So You Think This Is Cold?
by Stanley Scislowski
think weve had cold weather lately. Big deal! Like an old-timer
would say, "Its nowhere near as bad as back in the thirties!"
one winter in 1935 or 36, it was about 15 to 20° below zero
Fahrenheit for almost a whole week. And to make things even worse,
we had a granddaddy of a blizzard that dropped three feet of snow
overnight, stopping what little auto traffic there was in those
things running were the horse-pulled milk sleighs and the streetcars.
Otherwise it was the Arctic out there, a desert of snow and icy
winds. Not a soul to be seen on the streets.
was it ever cold! And just when our households coal reserves
were all but used up. If we didnt get some coal or wood to
burn soon, it shaped up to be one God-awful cold night ahead.
our frame house not insulated, it wouldnt take long for it
to be as cold inside as it was outside, except for the wind. The
main source of heat came from the lowly upright wood and coal stove
set up in the dining-room; the bedrooms were all like ice-boxes.
was no getting away from it get some coal, whether by hook
or by crook, or freeze our butts off. We were down to a half scuttleful
or so of it, just enough to take us into mid-afternoon. After that,
itd be shiver and shake the long day through.
no money to buy coal, my mother had no recourse but to send me and
my brother Joe to the happy hunting ground for coal the gondolas
filled with the stuff, parked on the siding on the Essex Terminal
tracks between Benjamin and Hall near Tecumseh Road. And I dont
think we were the only family that depended on unlawful procurement
of fuel; there had to be quite a few others in the same boat as
we were - dirt poor and desperate.
the coldest day of the year, with a wind-chill that had to be about
40 below, Joe and I headed out into the howling wastes with a wagon
and a homemade wheelbarrow, to swipe some coal and save the family
from freezing half to death.
made it that far through the drifts and bitter cold winds, Ill
never know. But we made it and commenced loading-up, hoping to heck
that old man Thompson, the railway dick didnt catch
us in the act. But I guess he had more brains than I gave him credit
for and didnt venture out of his heated office, wherever that
happened to be. No railway cop in his right mind would patrol the
tracks in the Arctic weather such as Joe and I had to brave.
our precious load of anthracite, we made it home in the nick of
time all there was left in the stove when we got back was
the last flickering glow of a few embers.
morning we were hard at it again.
there were other days when things got pretty darned chilly around
the house, it never got quite as bad as that particular spell of
nowadays sure have it easy in fact too easy. No coal to have
to swipe in below-zero weather
no 3-foot snowdrifts to wade
no forever having to feed a hungry stove with wood
no sifting of ashes for the last remnants that will
A little cold? Just turn
up the thermostat kids and youd better be happy you
live now and not then!
Read more about record
winter storms in this area at The
Detroit News Rearview Mirror Website