Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Fall Chores

cleared away colorful autumn leaves in the garden.

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?

2 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Fall Chores

  1. “our families lived well because they did not live wastefully” – how true – of course thermopane windows have replaced the annual putting on and taking off storm windows and at least at our house, blinds have replaced drapes but in the past 3 yrs. we’ve started regularly hosting Thanksgiving, having our son, dil and gd over with this year her sister and son as well, necessitating the annual cleaning out of the cupboards to lay in the necessities for those holiday meals, plus of course laying in of foodstuffs for the winter; we don’t have a garden but we do want to have soups, oatmeal and Ramen noodles on hand for those cold(er) – at least, down somewhat farther south than you – days

  2. Living in an area where snow is often just a passing acquaintance rather than a winter resident, changing out the clothes isn’t quite the same, although I still find myself with winter sweaters, maybe just in case or maybe just haven’t quite gotten over needing them from growing up further north, while on the other hand summers are definitely hotter, such that I really can’t wear those clothes in the winter though so there is still somewhat the need, just takes a little longer to get to that point, but this post and this time, it was time – guess so, not even realizing it was the first day of winter and yet we have tornado predictions down here for tomorrow – so guess it really does take till winter for winter clothes, not fall – so finally actually packed up my summer clothes and took them out to the garage and actually brought in my coats – yes, multiple – though you’d think – maybe more of that sweater mentality – but in the midst I did find my – maybe between – a cardigan – remember those – people still use that term? – and an actual coat – somewhat like a shawl or poncho but not quite – anyway knew I’d been missing something – really the thing for down here in what passes for winter in the south

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