Keeping Warm in the 1950s

Many of you are currently sweltering in the Northern heat, while I look for ways of keeping warm down here in New Zealand. Yesterday, while dressed in three layers and wearing thick socks, I thought about my childhood. Were the winters really as cold then as they appear now? The aging process has possibly increased my awareness  of the cold.

I grew up in an old wooden house with its share of places for the drafts to creep in, but  I don’t remember being cold at home. Maybe during the day we kept warm busy playing vigorously outside. The evenings inside seemed to radiate warmth, unless I’ve forgotten the cold times.

Our home had a large room we called the kitchen, a bit like a modern house with kitchen, dining room and lounge sharing an open space. The cooking happened in the kitchen on a gas stove and oven. Wedged between the stove and the hot water cupboard, a small fire place, a chip heater, burned all day, heating both the water in the adjacent cupboard and the whole room.

I loved chopping the kindling for the kitchen fire once old enough to be trusted to not chop off too many fingers. The tiny fireplace churned its way through firewood, coal and carbonettes and food scraps after meals.

Not only the warmth from the fire that filled those winter evenings. The whole family gathered, talking, reading, playing cards and board games and listening to the big old radio in the corner, creating a room of family warmth. At bedtime we kids trundled off to bed with a hot water bottle, taking the evening’s warmth with us.

The fire died down over night, but by the time we got up in the morning either Mum or Dad had re-lit it, enabling us to eat our breakfast at the big table in warmth.

Snow rarely falls in the part of New Zealand I live in, but we did experience heavy white frosts during winter months, so the nights were cold. Electricity was never used to heat our home in the 50s, so we maintained a good supply of wood and coal.

Your childhood winters no doubt differed from mine, depending on the part of the world you live in and the era of your childhood.

I sit here in the warmth of my home this morning, heated by gas, thinking about the sunshine that will arrive back here in a few months from now.

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3 thoughts on “Keeping Warm in the 1950s

  1. Oh Val, the idea of going to bed with a hot water bottle sounds so appealing for the winter months. Sort of like the bed warmers you hear about in medieval days. I’ll be thinking of you all warm and sunshiney in a few months when we begin to get cold.

  2. I remember palmerston North in the 1950s and shudder. I lived with guardians and ther two sons in a large old wooden house in Ruahine Street that was freezing. Fire in the dining room/kitchen yes, but after that there was a long hall with the lounge, bathroom, and bedrooms opening off it. I went to bed with a hot-water-bottle certainly. But some winter nights I would wake at 2am and almost crying with the cold, get out of bed and gather everything from my wardrobe to stack on the bed in an attempt to keep some heat in. I often had chilblains in winter as a result. I remember the freezing winters, the floods from cloudbursts, and the brutal frosts. I live only an hour away from the city still, and remember it fondly for other reasons, but those winters are indelibly etched into my memory.

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