I just read a lovely post from an Irish woman who grew up in the sixties. She wrote:“In 1960, we had no fridge, no TV, no car, no central heating – only open fires, water heated by an old ‘pot-bellied’ stove, no electric immersion heater, no automatic washing machine. Chilblains were a fact of life every winter. Stuffed material sausage dogs were at the bottom of many doors to keep the draughts out (and there were many draughts!)”
. . . and those stuffed sausage doorstops got me thinking. So I wrote a bit about what I can remember about “Harrismith’s mild winters” and asked friends to add their sixpence worth! How cold was Harrismith?
Ceilings had no insulation and the windows were wooden sash or steel frame, single-glazed; Windows would mist over, but you would still try and see if Platberg had its table-cloth on. Always coldest when the east wind blew and put a ‘blanket’ or ‘table cloth’ on the mountain like this:
The black coal stove in the kitchen was lit through the whole of winter, thank goodness; A cruel boyhood confession: I murdered a few flies at this stove in our kitchen! Tore off their wings and turned them into ‘walks’ then tossed them into the stove to die! Yikes! Here’s an old one, no longer installed, no longer black:
On the beds lots of blankets, no duvets; If you were lucky your Mom would cut the tassles off the Standard Woollen Mills blankets and sew on a strip of smooth silk-like tape that didn’t tickle your nose! I remember some of our old pillows weighing ‘a ton’. Probably a quarter ton of feathers, a quarter ton of live mites, a quarter ton of dead mites and a quarter ton of sweat and snot! Luxury was having flannel ‘winter sheets’ rather than those smooth, thin, cold ordinary cotton sheets.
We were lucky to have hot baths from an electric geyser warming us up. You would wallow in the big old iron bath with ball-and-claw feet, trying to get your scrawny carcass under the shallow water, then start dreading having to get out; Soon, though, the decision would be an easy one, as the water cooled rapidly.
Getting into those long flannel winter jarmies was such a treat. Cosy. Some of ours were hand-made – machine-sewn by Mom.
Leaving for school in the mornings was jersey on, socks pulled up high, gloves on, and off you’d go on yer bike; Riding along Stuart Street your eyes would water and your nose would run, so gloves and sleeves had to do snot duty; When you got there you’d slide your hands off the handle-bar grips as they didn’t want to ‘uncurl’! Your bare knees would be frozen yet somehow you didn’t feel them as much as you felt your toes in your socks and shoes! Funny that. As uncool as it was, sometimes you’d even wear the grey balaclava Mom had knitted for you.
I remember it like this:
Except, it wasn’t really. That’s Europe and maybe their winters are worse!
We had a horse trough in the backyard about 2m long, 40cm wide and 40cm deep. It was concrete grey but later on it got painted Caltex green. A lot of our stuff got painted Caltex green. Thanks, Annie! The water in the trough would freeze solid. The ice would thaw a bit by day and freeze again every night. That was OK, though, we didn’t have horses.
Harry ‘Pikkie’ Loots added his memories:
How about: Frost in the fields, with little wind blown ice crystals making it look like a sprokiesland instead of the grey-yellow vrystaatse vlakte that it was once the frost melted . . .
The little black tube-shaped coal stoves in the classroom where we thawed our hands – remember how it hurt as they ‘defrosted’? . . Newspaper under your mattress to stop the cold coming from below . . Taping up the air vents in the bedroom to stop the cold air from coming in . . Doing homework (occasionally) by the coal stove in the kitchen . . Hot water bottles . .
And a couple he remembered from his gran, who lived in Clocolan: She never had – nor apparently ever wanted – an indoor bathroom or toilet, despite her children offering to have one installed for her; The potty under the bed so that you didn’t have to walk to the outhouse in the middle of the night . . And bathing in a tin bath in the middle of the kitchen, filled with water boiled on the coal stove . .
sprokiesland – fairytale land
vrystaatse vlaktes – like the Siberian flatlands