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Winter watch 1963 .....The Big Freeze

(73 Posts)
Gwyneth Wed 02-Dec-20 15:40:21

The above TV programme is on BBC 4 tonight at 8pm. I remember the winter of 1963 very well when we lived in Wales. We were without water and electricity and I remember my Dad boiling snow in a pan on the fire for drinking. We had oil lamps and candles. I think it will be interesting to watch and see what other people experienced both on the programme and also if any gransnetters have experiences to share.

Elusivebutterfly Wed 02-Dec-20 15:46:45

I was at primary school so thought it all great fun having snow to play in for so long. I remember the snow being piled high at the side of the pavement so couldn't really see over it. Adults complained but us children were happy.

AGAA4 Wed 02-Dec-20 15:46:53

We didn't have central heating in those days and I remember icicles forming on the inside of the bedroom windows. There was lino on the floor which was freezing cold so getting up in the morning was a dreaded chore.

Septimia Wed 02-Dec-20 15:51:07

I remember that winter well, too. My parents had just bought our house and we were having the coalshed and outside loo turned into an inside bathroom, accessible from the kitchen.

For weeks we had no bathroom, the loo was balanced over the drain and there was a tarpaulin over the doorway between the kitchen and new bathroom.

The yard was full of builders' materials with a narrow passage from the gate to the back door and no way of getting past to garden.

It was a good thing that my grandparents - with a functioning bathroom - lived just around the corner!

The snow cleared from the paths was piled high in the gutters and stayed there long after the roads and paths were cleared. We children had great fun walking along the tops of the piles.

Loislovesstewie Wed 02-Dec-20 15:52:49

Absolutely awful; a totally miserable time. Cold all of the time, unable to get the house warm, trying to sleep in a bedroom with icicles inside the windows. Animals in the fields suffering, wild life starving, small birds just dying. Please let me not have to go through that again, no, I don't want to watch it.

Gwyneth Wed 02-Dec-20 15:53:48

I remember being really excited when I was in primary school and loved going out in the snow. I remember Mum running out of dry clothes for us to wear as everything had to be dried around the fire. Upstairs was freezing and I also remember the bedroom windows frozen on the inside.

Blinko Wed 02-Dec-20 15:57:59

I was an Army child. We arrived back in the UK after four years living abroad, in December 1962. Back then everyone had coal fires. None of the coalmen (they were all men then) could take on more customers.

There were four of us children, my sister a baby of two years. I remember Dad fetching snow to boil for a cup of tea and we had candles for lighting at first. For heating, we burnt the crates that we'd packed all our belongings in to travel back.

My mother went to the OC at the Army camp and demanded the Army do something as all the families were in the same boat. In the end, Dad hatched a plan and gained permission to take a couple of ten ton lorries down to the Army coal yard at Bovey Tracy to fetch coal for the families.

Those were the days!

Grandma70s Wed 02-Dec-20 16:00:43

Thank you for the reminder. I was a research student in London, living on the third floor if a large shared house. The heating didn’t work, of course, and the only water was via a standpipe in the road - three floors down. It was hard work and unbelievably cold. The house was cleaned by a young girl from Grenada in the West Indies, new to Britain. I think she thought she was living in some kind of nightmare! She said she was frightened by the cold.

The lake in the park was permanently frozen, and the park keepers came every day to break the ice for the poor ducks.

I remember the previous October being in Regent’s Park with my friends and saying “It really shouldn’t be as cold as this in October.” A premonition! We were young, though, and although it was horrible it was an adventure.

Gwyneth Wed 02-Dec-20 16:27:41

It’s great reading about everyone’s memories of that winter. I remember the fun as kids but also the unbearable cold. I also remember everyone helping each other like Blinko’s Dad fetching coal. The adults in the village would check up on elderly people living on their own to see if they had enough coal. The roads were impassable and nothing could get through. I don’t know how our parents managed to keep us warm and fed.

Sparklefizz Wed 02-Dec-20 16:30:21

Gwynneth Thanks for the tip off. I was a schoolgirl and remember it well. Ice on the inside of the windows, we only had a fire in the livingroom so the rest of the house was freezing. As Aga says - lino on the floor. I was always cold.

Gwyneth Wed 02-Dec-20 16:34:26

My pleasure Sparklefizz just hope it will be worth watching after me posting about it!

J52 Wed 02-Dec-20 16:37:33

I was in primary school and living in London. The traffic was stopped, even the trolley buses didn’t run. The roads were all one level and if you walked in the camber it came over your wellies. When the snow was cleared, it was in heaps by the side of the road and we had fun sliding on it!

