Do You Remember The Winter Of 1963?

Do you remember your school being shut because of the snow and the boilers weren't working or the desks were frozen to the floor or it was just the wrong kind of snow?

I do have a clear and vivid memory of my little brother trudging over the fields in his wellies...and short trousers...all on his own...before it was really get to his village school. Poor little chap would come home when it was dark, with a bright red mark across the back of his legs from where his boots had chafed and sometimes he'd cry because his hands and feet were so cold...

We'd wake up in the mornings with a thick layer of ice on the insides of the bedroom windows and we'd wait until we heard Father rattling the ashes for the fire before we ventured downstairs...I went to bed in a fleecy nightgown with socks on my feet and a cardigan on...and a pink hot-water bottle that smelt funny.

Everyone carried on going to school and friend, who lived next door, would stop by and we'd set off on the two mile walk to the 'bus stop...and the 'bus always turned up. During the very worst days of that winter we were allowed to wear our coats in class and on a few occasions the head master would send all the country children straight back home after assembly...the 'buses would wait for us outside the school, eager to get us back home before the next snow fall.

Father had to break the ice every morning in the well before he went to work and then break it again when he came home so Mother would have enough water for cooking and washing up...she put the wet clothes on clothes horses around the fire and they grew stiff and radiators or fires in the bedrooms then. She'd rub Snowfire ointment into our chilblains and give us a spoonful of cod liver oil every day...and buy huge jars of Virol...we liked the Virol but shuddered over the cod liver oil.

We never grew tired of building snowmen even though our gloves were soggy and our hands were so cold they tingled unbearably as they warmed up again...

It's different now. The minute one flake of snow drops from the sky the schools are closed...the boilers break down or the radiators won't work or the school bus drivers won't risk peering through the windscreen the way ours used to do...hunched forward with the wipers going full blast...they'd call out when they reached our stop and say 'See you in the morning!' as we descended into the darkness and hoped we'd remembered to bring the torch...

Did it make us tough...I rather think it did. I think we cope pretty well, all told, with the horrid disease we live with, because we are made of sterner stuff...

Do you remember that winter of 1963? How did you fare during those long months of deep snow?

53 Replies

  • I don't remember it, but I was born during it. My mother says, the ambulance could not get through, so the midwife came to the house. She walked five miles with shovel in hand, digging her way through the deep snow. Think Mother was pretty glad she made it in time.


  • Your poor Mother must have been frightened half to death!

  • I remember it well because our school was shut for weeks and we had an extended holiday....used to walk for miles in the snow to go tobogganing ....never seemed to feel the cold then.

  • Bet you feel the cold now

  • " Awe Vashti!!...... Brrrrrrrrrr....Yes! I remember the winter of 1963 I was working at the RSPCA Kennels in Birmingham. and even though the snow was feet high in drifts, we kennel staff still had to trudge our way in. and at one point it was so deep so bad that we all had to sleep with the dogs in the Kennels as nothing and know one was going anywhere, while every where was just one big white blanket seemingly covering everything as far as the eye could see. Yet!!... it was happy times, every pulled together, the one aim was for us I guess... And that was for us all to take care of each and everyone of us, dogs and other animals included. happy days Happy Memories really Hoping your doing okay Vashti.. have a lovely and warm weekend.... Megan"

  • too true Megan those were the days when we played as kids with no impunity or danger of being nabbed by a stranger I was only allowed out trussed like a prize turkey for 30 mins max

  • Just feeding and cleaning out must have been awful hard work Megan...wouldn't have much minded sleeping with the dogs though...they must have kept you warm.

  • I have a friend in Saskatoon Canada there it is -32 5 feet of snow and were it not the weekend her daughter would still go to school I think she said it has to be -40 and below before the infrastructure starts to close down due to diesel freezing there are additives to stop this but it is reserved for the emergency vehicles I remember the winters of 47 and 63 in 63 I was in a children's home the snow was so deep we could not get out of the front or back doors we used what was in place as fire exits a small hatch in the wall we crawled through and yes we did walk to school but were not allowed to keep our Welles on in class we had to take our shoes to change into and that was the ear the Ribble froze over at Preston with skiing and braziers selling hot chestnuts, happily we did not need to break the ice in the well we were the lucky ones we had central heating but I do remember my mother writing me at the time from York villages were cut off water pipes frozen and where the windows froze over that was how they stayed for a month the amusing part was mum telling me her and dad put their teeth into water at the side of their bed only to find them frozen solid the next morning thank god I never lived at home I would not have survived that cold winter as my chest problems were pretty advanced in those days so I actually never got sent out to school our form master was required to walk round to the home with enough homework for a month and that was exchanged when done.

