/ The winter of 1963- Who was there?

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wushu - on 20 Jan 2013
I've just been watching the Winter watch special on 'The Big Freeze' and how bad it actually was.

I was wondering if anyone here experienced it and cared to share their stories of what life was like during that period?

John W - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

I was - I was five at the time. When the blizzard started, my mum (who was a teacher at my school) tied all of us together in a line with skipping ropes so that we wouldn't get lost on the walk home. She says it took her three hours to do the two mile journey.

The village I lived in (in Co. Durham) had to have food and fuel airlifted in by helicopter. Eventually they managed to open the road with a snow-blower, which was the first time I'd ever seen one.

We couldn't use our front door for three weeks because of the snow drift which went from the road to the top of the roof.

All in al, pretty impressive!
wercat on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

Only as a small child (7 ish) walking home from school in Durham through streets high with snow - what an adventure, and all in shorts!
a lakeland climber on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

I just remember it. We (well mum and dad) had to dig our way out of the house each morning as the wind drifted the snow continually. Bitterly cold, the house didn't have central heating (very few did back then) and basically it was a case of keeping the kitchen fire running all the time and only venturing to other rooms if you had to. I hadn't started school so there was no need to go anywhere unless it was a medical emergency.

All the pipes were frozen, we had a private supply and the main feed was only about a foot down so that was frozen and would freeze pretty well any winter if there was more than a few days' continuous frost until we replaced it in the 1980s. There was the original water supply to the house which was a spring/well that never froze up so it was a case of carrying water in buckets the 100 metres or so back to the house. That's carrying water for everything: drinking, cooking, washing, toilet. I doubt mum did much if any laundry other than what was absolutely necessary.

People didn't travel as much back then, most worked fairly close to home. I don't know what we did for groceries, there used to be a grocery van do the rounds twice a week but whether it ran that winter I can't remember.

ALC

Jim Nevill - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:
I was going to school by train (!), fortunately in the SE. One mile walk at each end, and yes, it was cold! School playing fields became a massive ice slide for all the kids. Don't recall closures or shortages particularly, just wished I'd had gloves. Snow was on the ground from Boxing Day to Easter.
In reply to wushu:

I was my 1st year at Secondary School - 1st Year students weren't allowed inside the building until 9:00 (some of the older kids were) - it was bloody freezing for months. (I have vague recollections that we had to wear shorts too but that might be bollies!).


Chris
Doug on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu: Can just about remember it, started snowing on the 26 Dec & snow lay for what seemed like months. Christmas school holiday was extended by a couple of days as my primary school was mostly portacabin like buildings with huge drifts in front of the doors & it took the council (?) time to clear the snow.

We used to have school milk, but it had to be be thawed out each morning as it was solid when brought into the classroom.

And we wore shorts (boys) or short skirts for the girls ! (with wellies for the walk to/from school)
The New NickB - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

I wasn't, but my Mum, who would have been 10, tells a story about walking on Windermere. My grandad was very, very safety aware and would not have let her walk on a frozen lake unless he was absolutely certain it was thick enough, people were driving cars on the lake.
Offwidth - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu: I was in a pram for a mile or so along the Grand Union Canal.
Neil Pratt - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

I was about 7 months old at the time, so don't have any direct memories of it, but do recall my parents talking about it - the lack of central heating/double glazing and so on meant keeping the house warm with a new baby was a particular problem, although my dad said the cold didn't seem to bother me and I used to 'girn' if my mum tried to wrap me up too much. Wish I could say the same now :-)
Blue Straggler - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (I have vague recollections that we had to wear shorts too but that might be bollies!).

Sounds like monkey business to me. Of the brass variety...
Blue Straggler - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to wushu) I was in a pram for a mile or so along the Grand Union Canal.

I'm picturing "Moses On Ice" here....
CharlieW on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

For those interested to watch it on iPlayer (I've linked to the start of the original documentary):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b01q9d86/?t=3m44s
Tom V - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu


I think that people who lived through both 47 and 63 will tell you that 63 was a bit of a pussy by comparison.
Fat Bumbly2 - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Tom V: Apparantly I was there - Used to be taken on 6km walks in a pushchair into town (on the road, nothing naughty like going into a field!)

The first 2010 winter was the biggest I remember, along with 1979.

1947 is legendary and I have heard many a tale. My favourite being the photo in the EUMC library of cornice tunnelling on Salisbury Crags (The Cat being in Nick).
Ali - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu: I wasn't but I remember my mum telling me about a year when she was young when she had to walk to school on top of the hedges because the snow was so deep - so that may have been 1963!
john 284 - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Tom V:

My father told me many a story about 1947 - he's now 85

They lived on a farm - 7 kids - with no electricity - cooking was done on the fire - road was cleared by shovel - no inside toilet. As soon as he was old enough he joined the army to get away.

