Those chilly childhood days before central heating
Open plan living and under floor heating?! You must be joking. Staying warm back in the day meant every door shut, heavy curtains, deep pile carpets, draughts blocked and the whole family huddled together in one small room around the fire.
Before central heating changed the way we lived forever, keeping the house warm in deepest winter was a palaver. Just tending the fire was a mission in itself and who can ever forget having to brave the freezing temperatures outside just to go to the loo?
But then there was toast made over the fire with a toasting fork, delicious with butter or even better, dripping. So, boil the kettle, turn up the thermostat and let us take you back to your chilly childhood days.
The house was always cold… very cold
There was only one warm place in the whole house – the room with the hearth. Life revolved around the fire until it was time to venture upstairs to bed. You could feel the temperature dropping a little with every stair you climbed. And who can forget waking up to ice on the inside of the bedroom window?
Coal kept us going
Unless you were one of the few with a 3 bar electric fire, coal was the lifeblood of your home and running out of it simply wasn’t an option.
A huge man smothered in soot with black broken fingernails and bright white eyes peering out from under his cap would bring it to your door, terrifying many a small child in the process. Or you had to collect it from the yard in an old pram.
Keeping the home fires burning
There were endless rounds of fetching the coal in, kindling, rolled up newspapers, matches, holding newspaper up to ‘draw’ the fire, refilling the coal scuttle, poking, prodding and cleaning out the grate.
Small children would act as look outs, playing in front of the fire and letting mum know when the fire needed attention.
Warm clothes and lots of them
On school days, Mum warmed your clothes in front of the fire or on the cooker and you occasionally had to go to school in singed undies! If you were very lucky, she’d also have your slippers warmed and waiting by the door for you when you got home.
Kids ventured out in layered up in flannelettes, jumpers, coats, scarves, hats and mittens, but many boys still wore shorts in deepest winter. Explain that to a kid today!
Frozen milk that took your breath away
The little glass bottles of free school milk were kept outside and it was so cold by break time, you’d catch your breath as you drank it through a straw.
At home, the milkman always came regardless of the weather. He’d come so early the milk would be frozen by the time you fetched it in.
Family bath time in front of the fire
Before ‘proper’ bathrooms arrived, bath time was a weekly event either in the kitchen sink or in a tin bath in front of the fire.
The water would be heated on the stove and all the family would take turns to wash in the warm water. There was no time to lie back and soak, it was a straightforward in-and-out affair before the water got cold. You had to pity the person who went last!
The laundry still had to be done
Housewives never used cold weather to let their high standards drop. As well as the extra cleaning constantly needed to control the coal dust all through the house, she’d still have to do the laundry by hand and find a way to get it dry.
There were always clothes drying by the fire but, on a clear day, the washing would be hung outside in the vain hope it wouldn’t freeze on the line.
The long cold nights
It was so cold no one stayed up late like we do in our cosy homes today.
Bricks would be heated up to use as bed warmers and you’d snuggle under overcoats and blankets piled high over the eiderdown. Siblings had to sleep up together in one bed and if you dared to complain you were still cold, mum could usually find another sibling, or the dog, to throw in with you!
And finally, it was never too cold to play outside
No kid would dream of staying in when there was so much fun to be had outside. Not even in the freezing winters of 1947 and 1963! We just buttoned up our duffle coats, donned our mittens and headed out into the icy streets to conjure up a whole new adventure with our mates.
Didn’t it always snow back then?
Feeling chilled to the bone or warm with the rush of happy memories of winters past?
Apparently researchers have discovered that we feel more nostalgic on cold days and reminiscing actually makes us feel warmer. It’s a lovely thought… but are your memories of scraping the ice off the bedroom window and frozen pipes having the desired effect? We’d love to know.
If you enjoyed our peak under the blankets of British winters 60 odd years ago, you may also enjoy when playing outdoors was a way of life, 10 big weather events of the last century or remembering our school days.