LyWa Wed 02-Dec-20 16:41:57

I’d forgotten that this was on this evening, thank you for the reminder. My memory of that winter was rushing out of bed to get to the kitchen where all of us children (5 of us) would get dressed in front of the gas oven - mum would leave the oven door open. As others have said, icicles on the inside of windows, snow above my wellies on the walk to school. Brrr...

Trisha57 Wed 02-Dec-20 16:48:21

I was living in inner London. We only had an outside loo, which was half way down the garden. I remember my dad had to dig a tunnel to it through the snow. When I walked along it, the snow was higher than I was (I was 5 at the time) and I was terrified it would all fall in on me and no-one would know where I was!

Gwyneth Wed 02-Dec-20 16:57:53

We only had an outside loo as well which was bad enough in good weather but struggling down the path before you went to bed in ice and snow just doesn’t bear thinking about!

Mamardoit Wed 02-Dec-20 17:10:46

We were a family of five children. That is the winter we all had measles one after another. I was very poorly and remember sleeping in a bed downstairs. Dad kept the coal fire going all night and he slept on the sofa.

I remember water freezing in the sink and toilet and dad using little paraffin lamps to try and stops the pipes freezing. He also had to climb out of a window and dig a path to the back door through a snow drift and then walk to the other end of the village to dig my grandparent out and get shopping to them.

The winter of 1968 was quite bad too.

Pittcity Wed 02-Dec-20 17:15:18

I was a newborn. My Mum says I didn't go outside at all until I was 6 months old.

MrsEggy Wed 02-Dec-20 17:19:47

I remember driving with DH (who wasn't DH then) in his first car (a mini van) to Pershore where the river Avon was frozen over. People were walking on the river, and someone drove a Landrover onto the ice.

Fennel Wed 02-Dec-20 17:21:59

We had gone with 3 month old eldest son to inlaws in Dagenham for Xmas. Got back home near St. Helens and all pipes frozen up. Some kind friends let us stay the night.
Went back to frozen house the next day to thaw things out.
The following winter wasn't so good either. Second son born in nov. and I couldn't take him out for months due to the bad weather. Mostly freezing fog.
I' going to watch the programme - thanks Gwyneth.

Anniebach Wed 02-Dec-20 17:32:13

I had two homes, weekdays with my parents in Mid Wales and had a job there , Friday to Monday morning in South Wales ,
Boxing Day I had to leave Aberfan because it had started to
snow, couldn’t get back there until March and then the snow each side of the road was higher than the bus on the top of the
mountain road.

We helped local farms look for sheep, just air holes in the snow.

BBbevan Wed 02-Dec-20 18:29:15

I am going to watch that as I have no memory of a bad winter in 1963. . I lived in the Home Counties and was at art school at the time. Did I just not notice? . Perhaps I was too absorbed in something else. I hope it jogs my memory.

EllanVannin Wed 02-Dec-20 18:56:29

I remember it well. Having to walk on packed ice about half a mile to a stand-pipe that hadn't frozen up, then, with pram, slip and slide back with a couple of large pop bottles of water.

Burning anything that would burn until we could get a sack of ovoids ( little balls of coal ) that lasted longer than coal but was dearer at the time.

I also remember the smog 10 years before which killed thousands.

Curlywhirly Wed 02-Dec-20 19:16:42

I was seven and remember it well. The snow was so high on the pavements and the roads (no traffic could get through) that the kids in our road made a maze - it was brilliant and the sides of the maze were taller than me! We ran out of gloves and used socks instead and it was so cold that Mum had to put coats on the bed as we had no extra blankets (remember those army blankets, brown and really itchy?). The insides of the bedroom windows were thick with ice and you could see your breath when you spoke! All our clothes in the bedroom were damp to the touch, and I used to stuff my uniform in the bed with me to keep it warm. I am sure that winter gave me a life-long dread of being cold, I have my heating on at the slightest drop in the outside temperature.

SueDonim Wed 02-Dec-20 20:26:38

I was seven or eight then. I remember the biting cold. I lived on the coast in Kent and we all went down to see the frozen sea.

Like others, we had just the one heater in the house, the icy windows, the cold floors. We used to put our next day’s clothes in bed with us at night so that they’d be (relatively) warm by morning.

The pipes froze and we were washed in the kitchen, sitting on the draining board with our feet in the sink, with water heated up on the stove. I also remember my mum trying to get the laundry for seven of us dry. It froze to the washing line and became as stiff as board. She had to bend the sheets in two and two again, like giant pieces of paper.

The good old days, huh? confused

Urmstongran Wed 02-Dec-20 20:51:08

Eeh, that were grim ...

I’d have been 9 years old but have no memory of it. I must’ve been wearing me liberty bodice.