  • I did giggle about the frozen it wasn't so funny though for your Mum and Dad...

    It must have been quite lonely if you were doing your schoolwork on your to you from Vashti xx

  • "Wow Anthony.. that's one story you tell of the winters of 47 and 63 I don't remember 47 as me and my twin sister had only just been born in 46, but I can still hear the stories our parents, grandparents even great grand parents as in those days family lived together in much larger numbers than they do today. Well look at me now Anthony, born into a large family and now living alone. well I have my Nell and Noah.. but you get my drift.. still tough days they where, but people where a lot ,more caring and sharing. talking of caring Anthony I do hope your resting up well as you have a big week ahead of you come Monday.. take good care yourself my friend and thank you so much for sharing your story. Yours and Vashti's , story's are so fascinating...... Megan."

  • well I must admit I am shattered today after all the fun and games at the hospital

  • Have loved reading this post and all its replies. Just to say Megan that I was born in 1954 and like you also have a twin sister :)

  • Bit of a struggle with my aging memory. We lived in rented accommodation in Farnborough. The house was built for the domestic staff of Empress Eugenie(?) who resided at Farnborough Abbey. We occupied part of it and struggled with the heating. It was so cold and no C/H. I recall taking a little two year old wearing a little red hooded suit and black wellies for a walk and she couldn't keep her balance on the black ice. Sweet memories. xx Best check the details so I could be back.

  • Pat on the back, I got my facts right!! xx

  • Empress Eugenie? Now that's posh!

  • Only do posh bods, Vashti. Meet them down at the local greasy spoon. xxx

  • So many memories! Chaffed legs and chilblains, cod liver oil and does anyone remember the 'orange' juice issued to all children in the UK. I think I disliked that as much as the cod liver oil. I do remember being taken to a diner dance that winter, probably my first grown up event. I was mortified my parents insisted I wore wellies :) Thank you Vashti for sharing, I can also recall the funny smell of hot water bottles !

  • Back in the 40's my hot water bottle was made of stone and my Mother used to wrap it in a towel before putting it in the bed. Most "funny" smells came from the "Valour" stoves that we had. I loved it when they were lit because they made patterns on the ceiling, and spending so much time in bed because of my manky lungs, I found that very comforting. No worries about carbon monoxide in those days!

  • We have one of those stone hot-water bottles! Don't use it though 'cos the stopper is worn through. And I remember those Valor stoves...the round ones that smoked like fury when they were running out of fuel or the wick needed trimming...

    You've been poorly for ages then Nikkers...

    Love from me

  • I've never thought of myself as poorly Vashti. I've had these manky lungs since I was a baby and just accepted how I was. I never went to school in the afternoons until I was 8 years old because I had to go to bed for 2 hours. That made the other kids jealous because they had to be at school. I spent a good many months over my childhood years in hospital having all kinds of treatments, tests and various trials - to no avail, because they never discovered what my disease was until the NHS was started. I have to say that I've led a pretty "normal" adult life and it's only these last few years that it's really began to limit me.

    Thank you for asking.


    Nikki XX

  • They did smell funny you know...but you could get new washers for the stopper!

    Forgotten about the orange juice...I think I must have liked it otherwise I'd remember...

  • HI I just remember 1963 as I was 9 then. I do remember building a snowman. But my overriding memory is going to a local park with my family and my mum stopping us rolling down the hills because she was worried we would fall into the frozen stream. We lived up north then so it was very cold and very snowy. But I don't remember being cold but we had to wear our hats and gloves etc. We kids were all very excited by it all and ran around happy as Larry!

    Another place we went was on a hill and we kids would toboggan down it. x

  • I too was nine years old,but lived in the northeast of Scotland,it snowed every winter.I was the one tasked with walking to the petrol garage to get the paraffin for the heater.Dad gave me money for the bus but that went on fags as I had just started smoking,it was warmer walking than waiting for the bus.Probably the walking did me good,the fags not so much lol.I would say happy days but they were,nt really. :D

  • They weren't really were they? I think our memories begin to glow after a while!