Been down to see him today in his central heated house - where it was far too warm for my liking.

Was complaining about being cold in bed - he had a thin summer duvet - doubled it up with another one - easy living now.
I like climbing - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:
We built an igloo in the front garden and it was there 6 weeks later !
wushu - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to all:

There are some great stories being told here!

I only remember a good winter from about 1994 when me and my brother built an igloo in our garden; it lasted about 7 hours then melted. There was also some ice sculptor students living a few doors down who piled the ice together and carved out a sculpture of a couple sitting on a bench.

robert-hutton on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:
I was only 3 years old but my dad always says that the pile of snow on Buxton market place lasted all year, I remember the stream coming down from gun rock opposite Birchens being frozen pointed out each time we drove past.
Rob Exile Ward on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to robert-hutton: I was 9, used to catch the train to school and a (steam!) train back - in those days there were 7 stops between Worcester and Malvern, about 8 miles. I can remember workmen getting on in the dark at each stop with flasks of tea and their empty Oxo tins of sandwiches.

I was definitely wearing shorts to school and worse still - we had to walk a distance to the gym for PE and we used to be wearing PE kit, no tracksuits or anything. That was cold. And stupid.

Our house was on the top of a hill and faced east, rumour was that the next high ground further east was the Urals! Felt like it too. I had a fan heater for Christmas (I was 9, most kids were still getting toys!) and I was chuffed to bits.

deepstar - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu: My Dad was the local Policeman in Bathampton So He had all sorts of adventures.I was 12 at the time so I spent all my time sledging with my mates.One of my best memories of that winter was that "Harbutts" the plasticine factory burnt down,the fire was spectacular and the Firemen had to hack holes in the frozen canal to get water for their hoses which in turn froze,the spray turning their uniforms into suits of icey armour.
robert-hutton on 20 Jan 2013
Strange I lived at Wild hill in derbyshire and had a tri point by the house and the previous owner told us that the next high ground further east was the Urals! Also Felt like it too.
Rob
Steve Perry - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to Tom V:
> In reply to wushu
>
>
> I think that people who lived through both 47 and 63 will tell you that 63 was a bit of a pussy by comparison.


The sea froze around Britain in 47
HB1 - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu: IIRC our pipes froze on Boxing Day, but luckily they'd starting building in the field next door and for some reason their standpipe remained unfrozen, so we had water. No central heating of course, so very cold, especially at night (no heating at all in bedrooms). At school I well remember sitting mock O levels dressed in coat, scarf and fingerless gloves. I was a dead keen cyclist then, and was getting out at least twice a week, come what may. I remember that we had little snow in fact, but a lot of freezing fog. To keep feet warm we wore socks over cycle shoes and always rode fixed, so easier to control. We rode on canals quite a bit - just for the fun of it
In reply to Tom V:
>
>
> I think that people who lived through both 47 and 63 will tell you that 63 was a bit of a pussy by comparison.

Wiki reckons that the winter of '63 was the harshest of the century,


Chris
Eric9Points - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

I have vague memories of building a couple of snowmen but what stays with me is the milk bottles.

On some mornings the milk was frozen solid to the point where it had expanded and the foil tops were sitting on top of columns of frozen milk. Other mornings when the milk wasn't frozen the birds would have pecked holes in the tops to drink the milk, I guess that wasn't necessarily '63.
incog - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu: I too remember frozen school milk. 12 years old and living in the Midlands - rode my bike to school most days - short trousers of course - plenty of snow,ice, or slush on the roads but no transport chaos as there was far less traffic in those days. I don't recall train or bus cancellations either. We have become a nation of wimps.
Pete Ford on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

Was 6 at the time, short trousers, blue hands, frozen milk, which they thawed out on radiators, leaving it tasting rancid. Dad worked at an approved school, and we lived on a main road. The house masters etc took it in turns to drive us kids the three miles to school each morning. Can't remember any days when the school was closed during the freeze.
I do remember the road to the village being completely blocked, with snow reaching the tops of the hedges.
KeithW - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

