We were eating out tonight and were watching folks sprint from their autos to the restaurant so they could get out of the cold and wind as quickly as possible. A good number of those folks were wearing coats and jackets more suited for autumn or spring, not northern Illinois during the dead of winter.
Granted, this year’s been no great shakes when it comes to winter. I have yet to reset the indoor-outdoor wireless thermometer in my shower room from a few weeks ago. It shows a temperature differential from a low of 0° F. to a high of 63° F., and that happened over a four-day period. So northern Illinois is no place for winter wimps.
And it has been ever thus, although more so. Back in 1872-73–just a 140 years ago this winter–the weather was truly brutal, with a long cold spell. Back in those days, there was no central heating to keep houses warm. It was all coal and wood stoves and hoping for the best. On Dec. 26, 1873, the Kendall County Record reported from Oswego that:
The thermometer this morning, Dec. 24, 25 degrees below zero.
Which, no doubt about it was cold. How cold? Reported the Record:
The CB&Q have put another thickness of siding on their water tank at Yorkville to keep the water from freezing.
It didn’t get much better as the new year of 1873 dawned. In the Jan. 3 Record, Editor John R. Marshall reported that:
Scores of our people are mourning the loss of cherished house plants by frost during the past week, while a great number have their cellars lumbered with vegetables rendered worthless in like manner.
If it’s cold enough to freeze your house plants in the house, that’s cold. If it’s cold enough to freeze the vegetables you’ve laid by in the root cellar, that’s really cold.
It’s been nothing like that cold this winter, but still, you’ve got to be sensible about dressing properly for a northern Illinois winter. And that means having at least three winter coats. You need one winter coat that’s relatively light weight for those days when it gets into the 40s. You need a second, thicker, coat for days when it’s somewhere south of 40° but north of 0°, assuming there’s either no or little wind. And then for those days when it’s in the 20s and below with winds blowing at 20-30 miles an hour, you need a serious winter coat with a hood. Likewise, you need two or three pairs of gloves that go with the temperature swings, plus a serious pair of mittens, preferably shooting mittens where you can fold the mitten part back off the fingers when you have to work on machinery or mess with the snow blower.
I remember several years ago when my wife was still running the learning center at one of our local elementary schools, her aide for the year was nearly arrived from Georgia. The lady had only one light-medium weight winter jacket, which was sufficient down in the Peach State, but definitely not here on the northern prairie where the snow falls and the wind blows, especially since aides were required to oversee the playground during lunch hours and recesses. The poor lady, who was convinced spring was right around the corner in late January, nearly froze to death. By the time spring really did arrive in late April, she seemed convinced she and her husband had moved to Alaska, not Illinois.
So, please, all you folks bundle up when you go outside. Swear off flip-flops for the season, wear sensible gloves, and make sure you’ve got a coat that fits the weather outside. As my mother used to say, “Put on a heavier coat; I’m cold.”