    Smoking at

  • We used tin dustbin lids as toboggans...fell off more times than we were crunched up on them

  • i remember that winter well, aye and a few other bad ones, i worked as a t,v aerial rigger [now called a posh technician :D] up the highest roofs in edinburgh and the outlying places in the lothians, and pylon masts etc.. hands sticking to the cold metal ,, yes even in the snow,, no work- no money... 6 no 7 [forgot about the wife :D ] mouths to feed,, but happier times playing with the kids with a simple pub/beer tray :) as a sledge [i emptied the tray first hic at that time :D] i turned the gas meter around,[very dangerous] so that it was reading backwards :D yes i was a bit of a lad then,, but when needs must,,,!!!, :D we had the warmest house in the street :) ,,,, and the cheapest heat in the street :D [till the gas man came :D]

    never a bit of thanks for it :D divorced about 25 years now,, reared 5 kids up that weren't my own ,, never see them,,, but one lovely daughter of my own, who keeps in touch,,, especially at christmas,, for her goodies lol:D shes is good to me too though,,at times lol :) so,, theres a good side to everything :D lots of love and kind wishes,,, jimmy :D xxxx

  • Oooo, Jimmy fancy turning the gas meter round...but you needed to be warm after all...

    I do hope you see your daughter over the and I'll give you a hug as well xxx

  • aye they were hard days then vashti :) they really were,

    truth is the gas folks got their own back :D :D the old gas meter was at the bottom corner of a cupboard in the kitchen, when the meter man knocked at the door,i told my wife not to open the door, and that he would be back shortly,, i then rushed to turn the meter the proper way ,in my rush/panic, i lifted my head in the cupboard , then split my head on the metal shelve above :D [never suffered brain damage :D ,, please don't answer that :D :D ] ,,,,but, yet another lesson learnt :D

    yes i shall look forward to seeing my daughter [gemma] over xmas, shes a lovely lass, :)

    thanks for the hug vashti, :) same back to you :) xxx

    kindest thoughts,, keep warm :D [the proper way :D ] a very tired jimmy tonight :) xxx

  • What memories........those jars of ," cold liver oil & malt ".

    We could have so easily been neighbours,..............but no.

    I got away light with that winter.I was a very young student nurse and

    living in the nurses res. ........I do remember it was a baptism into hard work.

    Only those living in the res were at work. In those days we did work.

    No sitting around doing paperwork all day long. ....or so it seems these days.

    Our rooms were small but lovely and warm, no ice on the panes.

    Our problem was in getting across the grounds to the various wards hanging on to our caps with one hand and our cloak with the other.

    What wonderful days they were, and yes we had a 'Hattie Jacques '

    type matron ,although not so large, who not only kept a beady eye on the patients and junior docs but also our hem lines.

    Happy days


  • And not going outside the ward with your apron on and we had frilled cuffs that went round our upper arms...must have looked like proper eejits!

  • At that hospital we youngsters had very starched thick linen

    ' cuffs'. Actually they buttoned onto the edge of our sleeve.

    They rubbed your arms raw.

    I wore the elasticated ruffs as a staff nurse . our dresses had long sleeves. Ruffs for up and deep stiff cuffs for down.

    Don't mention the could take flight with some I have worn. Where did you train.?


  • I was serving in the Royal Navy and was in the far east during that winter, but do remember the hard winter of 1947 when we had a load of snow . I know I am a silly old sod with lung cancer, but I still carry on smiling. Cheers Fred.

  • That was the year before I was born Fred! And does it matter one bit 'being a silly old sod' does not at

  • I love your stories Vashti, you should write a book! I can relate to most of the things you describe - except the school bus, I had to walk as it was far enough - but not too far! I distinctly remember our "family" GP telling my Mother (about me) "Oh, she won't make old bones!" But here I am still going strong and I'm sure that it was down to the way we lived back then? Todays' mollycoddled generation have hardly any immunity to anything. What with the "wonder" sprays for every room in the house that kill 99.99% of everything (except us) and stuff to put in the washing machine that'll finish off anything else that's left! When we were young, if one child came down with something, all the other children were encouraged to play with the sick one so they could get it as well and "have done" as the saying went. How times have changed, and not always for the better I fear?!

