With the change of weather from warmer to cooler temperatures, our families in Youngstown turned their attention to preparing our homes for winter. It wasn’t fun, but it got us ready for the colder weather. And it began to pique our interest in the coming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Just as in spring time, this tended to be a time of cleaning the house from top to bottom. We washed windows and replaced screens with storm windows. Drapes were cleaned, walls washed, floors mopped, cupboards cleaned out. Then we’d be ready to welcome guests for Thanksgiving (with of course the weekly dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning bathrooms).
We were involved in putting up and putting away. For those families with big gardens, there was all that canning of tomatoes for sauces and of other vegetables. We stored our summer clothes if they could be used for another year. I remember mom going through things and deciding which would be rags, which were still good but we’d outgrown and could be donated to the Volunteers of America, and what could be stored for next year. We pulled out our winter clothes, which may have smelled of mothballs (remember mothballs?). We had to try them on to see if they still fit, could be handed down, or donated.
The awnings and porch furniture were stored in our coal cellar. The house suddenly looked bare. We checked the weather stripping around our doors and tried to seal all the leaks around the windows. Dad made sure all the gutters were clear of leaves so we didn’t have any unpleasant overflows. Dad would also clean the furnace each year, making sure all the burners were burning clean and the filters replaced.
Beyond raking, and for many years burning all the leaves, we cleaned out all of the flower beds and the vegetable garden. If we wanted crocuses and tulips and daffodils in the spring, we had to plant them after we cleaned out our beds. After the last cutting, the mower was cleaned and drained of fuel. We stowed all the summer garden tools after cleaning and sharpening them and pulled out the snow shovels and laid in salt to keep ice off the walks.
There was work to do to get the car ready as well. This was before all-season radials, and so we would swap the regular tires for the snow tires we kept on the rims. There was antifreeze to flush and change, and battery terminals to clean and jumper cables to make sure were stowed so that we could start the car on the coldest days, that could get below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
So many of these chores had to do with getting ready for the rigors of winter. Tending our properties preserved outdoor furniture and other items for another year. We have tools our parents used because they cared for them. We wanted to keep our heating bills down. And cleaning up our yards meant they would be ready for next spring. Our families lived well in part because they did not live wastefully. So much of what we did was designed to make what we had last for another year, and through another winter.
What were your memories of fall chores and getting ready for winter weather?