I'd like to think that winter was partly responsible for me being here, as I was born 9 months after it.
ads.ukclimbing.com
silhouette - on 21 Jan 2013
Tom V - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:
So it seems -paraphrased as "47 had more snow but 63 was colder".
Moley on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:
1963, 11 years old at boarding school in Surrey. No football or games for weeks but every day playing in the snow and sledging. Short trousers and chillblaines (never hear of them these days?). We didn't have the benefit of modern warm clothing then, it was all wooly gloves, socks, jumpers - which became wet and frozen - then fingers and toes onto the boiling hot radiators.......aaaaaaaaaggh it hurt!!!
Everyone functioned ok in life, but then walking everywhere was considered normal for all ages, it wasn't an essential human right to have to drive everywhere, we simply walked through the snow.
Al Evans on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Moley: We'd had no coal deliveries for almost a monthand the coal cellar was empty, as coal was our only form of heating we had to get coal.
So our mum and her friend (who I used to call auntie) and me and her son David set off on a 3 mile trek to the coalyard. We eventually got there and loaded our sledges up with sacks of coal and eventually got them back home, it took hours, seemed like the whole day. When dad got back from work he was really impressed to see a roaring coal fire going in the grate.
rocky57 - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

1963, I remember it well, I was 9 at the time. It seemed to snow forever, and we still went to school, wearing shorts, a duffel coat, and wellingtons; you then wore the wellingtons all day in school. Eventually, the snow got so bad/deep we couldn't get to school. I remember looking out of our bedroom window, back of the house, and the snow had drifted up to the sill. I opened the window and wanted to climb out onto it, but was put off when my younger brother told me that I would sink into it and disappear. The back door was below the bedroom window, and we couldn't use it for quite a long time. I didn't even own a pair of gloves or a scarf, we didn't have a lot of money back then. Happy days.
Dave C on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu: I think I know what my folks were doing when it was really cold that winter....I was born in early October...;-)

Milesy - on 21 Jan 2013
I have heard stories of when the Clyde in Glasgow froze over etc that people could walk on it. I do not remember that happening before - although I think it had froze to some degree 2 years ago.
a lakeland climber on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Milesy:

Here's a video of Windermere in 1963 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K1ofbWYUrM

ALC
Jim Fraser - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

Fantastic weather for building snowmen. Snow up over my knees even in town.
Lord of Starkness - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

Missed the 47 winter by several months - born in july 47 - Was still at school - age 16 in '63. I remember it being pretty cold on Tyneside - people scavenging the beaches for sea coal. Loads of snow. The Tyneside Vagabonds endurance test ride towards the end of Feb had about 30 hilly miles around Northumberland cut from it as some moorland roads were still blocked by snow. I still managed to make it round the shorter 110 mile route inside the cutoff time despite the pawls inside my freewheel freezing up about 3 miles from the finish after riding though one ford too many!

We only had one day when the school was closed - due to a boiler problem. No probs with teachers not being able to make it in -- most lived within 4 - 5 miles of the school - and even when no buses were running they made it in on foot ( or on Skis!)

Monster snowball fights on the football pitches, epic icy slides down the sloping school yards, no Health & Safety / risk assessment/ claims culture -- and yes there were a couple of accidents involving broken bones resulting from kids being kids - but no-one made a fuss. It was all accepted as a part of growing up. Kids nowadays miss out on such a lot.
Only a hill - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Lord of Starkness:
In fairness, on the train today while travelling through the countryside I've seen dozens of kids and adults sledging down steep hills. Kids still do that kind of stuff...
Lord of Starkness - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Only a hill:

Yeah -- but not in the school yard -- the teachers would go apoplectic nowadays at some of the stuff we used to get away with!
Moley on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Lord of Starkness:
> (In reply to Only a hill)
>
> Yeah -- but not in the school yard -- the teachers would go apoplectic nowadays at some of the stuff we used to get away with!

I watched an interview on the news with a headmaster, all the kids behind him playing in the snow - nobody threw a snowball at the head whilst he was on camera. What's wrong with todays kids, wusses?
Wiley Coyote - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu: I was ten so it was short trousers and wellies which I think left a red mark round the back of my legs that probably lasted till August but I don't remember any school closures. In fact I'd go the long way home just to play on a better sledging hill using sheets of currugated iron which made for a very bumpy ride.
Today our village had no mail collection despite being on an A road with not a flake of snow on the road. The little old lady who had walked down to do her shopping expressed a very low opinion of the manliness (or lack thereof) of the local crew and instructed the postmistress to tell them they were "a bunch of Mary Ellens" when they eventually turn up.
MikeTS - on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:

I lived in S England and it was fun. My mum bought me an ice axe for Xmas. (I was planning to go to Scotland, but couldn't) So I took my dad and lead the first winter ascent of the N face of a local chalk quarry.
graeme jackson - on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to wushu:
i was only 2 so can't remember 1963 but I do recall winters around age 4 or 5 that had loads of snow for weeks at a time so we could have snowmen hanging around on the streets for ages. Not too many cars in our streets then anyway - depressed north eastern mining town :-)

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