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Dressing for the season

No matter how cold it gets here in the Heartland, you can always count on someone saying, “You should have been here back in …” (It seems everyone remembers a particularly bad winter that makes the present winter seem mild.)

I’m sure there’s some truth to that, but when you hear the wind chill factor is 40 below and cars litter the ditches like beer cans, the weather really can’t get much worse.

Back in the good old days there was no such thing as a wind chill. Sure, it was there, but no one woke you up in the morning to tell you about it. We all knew that when it comes to a wicked wind, Iowa would take the back seat to few places.

There’s nothing like getting out of bed with the thermometer stuck somewhere around the 10 below mark. After preparing yourself (mentally and physically) for the trip to work, you open the front door and the wind blows you back into the house. Now that’s the true meaning of wind chill.

We do have one advantage over those cold days of old: modern winter apparel. It had to have been developed with Iowans in mind.

Well, that may not be true. Modern cold weather apparel was probably perfected by the outdoor recreation manufacturers to lure people outdoors. In order to sell more snowmobiles, skis, etc., they developed neat looking, lightweight, warm winter attire. I’m sure they are still laughing all the way to the bank.

I’m not saying we didn’t have warm clothing back when I was a kid. We did. The only bad part was it was so heavy we got tired just wearing it.

Another bad feature was that it didn’t look very good. One of the worst things in the world was to have your friends notice that you were wearing long underwear. Kids of today know nothing of the pain of getting caught with red long johns on while at school.

The accepted attire those days consisted of a sheepskin-lined coat, four-buckle overshoes and blue jeans. Occasionally, Mom would catch you before you got out of the house and made sure you had a scarf and gloves. But she had to be fast to get that job accomplished.

Another big change is the head warmer. Back when I was a kid, no one wore hats. At least on purpose. If you were too slow and got caught leaving the house, then you probably got stuck with one. That usually didn’t last longer than getting out of sight of your mother - then it went directly into your coat pocket.

Slick’s mom finally whipped that problem. She got him a World War II pilot’s cap. It was probably the ugliest cap ever created, but that was what made it so neat.

The thing was constructed of leather (with no lining) and had rubber flaps over each ear. The flaps were designed to accept earphones and weren’t very warm, but better than nothing.

Anyone wearing the hat looked something like Mickey Mouse. The hat was so ugly everyone had to have one. The army surplus store had finally found a money-maker.

For the next couple of years, the mothers in this area didn’t have to worry about keeping their kids’ ears warm.

Fortunately, today’s cold weather apparel not only works better, it also seems to be “in” and the kids don’t mind wearing it.

Wonder why there are still so many colds?

(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)

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