The North Wind (Northers)
& our house with no heat in winter
And could not escape it either.
On the south side of the house we had put a big old icebox facing up, torn off door and at night, sometimes 'days' like Saturday, stand around and toss wood in it to burn. So the house kept wind off us, and fire kept us warm.
Even some of the local neighbor kids would come by and stand around. As Tommy & me got into our teens, we would stand around and drink beer and shoot the bull. For hours! The flames would leap up into the old soapball tree, it's limbs scarred from years of smoke and heat. We also would sit there at night and shoot rats, these were not regular old Corpus Christi rats, they were ghetto rats, easily a 4 taco rat. Against the dull grey sky, backlit from the mercury vapor soul less unblinking lights across street, they were easy to pick out as they traversed the limbs like their own ratty Interstate 37. Never would bother us, but we did cap a number of them with bb guns. And if they fell, we had 6-10 dogs chained up in yard that were more than happy to have a warm snack. Cats too. Momma never would join us near the fire for some reason. I would find myself maybe every hour, sometimes less, walking across Antelope to I-37 hill & looking west to see how cold it was as on top of Citizen's State Bank at Port & Leopard there was a sign that flashed time & temp, the one that sticks in my mind most was a 39 degree night with time of 9:10pm. No reason, just seemed to freeze there in moment in time staring at a bunch of lights before trudged back across street and got ready to go to bed. And another cold day. Some nights could hear roar of crowd at Miller stadium, and you could see the glow of stadium lights easily from our house, still can, if you crawl up side of I-37 hill 1/2 way! Now that was cool even though never knew what CC teams playing. And if wind was just right, could hear the bands playing too!
I used to get a number of people ask me how in the hell did I keep such a tan or sunburn, while at W. B. Ray... in the middle of winter while it was cold. I of course could not tell them 'uh standing outside with bonfire in icebox shooting rats' yea, that would have went over well. Imagine using that line to try to pick up a date. The downside of this was a number of times, I would go to school next day smelling like smoke! Could not take a shower as no hot water you know, had pipe outside with curtain, but good way to get sick too. But no, could not blow my cover at Ray, was not supposed to be there you know living 5-6 blocks from Miller. I did however wash my hair under the pipe when cold, if fast, head would not go numb, Pert was best as shampoo & conditioner and like guys changing tires on NASCAR, you had to be FAST, then rush inside to kitchen, and stick head near oven door to dry it off. Can't make that stuff up, it was how we lived sadly! My dad thought I was nuts 'you gonna get sick!' but never did.
So in a number of photos on my website you will see my mom bundled up, not just two layers, but layers that would make a Eskimo proud. Inside the house, only the kitchen was 'heated' and that was by leaving all 4 burners on but only worked on that room. The rest of house could get cold in winter, warm in summer, ok, hot in summer, but we talking winter here. There was no twin walls like modern homes with outside wall, insulation, then drywall. It was just good, old 1900s turn of the century wood. The house was not built for 'central air' nor 'air condition' back in turn of century. Nor was it added in 50s/60s as that became the norm. One wall. Period.
Tommy & me would do homework in kitchen, try to get as much done before night fell, when we would have to switch to Coleman lanterns for light. Each room was about 20 feet x 15 feet, NOT small rooms, with a roughly 12 foot ceiling. Burning 4 gas jets on stove would keep this room comfortable, but that is about it. We never knew then, but do now, that burning the jets would make you drowsy & tired, depleting the oxygen in the room. No wonder would get dizzy! Even if you left these on all night, still would not make a dent in cold in front room facing Antelope where momma slept, or across that room where Tommy slept. So you just bundled up. Sure didn't help me in attic, but I had 4-5 blankets.
Pretty much when the wind howled from North over I-37, we sort of dreaded the upcoming days. Blue Northers were worst. We also used to put a brick, in the oven before bed. Get it nice & hot, then wrap in blanket, and put near feet in bed, would keep feet warm maybe 4 hours. This come to a screeching halt when my brother Tommy came home from Thurman Fondren and my dad was taking a nap and out like light but end of bed was on fire. That was it for the bricks. No, we not only ones who felt the cold, was just colder in our house with no radiators, of which rooms were equipped for, not that anyone here remembers what those are! But the cold wind coming over the hill (as we used to call I-3& seemed to go righty thru house! Bundle Up!
PHOTOS: Photo #1. This is a rare photo I have never shared before, not even on my website. Yet. My grandmother in her 80s, holding my first born Jennifer with smiling momma Stakes in background. This was the old folks home in front of Memorial on Morgan just east of Port, big building. 1978.
Grandma Maria D Alcala would pass away in 1983, she had been born in November 4th, 1892. Momma there, as mentioned, bundled up in a number of layers, maybe 5 layers, even hat. Seeing Jennifer was born December 29th, 1978, this would have had to be January 79, so cold. Only photo I have of three generations together.
Photo #2. Back at the old 723 Doss house am writing about, this is my late girlfriend Tammy Evans with my mom, it must have been a fairly nice day as momma only wearing a sweate
Photo #3. Another photo no one has ever seen. This is ex wife Cindy Sullivan, also bundled up against the cold. The 'outdoor shower' pipe is seen behind her head. The destroyed 2009 Antelope to her right in photo, still somehow standing in 1979 after Celia. While we were trying to save up money to get apartment, she moved over to our hellhole, was culture shock!
And.... cold! This would have been about 1978.
Photo #4. This is a heat radiator, still popular in north and north east USA , we had several of these, but due to gas pipes going bad after decades, and not having dinero to fix them, we quit using them.