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Carol Perkins: Coping with the cold

'I never remember going to bed cold, but that wasn't the case in many homes and I remember them well.' she writes, and remembers how it used to be - and unfortunately still is for many Kentucky kids.
Last week's column: Carol Perkins: Let's go to town

By Carol Perkins

Cold weather should come as no surprise this time of the year, but so many of us find it the topic of conversations in the aisle at the local grocery stores.

"Boy, it sure is cold."

"Yeah, it was in the teens at my house last night."


Cold weather doesn't sneak up on us here in Kentucky, but the severity often changes. Sometimes we have snow at Christmas and sometimes we don't. Sometimes schools are closed for days and sometimes there is not enough snow to powder the highway. Sometimes our water pipes freeze because we fail to leave a drip, yet other times we don't have enough cold weather to freeze a pan of water on the porch.

However, we all anticipate what may come. In January, we should not be surprised by cold weather, yet we don't like it and aren't always prepared. Back in 1946 when I was born my parents had just finished building their home. It was airtight, heated with electric wall heaters, and had a stove pipe/chimney in the middle of the living room for the wood stove.

I never remember going to bed cold, but that wasn't the case in many homes and I remember them well. Those lovely turn of the century homes in which most of our grandparents lived were not airtight and winter ready. There was something a little special about spending the night tucked under layers of quilts with my nose cold but not permanently.

There were several methods those who lived in poorly insulated homes used to keep their families warm. Finding the holes and plugging them was one way and often rolled up parts of the newspaper came in handy for this. Scooting rugs under doors or laying towels down helped to keep out the air. Around the doors were often cracks that let in enough air to whip you're air so covering those doors with blankets or quilts was an option.

Quilts were also hung between rooms (where there were no doors) to make a barrier so that at least one room was warm, which meant the other rooms were brutally cold. Children slept together to stay warm and the bedroom became the living room in the winter.

I have heard young people tell about their clothes freezing in unheated bedrooms and having to hang them behind wood stoves to thaw out for school. That is cold!

In all these homes a wood stove sat in the main room with stacks of wood behind it. The men in the house kept the wood supply plentiful and got up periodically to fill the stove.

"Getting in the wood" had to be done before dark.

If the fire died down, the floor would be cold the next morning and ice would form on the inside of windows. Because the bathrooms were outside "outhouses" pots were often kept under the bed and emptied in the early hours, or if one dared to venture out in the cold, the pot could be avoided.

For the majority of us keeping warm is not a major problem but a nuisance. We may not like turning the heat up or putting plastic over windows, but we know how to get through the cold months without freezing.

However, I realize that many in this area live in conditions that plastic won't fix or heat won't cure. Their dwellings are no more than boxes with a roof, floors they can see through, and walls that let in the howl of the wind. For many children school is the warmest place they can be. We don't have to go abroad to see that children need help.

We can just look down the road or up the hill or around the bend.


This story was posted on 2016-01-14 04:06:49
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