When you live without electricity you tend to get up from bed and slip immediately into your clothes, especially in the winter. There is no lolly-gagging about in robe and slippers, taking your time getting downstairs. You want to hustle on down and stoke the main fire and set the cookstove to light as soon as possible. Of course I was fortunate to live with an early riser. It was rarely I who got the morning fires kindled.
Sometimes in the flush of rising from a toasty bed, I’d bundle my clothes under my arm and head downstairs, to warm the garments by the fire before slipping into them. In those days layering wasn’t a fashion statement. It was a survival technique. Long-johns, cotton socks, flannel lined jeans, wool socks, undershirt, t-shirt, sweat shirt, sweater; cumbersome, but warm. And necessary. I remember how we’d marvel if we got the main part of the drafty old farmhouse up to 18º in the depths of winter. There was only an inefficient old box stove to heat the house and Dick got up a couple of times each night to stoke that fire. Of course, if you sat in the kitchen by the cookstove, you would need to take off the sweater and maybe even the wool socks, eventually. Winters were like that back then. You were either too hot or too cold. But we never had ice on the water buckets. It didn’t get that desperate.
When we finally moved into our own place, which was small and properly insulated and lit the airtight for the first time we soon had clothes off and the windows cranked open, whooping and dancing at the joy of being too hot. And when Dick woke to go check the stove and found it was still toasty warm and coals were plentiful, it was like a miracle of life had occurred. We wondered why we hadn’t thought to put an airtight in at the old farmhouse, but in retrospect the place likely would have burned to the ground. The structure never would have supported that kind of heat. That and the fact we had never envisioned living there for so long.