Old parka conjures up freezing memories

A column last week about a 35-year-old parka that has kept me toasty since I bought it as a teenager prompted readers to share their stories of old coats and dealing with frigid temperatures.

I shivered reading some of them. One reader described having to fix missile sites at Minot, N.D., in the mid 1960s. Merely mouthing the word "Minot" is enough to make me fire up the space heater. Is there a colderlocale on the planet? Minot has got to rank right up there.

But my personal choice for the most shivvery winter story comes from Jim and Peg Buck, Leesburg residents who once lived in the Thousand Islands of New York. That's the archipelago of islands in the St. Lawrence River along the U.S.-Canada border.

Canada. Another chilly word.

Here's what Jim has to say:

"Our worst experience was in the winter of 1967-68. We experienced a week in which the temperature reached minus-56 degrees and never got above minus-36 degrees for the entire week.

"We were renting half of an old mansion with no insulation and 12-foot ceilings. Snow blew in through the cracks around the front window and made a pile on the living room floor.

"My wife and I spent the week next to a big fire in the fireplace. The living room never got above 60 degrees, even with the fire going constantly in the fireplace, and the cat's water bowl in the kitchen was frozen.

"We taught school that week wearing our coats, gloves and boots in the classroom.

"Yes, our 2010 freeze is awful, but cold is, after all, relative. We could be back up North again."

Maybe you can, Jim. I would rather stick a fork in my eyeball.

And here are stories from other readers:

Minot and missiles spell hypothermia

From 1964 to 1968, I was in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. My job involved working at Minuteman missile sites all times of the year. Wintertime was the most difficult period to travel to and work at the remote missile sites due to the extreme cold temperatures and often blizzard conditions in that part of the country.

 My coldest-ever experience — one that I vividly recall every time our winter temperatures dip — occurred one winter night in 1967 when my three-man team was dispatched to a missile site that required immediate maintenance.

It was a cold cold day to begin with, but by the time we were closing up the missile site, it was quite late at night, windy, and even colder. The thermometer temperature was minus-50 and the wind produced a minus-20 wind chill, resulting in what felt like minus-70.

The best USAF cold-weather parka and accessories did little to keep our bodies much warmer than bone-chilling. Even inside our vehicle, with the heater on full blast, we still shivered uncontrollably.

Back then, I don't think the word hypothermia had been invented yet — at least I don't recall ever having heard the term used till years later.

Now, in retrospect, I know that the three of us barely avoided being stricken by hypothermia or frostbite. It's a good thing we didn't. Back in those days, frostbite was a court-martial offense — destruction of government property.

os-lk-lauren-ritchie-cold-weather-stories20100112
Advertisement

PHOTO GALLERIES

TOP VIDEO

CONNECT WITH US


2013 YEAR IN REVIEW
Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Google Plus
  • RSS Feeds
  • Mobile Alerts and Apps