What a winter, just like old times
The topics of conversation recently has shifted from Obamacare to the price of food and fuel and presently to the weather. Someone asked me why I did not write about the weather?
Well, because I am a lifelong resident of Camden, I am used to changes and actually would be bored if our weather stayed the same. I love the four seasons, even though some people say there are only two: the 4th of July and winter.
So, winter started early this year and I, too, hear my furnace grinding up the dollar bills. The thermostat must be kept on 65 degrees, even though my bones tell me that is not warm enough. We have had early and severe winters before, but recent years have been quite mild, and made us forget what winters could be. When I was a child (many years ago) we always had snow in November and could even go skating because small ponds were frozen over. The snow drifts could be very high.
Because there were no school buses, we got very used to the cold and snow, as we always lived a mile and a half from the school. It might be a bad snow storm but school was not called off very often, because of no vehicles had to carry us. Hot lunches were unheard of, but we had a lunch hour, so we ran part of the way home and part of the way back, in order not to be late. Mary E. Taylor, grade school principal, did not allow one to be late or even to wear slacks in the cold. Well, we could wear slacks under our skirts, but had to take them off in the coatroom. Even though she had a big black strap hanging by the blackboard to actually use if necessary, she was a wonderful teacher. I thought it just hung there to remind us to be good, but years later a classmate of mine guaranteed me that she used it many times, because he was living proof.
After graduation, the work I found was at what is now Wayfarer Marine Co., and that was a long, cold walk from 125 Chestnut St. During World War II years, while working there, sometimes it was 15 degrees below zero when it was time to go home. We felt we must have the luxury of hiring a taxi, afraid we might freeze before we made it home if we walked. But after seven years, I saved enough money to buy a car.
There was so much snow then the town would close off Chestnut Street from Limerock to Frye Street, so kids could slide. That we did with a bobsled that belonged to my brother. However, we were not going to haul it down to Limerock Street, so we got on it at home and rode down but we could not stop at Frye Street. We continued the rest of Chestnut Street around the corner by Camden National Bank, and then on to Bay View Street until we slowed up by the Camden Yacht Club where there is a hill. Those were the days, except for hauling the heavy sled back up to Chestnut Street.
My father built an iceboat. He kept it on Lily Pond, so we would walk through the woods to go riding on it and then skated to get warm before the long, cold walk home.
People always used to read the Maine Farmer’s Almanac and I wondered if this year was correct when it predicted an early and severe winter? I was loaned one from 1908, and it was a leap year. I do not hear much about that anymore. The cover has a poem:
“All days are sacred days to wake.
New gladness in the sunny air
Only a night from old to new
Only a sleep from night to morn
The new is but the old come true.
Each sunrise sees a new year born.”
The Almanac was published in 1908 by Charles E. Nash & Son in Augusta for the price of 10 cents, and it was a whole winter’s reading. "The beginning of Winter was December 22, Spring March 29, Summer June 21 and Autumn September 23.” So that hasn’t been changed yet. "In Spring and Summer the sun is North of the equator and in Winter and Autumn the sun is south of the equator. “
Ever month shows the “Holydays, Aspects, Courts and Weather.” The other half of the page is the Farmers’ Calendar giving some advice and telling the farmers what to do.
“The going and coming of the year teaches again its lesson of the rapid flight of time and the value of the moments which make up the sum of our life’s allowance. It seems like a platitude to speak of the waste of time. It is a fault so many of us are secretly guilty of. Moments spent in relaxation or on present society cannot be counted as wasted time unless too great a proportion is spent in this way,”
I think that is good advice, but it continues on and on. Maybe to fill up the page?
You can see that the Farmers’ Almanac really was not all about the weather and farming. As there were no radios, television and computer gadgets, it had a section, “Winter Evening Amusements," that contained riddles, charades, conundrums, anagrams and mathematical questions. If all that didn’t entertain you, it listed all the various orders (Masonic, Odd Fellows, Golden Cross, etc.). A friend thought enough of these little booklets to save 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911 and 1912, and loaned them to me to read. Guess I cannot absorb every page, only because I have those once unheard of gadgets: computer, television, telephone, smart cell phone, etc.
The pretty snowflakes are coming down again, so have a nice winter!
Barbara Dyer is Camden's official town historian.