    Oh yes! I do remember the winter of 1963 - the SEA FROZE! Absolutely incredible to see, but don't want to see it again. I hate the cold. X

  • You've reminded me of having to go to 'chicken-pox parties'...the minute anyone caught something infectious we had to go there to catch it...I never did get

    Fancy the Dr telling your Mum's awful

  • I guess it does sound awful to tell someone that. But you have remember, this was our "private" family Doctor and I was a child that had been "adopted" by an elderly couple, much to the disapproval of those in close quarters! I heard her (the Dr) say it at the time, but only remembered it a few years ago when something was said which dug it out of the depth of my memory! It amuses me now to know how wrong she was. X

  • We went to school with scarf's and hats with a thick duffel coat and did not take them off the whole time we were at the school. and were taught with the teachers still in there outside clothes as the heating had broke down. The snow was so thick and solid we built an igloo on the school field. Could you imagine the H&S goblins allowing that now! We had a road by us that was nice and steep and no one could get a car up it so it was our own Cresta Run and sledging was king with our home made sledges with plenty of impaling points but you just got out the way it was part of the fun?

  • just wouldn't be allowed now...I think fun has been

  • I was 12 and remember building an eskimo style igloo which was massive and could get 4 of us in it. It stayed frozen solid for about 6 weeks and the school bus could not get through for 3 weeks because the only road was closed with a 10 foot drift. Happy Days, and simple pleasures.

  • It was alright for us children then wasn't it....we made our own pleasures!

  • I gave birth to our first son on 20th December that year.we lived in a terraced house with outside loo. Heating,hot water came from coal fires.with the temperature below freezing during the day my husband brought our bed and the cot downstairs and we slept with a fire on day and was 6weeks before I ventured out with the baby well wrapped to get him weighed at the welfare centre . wouldn't like another one like that. Joyce

  • Actually Joyce it sounds really cosy having bed and baby in the front room though I don't suppose it was much fun!

  • It was an anxious time with a new baby especially as he caught measles after his visit to the welfare clinic. But we all got through it. Cheers. Joyce

  • It was an anxious time with a new baby especially as he caught measles after his visit to the welfare clinic. But we all got through it. Cheers. Joyce

  • I remember it very well well indeed.

    I particularly remember the kids on our estate built a proper igloo out of blocks of 12-inch thick ice sawn from the rivers Ember & Mole ...... & from the the local garden ponds. That igloo was still melting weeks after the snow had thawed.

    Lino on the bedroom floor was really cold. Single glazed metal casement windows ..... the inside of the bedroom windows would ice-up just like a car window. No central heating, just a funny little coal stove with a small back-boiler for a bit of hot water. Oh, & no loft insulation at all .... I don't think it was invented in those days. No draft excluder stuff either. & smog, just like they're getting in China now.

    Hands & feet so cold it would make you cry. Little bottles of silver-top milk warming up on the school radiators, to drink in the first morning break.

    .... Yes, I remember it all so well ........ & they call them the good old days.

  • And that school milk tasted horrible when it was slightly lukewarm!

  • we got over cold lino making Peg rugs something we enjoyed as it kept us warm in winter with the rugs in progress on our laps

  • Did that too Anthony with mums old coats cut up. Nothing wasted in those days even veg pealings we put on the fire at bed time to stopit going out so we had some hot water in themorning. Joyce

  • in those days we had a 'Yorkist range' two ovens one each side and one across the fire this one was reserved on Monday and Thursday for breadmaking, other times just for drying out wet boots or shoes and for warming our scarfs and mittens ready to brave the cold we also had this massive kettle that hung on a hook over the fire that kettle was never dry and rarely cold for long.

  • I make those now! Mostly from sheets and duvet covers I get really cheaply from charity shops...

  • I was living in Buffalo New York that year and they have snow for months on end...they know how to live with it though - st like the Canadians! I remember the first time I had icicles in my nose...couldn't believe it! I adored snow and the most favourite winter of my life was in 1947 when everything closed down because of snow...I was a child and thought it was heaven! We lived in London and my Mum would have to go down to the basement to get the coal and there was a huge shortage of coal then - - never thought about all the hard work it caused her during that winter. I just thought it was magical and we played in the streets all day long. Have loved snow ever since. I used to say I hope it would snow on mywedding day - guess what? it did! I got married in Canada in March and it was snowing. :) Stay warm everyone :)

  • It sounds wonderful the way you describe it, but personally I hate the snow!

  • I always think how calm and peaceful the world looks with snow falling and the countryside covered in white and everything so quiet.......Peace :)

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