of in those days. There was no way to communicate such notices, and after walking some distance in snow only to reach a locked schoolhouse was unthinkable.
      One’s common sense was the guideline and I have no memories of missed days. There are, however, quite a few of crowding around a huge wood burning stove with a roaring fire, trying to warm feet that felt frozen from tramping a mile over a frozen and rutted road.
      Realistically, there was no way that red hot stove was going to warm a large room in near freezing temperatures, so when completely chilled, students would again hover around the stove.
      Once, after a snow storm arrived during the school day, I choose when going home, to take a shortcut through the woods, reasoning that there would be less time in the cold and a nice windbreak from the blowing wind. My mother was not happy with my decision. In fact, she was extremely unhappy, for as every mother knows, children get disorientated in the snow and are lost and suffer all sorts of other terrible consequences….

I believe these are a few of the days sometimes spoken of as “The good ole days.”

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