Winter in the 1930's and 1940's
by Emily Bengtson
I was a teenager in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Several of those years I lived with my Grand Ma. Spending
winter at her house was a glimpse of how people had
passed the cold months for decades. It showed me how
all the work in the summer to grow and can and pack
away foods paid off.
Grand Ma would store vegetables and fruits in sand
in the cellar (cave)--apples, turnips, carrots, onions,
potatoes. All those vegetables and fruits stored in
sand helped us enjoy great foods all winter. The carrots
and turnips would be pulled out of the sand as fresh
as the day they were packed. The apples were wrapped
in paper. I remember my Grand Ma unwrapping the apples
and only finding a few apples where the skin had begun
to wrinkle. Those she would peel before slicing. Apples
were used to prepared fried apples for a winter treat.
One big change in our diet was the number of onions
we ate. My Grand Ma believed that onions kept colds
from occurring. A bowl of creamed onions was a standard
meal item. The onions were boiled in water and then
creamed like any other vegetable such as corn and
The living space in the house was reduced to the big
warm kitchen except when company came. The pocket
doors to the living room were kept closed. To help
conserve heat, the bedrooms had just enough heat to
keep them from freezing. Down blankets and home- made
quilts were there for snuggling and forming our own
cocoons. Only when company was coming or when it was
very cold did the furnace get used. Everyday heat
was from the big cooking stove in the kitchen doing
One of my jobs after school was to gather in corn
cobs for fuel. One year in the late 1930s, corn bottomed
out in price and everyone burned it instead of selling.
We had the radio for entertainment in the winter but
for me I'd rather read in a wicker rocker by the stove
in the kitchen. Many a snowy cold evening I lost track
of time buried in a book. However, on the weekends,
snowball fights, sledding and skating were the thing.
We never thought much about the cold when we were
outside because we were all bundled up, but it was
so nice to go back inside and warm up with cups of
Weather and potential storms are always a worry during
the winter. The difference then was the lack of forecasting.
Today we listen to the weather casters making predictions
in late fall as to the upcoming winter being snowy
and cold. Then my Grand Ma was always ready to predict
what was coming according to signs. They included
1.) if there is a general fog, 100 days later there
will be snow or rain; 2.) thunder in the winter means
a snow storm; and 3.) if the wind was in the east
then there would be a storm.
She had all kinds of sayings and sometimes I would
try to decide if they were true. Some seemed to work
like the wind from the east and the general fog. Then
there were those that made me scratch my head such
as 1.) a dog crying on his back indicates a change
in stormy weather or 2,) a cat lying on its side and
face upwards foretells stormy weather.