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Reflections: Winter weather, then and now

Winter weather, then and now
By William L. Bulla
Weekly Contributing Writer

I see where our calendar tells us that Thursday, December 22 is the first day of winter. I guess that is what caused me to reflect on some of the winters of my past. Winters of my youth may not have been any worse than they are now, but life styles have changed over the years.
I remember those snowy days in 1935, when I was a kid of 12-years old, living in the mountainous area of Southeastern Oklahoma. They did not have a school bus for the little town in which I lived, so my kid sister and I walked nearly a mile to and from school every day, regardless of the weather. If you did not make it you were considered absent. Often we arrived at school wet and half-frozen. Few parents had cars, so walking was the main method of traveling. Also, small rural towns did not have city bus lines or taxis.
I cannot recall ever having a "snow day" regardless of how severe the snowstorms were in our area. If we were not in class, we were counted absent. Today our kids are excused from school for what is termed "snow days." It is considered too much of a problem for our children to catch a bus and ride it to school and back on a snowy day. Today our students are excused from school many times when the snowfall is not very deep. Many days the anticipated snowfall fails to occur. Of course weather forecasting has changed over the years also. It is more accurate today than it was then. In those days if a small town happened to have a newspaper it was probably a weekly. Small towns did not have radio stations to announce the weather, and television didn't exist.
Today's road conditions are far superior to what it was then. Road crews were limited, and there were limited facilities available for clearing and treating roads covered with ice and snow. So if you happened to own a gas driven vehicle it was probably going to stay parked until the weather warmed up. Cars didn't have snow tires like they do today. If you wanted to move you had to have chains on the wheels. And cars were not equipped with heaters and defrosters as they are today. Heaters were electric devices that were mounted under the dashboard. Defrosters were pieces of about 9x18-inch glass with a metal frame around the perimeter. It was mounted on the driver's windshield with 4-suction cups. They had 4-pieces of chrome wire across the glass that heated up to melt the ice from the windshield. I remember driving during a snowstorm in Kansas in 1946 with one of these on my car. Of course that had to be the day that the unit quit working. It took hours to reach a place where I could get it repaired because I had to stop frequently to scrape the ice and snow from the windshield.
I think one of the great things we have now is the ability to turn on our television, see what the weather is doing outside, and say, "No Thanks, I'm staying inside."

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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