20 January 2002
Thanks to everyone who responded to yesterday's
entry, giving advice
and comments on cold weather. The column prompted some memories from my friend Diane
that were so entertaining, I decided to publish them as a guest column.
I was born and raised in Montana and didn't know
there was anything better, so I just lived with Winter cold like everyone else.
Winter in Montana was just another of the Four
Seasons. Temperatures of - 45°F or less meant, simply, that for the walk to school we
wore long underwear under our dresses and the usual heavy socks, mittens, boots, parkas,
hats, and scarves around our faces to protect from freezing.
When it was colder than that, we wrapped newspaper
around our legs and put flannel-lined jeans on over them, under our skirts (as girls did
not wear pants or jeans to school at that time). We always took off our jeans, newspapers,
and long-stocking underwear in the "cloak room" at school, before entering the
classroom. And donned them all again for the walk home.
On those coldest days, we didn't have outside recess.
But it had to be pretty cold to cancel recess. There were snowball fights to be fought and
we all looked forward to them. When it was - 45°, though, the snow wouldn't stick
together to make snowballs because the air was dry and it was too cold.
During the times when the temp was - 45° to - 50°
walking any distance was kind of a danger; many folks got frostbite, but the worst was
when the fluid covering the eyeballs would freeze. That was a problem.
During these "cold waves" we would watch
the windows inside the house. They would become entirely covered by the most
beautiful frost patterns....spiking jags and beautiful swirling snowflake outlines on the
inside of the windows. We used to write on them with our fingernails and make new images
or circle the ones we liked.
Huge icicles would form and hang from the edge of the
roof, as the house was kept warm and the snow melted on the roof. When we were kids, we
would go out, crack them off and lick them. And we would laugh at the places where our
dog, Angie, peed in the snow and it had turned yellow and had frozen into little yellow
We made snowmen, and igloos, and we made snow angels
(lying down in the snow and waving our arms and legs) and we carried snow, threw snow...
and ate snow... and carried it into the house on our clothing, traipsing through the
kitchen or the living room, to our bedrooms to plop the snow covered clothing in the
laundry room, and put on our warm jammies. And we would eat a warm dinner and go to bed
and dream about the fun we would have the next day, in the snow.
When I was old enough to drive, the ritual on these
cold mornings was to get up, shower, get warmly dressed, go out and unplug the head-bolt
heater (a short electrical cord coming out from the grill of the car and plugged into an
electrical outlet to keep the engine block from freezing), and start the car to warm it
up. Then we had breakfast, put on makeup, gathered our stuff and by that time the car
would run and we could turn on the heater.
Of course, as we drove off, the tires had been frozen
in a flattened state on the surface that had been on the the driveway, so the car drove
off ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk, when the flat side hit the road.
When arriving at our destination, (in my case, the
local college, or my job at the railroad "roundhouse") you looked for a parking
spot with an electrical plug, and took out the extension cord, and plugged in the headbolt
heater, so that later, when returning to the car, the oil in the block would not have
frozen and expanded and cracked the engine.
When I was 20, I hopped a train and moved to Seattle
with all my worldly possessions, I kept waiting for time to put on my precious sheepskin
coat. To my total amazement, that time never happened.
Wonder whatever happened to that coat?