When I heard it was to be 19 degrees in Montgomery, my first thought was of mountains of quilts stacked atop cast iron beds in grandpa Lee’s little frame house near Red Level in Covington County. Except for one fireplace in the small living room, there was no heat. So on really cold nights, you crawled under so many quilts that it was almost impossible for a 10-year old to roll over.
The house was built in 1935. Daddy told me it took five days to build it. Considering that there was no pluming or wiring, this was easy to understand. In fact, daddy said they built the barn before the house and his family lived in the barn until the house was ready. Of course there was no insulation and the house was on pillars several feet from the ground. A cardboard box would have been as warm.
Things weren’t much better at our own small concrete block house near Mobile. Except instead of a fireplace, we had a couple of small gas-fired heaters. I don’t know the proper name for them. But the fire warmed some ceramic blocks that reflected heat. They were better than a fire place, but not by a lot. I would stand in front of one getting a towel good and toasty, then jump in bed and wrap my feet with the towel. They were turned off at night, so getting out of bed in the morning was always great fun.
There are other “cold” memories. Daddy was in the Air Force and stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska about 1950. At one point we lived in a little shotgun house. It got to minus 63 one night. We had a Hudson. Daddy dug a trench under the car and would slide a kerosene heater in there to get the car’s motor warm enough to try and crank it.
The Cheena River ran near where we lived and a road ran down to its edge. But there was no bridge. When the river iced over, people drove across the ice and onto the road on the other side. The same river went through the middle of town. There was a bridge there. But when the river froze cars were diverted across the ice to save wear and tear on the bridge.
One January night in 1978, I was driving along the interstate in Des Moines, IA. Thankfully there was little traffic and i was not speeding. Suddenly I hit a patch of ice and away we went. I tried to steer, but the car wasn’t having anything of it. When I realized I was about to go down an embankment, I just turned loose of the steering wheel and lay down in the front seat–not wanting to watch what might be about to happen.
Fortunately, we just slid down the embankment and did not flip. I was very thankful..
Now I have central heat and air conditioning and as long as the lights are on, I’m OK. And I feel for the thousands without power at this Dixie deep freeze makes it’s way across the region.
We often hear folks talk about the “good old days.” I don’t recall much good about dashing to bed with a warm towel.