Friday, January 7, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 2: Winter

Week 2 Challenge: Winter. What was winter like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc.

If there are two words that are synonymous with Nebraska winter, they are Cold and Snow. 

Most Pathetic Snowman Ever
January 1955
Greenwood, Nebraska
My most vibrant memories of "growing up" are the years we lived in my Mom's hometown, Greenwood, Nebraska, between 1955 and 1960 when I attended elementary school. After the death of my grandmother, we moved in with my Grandpa Kelly. I remember it was an old house, drafty, and my parents would hang blankets across the doorways to maintain heat in the main rooms of the house. We had a cob burning stove in the kitchen. I think there was probably an oil burning heater in the house as well.

I have no recollection of the sensation of being cold. I don't think one notices that sort of thing when you are that young. You are more focused on playing in the snow, making and throwing snowballs, making snowmen and snow angels.

It was in this time period that a lot of snow was dumped on Nebraska. I don't remember how much, but there was enough that my Dad built a snow fort in our front yard. To me, the snow and ice structure seemed as tall as any fortress ever built; I know it was much taller than I was. It was great fun throwing snow balls from behind the fort, then hiding behind it to avoid being hit with snowballs from the enemy invaders!

It was that same winter that Dad built me an igloo. That was definitely an ingenious and educational idea. He started by packing a huge mound of snow and pouring water over it to turn the snow to ice. Once the big mound was built, Dad shoveled out the interior so I could crawl in and have my personal space in my own igloo. I'd never heard of anyone having their own igloo before, so this was pretty impressive to me! I pulled an old blanket into the igloo to sit on. I probably took a doll and a couple other toys into the igloo with me. It didn't take long for me to realize that this was a very cold playhouse, so I didn't spend a whole lot of time in my custom built igloo. Both the igloo and the fort were the last chunks of snow to melt during the thaw.

My Mom always made sure that I was dressed warmly. In the cold Nebraska winters, I usually wore a pair of slacks underneath my skirt when I went to school. I was bundled up in a heavy coat, a stocking cap and a scarf. You know what? I still bundle myself up in the winter and I'm appalled by people who do not wear a hat outdoors in sub-zero weather. Ladies - nobody cares if you have Hat Hair on a cold day!

I clearly recall one winter day when I was in second or third grade and it was time for recess. I pulled on my trousers, put on my snow boots, put on my hat and gloves as I had been taught to do. My friends were already out the door and playing on the swings and other playground equipment. By the time I was dressed and headed out the door . . . recess was over and everyone else was coming back inside! It took me another ten minutes to get out of my outdoor gear. I do remember one of the older girls helping me, because those buttons weren't all that easy to manipulate. Missing recess is pretty traumatic for a little kid!

The snowstorms that I lived through were nothing compared to the Nebraska Blizzard of 1949. My parents were living in Grand Island at the time and often told stories about being snowed in for days. There was no telephone service and snow was so deep that some drifts were as high as 50 feet. Trains could not get through until paths were dug out of the snow.

Chicago & Northwestern tracks near Harrison, NE
The blizzard closed every north-south rail line and all but one east-west line in Nebraska.


View a short video about the blizzard of 1949 from NETNebraska.

About 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Amy Coffin of We Tree Genealogy has created a third year of blogging prompts for genealogy bloggers. The theme for 2011 is 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History


  1. So you had an iglo. I think my brothers attempted them and they sounded so fun. Mostly I think they just hollowed out snow piles. And of course the top open or it would eventually fall in. In those cases, snow was anticipated with hope each season.

  2. Lovely memories! I would have killed to have enough snow to have an igloo when I was growing up in Southern California. What a neat dad to build one. Gotta confess, only in recent years have I "come to my senses" and started wearing hats regularly in the cold weather.

  3. Great story--brings back memories from my western Ne. home of growing up in this country winter!