Fremont County, Iowa

"Winter Ramblings"
by Daisy Malcom

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of December 09, 2013

Winters on our farm, north of Thurman, in the 1950’s were often challenging. Our cats would huddle in the freezing cold outside the kitchen door waiting for table scraps. We lived with little income, and ate what we got from the land, so no 'Purina Cat Chow' for them! However, like us, they made do with what they had and appreciated it.

Our cows, in the lot, north of our house would stay in the barn as much as possible, only coming out to go to the water trough, which occasionally was a trial for them because the water pipe and the water in the trough would freeze over. I can remember having to go out and create a hole in the ice covering, the trough, and reopen the pipe in order for them to get a replenishing drink.

Our house had five rooms downstairs, and three more bedrooms upstairs, but only three rooms on the main floor were heated; the living room, the dining room and the kitchen. That meant that the bedrooms downstairs, our parents’ room, and the one occupied by my younger sister and me, were terribly cold in the winter.

My dad always called the house our “corncrib”, because of its lack of insulation and cracks in the walls. One time we tested our theory, that it was colder inside our bedroom than it was outside, and proved it was true with a thermometer -30 degrees outside but 20 degrees inside!

The only heat source, for the three rooms, was a gas stove, in the living room. My sister and I would begin our winter nightly ritual at least 15 minutes before bedtime by standing close to the heater, and turning front to back, so both sides would be well heated. Then we’d dash to our room, trying to keep warm long enough to cover ourselves with seven blankets in our bed. Of course, those were so heavy that once we were under, we stayed in that position all night.

There had been a restroom on the second floor, but without heat up there, the pipes were frozen so we had to use the outhouse located north of the house beyond the lawn, and in the lot where our milk cows resided. The outhouse was a really smelly, an unpleasant place where we were often attacked by barn swallows. I still am afraid of birds today! We also had to use the Sears catalog for toilet tissue. The slick pages were the worst! Luckily, when I was in upper elementary, my dad moved a wall and created a downstairs bathroom, out of an enlarged walk-in closet. What luxury to have a heated trip to the john!

I often am nostalgic, when I think of the joys of growing up on an Iowa farm, but that fond remembrance hardly ever extends to the winter conditions at our place during the 50’s.

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Page updated on November 1, 2020 by Karyn Techau