Tuesday, December 10, 2019

December Winter and Our Old House

Our old house
“An old house is a cold house” and all farming families knew this to be true.  Cold seeped through every crack and crevice, between lathing and ancient plaster, around windows, even through the electric outlets, and our own old house was no exception.

Vacant since before electricity and plumbing, our old house was barely livable, but we would be moving in the second day of September.  After tremendous effort, only the first floor would barely meet our needs, with the second floor having only one bulb.

Winter was brutal that year.  Deep snow surrounded our house, challenging every board and window. Non-insulated water pipes froze along with the newly laid septic line. Now that 1958-59 winter was called the "mini-ice age".

It took our strong parents who had lived in other old houses to stoke coal and oil in kitchen and front room heaters, cover every bed with elderly wool quilts, and surround us five children with warmth and family.

In evenings, we all gathered together in the front room with books, blankets and sweaters, and an ancient black and white television. Nothing was different to us children.  This was life as we knew it. 
Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people sitting, people standing and child
Robert, Mary, Don, Bill, and me 1959
Even though upstairs was bitter cold enough to freeze a glass of water solid, our house sheltered us while layers of wool warmth covered three older children sleeping there. Below, our parents, with toddlers, slept in the darkness of a December winter.

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people sitting, child and indoor
At Grandma's house
front: Robert, Bill, me
back: Don, Mary, Dad, Mom


I confess that my eyes are tearing up as this is being written.  Images sharp as the day our lives were lived out in this old house linger before me.  The wool quilts, heaters where we stood, and the laughter echoing in hollow walls surround me.

 

45 comments:

  1. Memories. I can't even begin to imagine sleeping in that kind of cold.
    I made it through a European winter as a baby, but I think the houses were made of stone and not draughty and I was a newborn so didn't know anything about it all. Since then all my winters have been Australian. Most early housing here was built of sandstone blocks so the walls were quite thick and kept out the cold but more importantly, kept out a lot of the summer heat, especially with the surrounding verandas and shady trees. I remember us gathering around the wood stove in the kitchen to keep warm in our winters and dad would put bricks in the oven to heat up and wrap each one in old newspapers before putting them in our beds to warm us at bedtime.
    Your family is vary handsome.

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  2. Wonderful post. I ask myself, where does the time go? Things that happened long ago seem like yesterday. There are times that I wish that I could go back to even though there was a lack of material comforts.

    Marvelous pictures.

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    1. Having hard copy of these old photos is precious to me.

      I think that I'd go back at times, to those places where my memories are strongest, happiest.

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  3. The real warmth in our lives comes from a loving family. We take care of each other.

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  4. I love this. I knew you guys up in the cccold country froze. But, oh how I love your story and the family pictures. The coldest country we lived in was Missouri. I knew a SMART farmer there. When the Gas company needed a right of way across his farm he had the choice cash or free gas for life. That farm house stayed warm after that!
    Again, thanks for thie post, SWEET & SWEETER! (YOu were cute too!)

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  5. There is no substitute for good insulation.

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    1. River above spoke of thick stone walls! Ireland had those. Here in sunny Calif., houses are wood and stucco. Insulation is now part of the mix.

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  6. I've only experienced what you relate once or twice, but those were some my best sleeps! How blessed you are, having siblings.

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  7. We worked with what was available back then. Waking up to bedroom windows covered with ice, grabbing our clothes to race downstairs to dress by the heating stove. Then a very quick trip to the outhouse. Ah, the good old days.

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  8. Your loving family are made of strong stuff! We live with no central heat, either, but the swamps are not nearly so cold.

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  9. A lot of warmth in your family. Wonderful photos add to the beauty of your story.

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  10. Without heat, you realize why people hated winter.

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    1. The only great snow was the first one. After that, forget about it.

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  11. Sounds like quite the cold indeed. But a warm family and lots of blankets can sure keep it at bay.

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    1. OUr woolen quilts were given to Mom from her mom, from her grandma. They were heavy and warm

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  12. Sounds like wonderful memories. And it's funny how, like you said, growing up with less creature comforts or modern amenities often was just the way it was. That picture too- looks, coincidentally, a lot like my in- laws farm.

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    1. These bits and pieces are really important to me.

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  13. We just moved from our old house to a new condo in the warm south. Over a 100 years old, no matter how much we worked to make it modern, it was built to be cold. But beyond that, I too grew up in similar situation, and never, ever felt disadvantaged. Warmth is more than heat!
    Lovely share, thank you!

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    1. Farm people all lived in houses that were from many many years ago. We estimated our house was built in late 1800s.

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  14. Family is everything. With a loving family a child can survive almost anything. I grew up in public housing, in an apartment with steam heat that was at the whim of the landlord, and warped windows that caused snow to gather on the sill inside my bedroom window. But I never felt deprived, either, under my wool blankets and the love of my parents. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

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    1. Snow inside your bedroom window? Now, that is living in the cold!

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  15. I love this memory, Susan. I can see why you found it emotional. I did -- and it wasn't my story. But it shows that love, wool, family can help overcome the cold. And really, isn't that the best?

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  16. Great description! It made me feel cold, despite the electric heater I have running under my desk. I'm curious about how that picture of the house was taken. Plane? Tall building? Those metal towers that hold electric wires? There's a guy around here who will fly over and take a picture.

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    1. This was an aerial shot in 1990 or so. Aerial shots were common over seasons and farmers bought them.

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  17. There is just something so . . . warm . . . about our memories of those old houses where we used to live. Love this!

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  18. Sounds like a good memory. I remember some of the places I lived too that weren't all that great but I miss being there with my family.

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    1. Living so far now from Illinois where it is really cold, I miss family more. My parents and two brothers are gone, so memories are even more important.

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  19. What a wonderful picture of the farmhouse in the snow! I have seen that same setting where I grew up. It belongs on a calendar .... every page of the calendar.
    What memories old pictures can bring.

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    1. We also have a summer photo which shows corn in the fields and our town off in the distance. Photos in hand stir up those memories.

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  20. I'm living in that house, now. No insulation, and heating the whole house is so expensive it hurts. Pipes freeze and have burst twice, causing major flooding in the basement. Small heaters keep me warm enough and the cats provide heat and warmth at night. I love this post because it's how I actually LIVE my life in 2019!

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    1. the worst thing is when the pipes freeze! Ours would freeze in mid December and thaw in March.

      Thanks for giving the mental image of how life still is.

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  21. Sounds a little like the house Laurie grew up in. Frost on the inside walls of their bedrooms, old newspaper for insulation in the walls.

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    1. Oh, yes. We had all those, too. God bless Laurie!

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  22. Hi Susan - those were the days ... our cold winter was 62/63 - it was awful!! But we survived and I gather the house was even colder when I was born late forties ... as the first born - nothing had been done ... and I'm allergic to wool - so life was fun til I could make sure I could wear clothes that suited me ... ie cotton. Gorgeous house though ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Allergic to wool really limits products for heat. Once polyester came into being, it seemed that locked heat in. It also made one sweat like nobody's business.

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Go ahead...it won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!