Monday, January 7, 2008

Winter in San Diego - Memories

Miriam Midkiff on her Ancestories 2: Stories of Me for My Descendants blog has added a new prompt - WINTER. I promised myself that I would write about all of her prompts so that my memories would be available for my progeny to read until time immemorial. My hardy and hearty readers will read it before them! So here goes:

1) What has been your attitude toward winter? Is it "the weather outside is frightful" or "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow"?

It has always been "We need the rain, I hope it comes during the night" and "Will it ever snow again in San Diego? Maybe this year!" and "On a clear day, you can see forever." Besides, it's football playoff season followed by baseball spring training.

2) What are or were your favorite outdoor winter activities? Some ideas to jog your memory include sledding, skiing, skating, snowshoeing, snowball fights, or making snowmen. Where did you go to do these activities? Did you ever have an accident participating in any of the more active sports?

On warm winter days, we would sometimes go to the beach, make sand castles, watch the waves, hunt for neat shells and watch the birds skitter across the wet sand. On cold and clear winter days, we kids would go for a brisk walk ... to the neighbor, to the park or maybe to the zoo. On rainy days, we kids would stay inside and work with our stamp and coin collections, and play with our electric train.

Sledding? Skiing? Skating? Snowball fights? Making snowmen? Those don't compute for a San Diego kid - never done them in San Diego. Several times when I was a youth, the church group took us to the mountains for play in the snow - sliding on trash can lids or cardboard and snowball fights. Fun. Wet. Cold.

3) What are or were your favorite indoor winter activities? Did you play board games or cards, listen to the radio or watch TV, do puzzles or needlework, read books and magazines, or write letters, journals, or stories?

As a kid, we played lots of board games and card games, and did puzzles. There was no radio or TV programs worth dealing with - I know I read a lot of books.

4) What do you remember about winter clothing in your childhood? Do you have any stories to tell about long johns, snow suits or snow pants, a favorite or unfavorite pair of boots? Did you wear a pair of mittens with a string connecting them around your neck?

Well, in San Diego we usually wore long pants in the winter and a light jacket over our shirt on most days. When it rained, we sometimes wore a poncho and a rain hat. My wife bought me long johns early in our marriage and I don't think I've worn them yet. I do keep gloves and a stocking cap in my trench coat which is wadded up in the trunk of my car. I haven't worn it for several years.

5) Did anyone ever make you hats, scarves, mittens or sweaters to wear? Were they knitted or crocheted?

Nobody made us anything - it was all store bought. We had mittens and sweaters and stocking caps, but no scarves.

6) What were your favorite winter foods or drinks? Some ideas include soups, stews, casseroles, hot chocolate, tea, or hot buttered rum.

I love soup, stew, casseroles and hot chocolate. Those are winter foods? I don't drink coffee or tea or hot liquor drinks. I love macaroni and cheese, steak, ice cream and chocolate.

7) How about the cold? Did you ever get frostbite? Did you ever take a dare and stick your tongue on something metal? Was your bedroom cold at night in the winter? How did you stay warm at night...with an electric blanket, a bedwarming pan, or hot potatoes at the foot of your bed under the covers?

I've never come close to frostbite, except on the cruise ship in College Fjord in Alaska in August, which probably doesn't count as winter. It was 35 F, with a stiff wind and a fine mist. My forehead (no cap) had a layer of frost.

Why would I stick my tongue on something metal? Probably has germs...

My folks left the wall heater on low overnight when it was cold, and we have always had central heating in our houses. No electric blanket, or warming pan (huh?), or hot potatoes (huh?). Just socks and another blanket.

8) What big storms or hard winters do you have memories or stories of?

I posted a whole blog about Snow in San Diego here. That's what I remember!

9) If you lived in areas that get little to no snow during the winter, what are or were your winters like? Windy and rainy? Warm or hot? Did you wish for snow, or were you glad you didn't get any? If it did occasionally snow, did the bad weather shut down your community? Do you remember the first time you saw snow? What did you think of it?

Yep, that's us! Little or no snow. Some or little rain. In San Diego, winter days vary greatly - rainy, cloudy without rain, partly cloudy, sunny, sometimes windy. Occasionally, we get Santa Ana winds with warm or cold temperatures - it depends how far north the high pressure area is over the Great Basin. When it is clear overnight, it can get down to freezing - once or twice each year. For instance, today the high was 60 F, last night the low was 50 F, the record high was 83 F in 2006, the record low was 28 F in 1913. We typically get an average of 10 inches of rain between October and April. Two years ago, we had 20 inches with no fires and lots of greenery. Last year it was less than 3 inches and the brush dried out and over 500 square miles of the county burned. This year we are at normal levels, which is good - too much rain and the burn areas will slide down the hills, too little and the rest of the county will burn next year.

10) Do you remember stories from your parents, grandparents, or other family members or old timers of big storms or hard winters of the past?

I do remember my father saying he never wanted to see snow again - he had shoveled too much of it in Massachusetts as a youth and young adult (he came to San Diego in the winter of 1940 and never went back). I never heard stories about storms or hard winters from my Massachusetts grandmother- I only met her once, and it was summer. My grandmother spent 12 years in Chicago, but I don't recall hearing anything from her. My grandfather was born and raised and lived his life in San Diego where we had only the occasional cold spell.

My Aunt Gerry talked about sledding down the hill in Leominster right into the middle of Central Street, but that was in the 1920's. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask weather questions of my father, uncle and aunts. Drat.

11) Do you have any photos of your ancestors outdoors in the winter, or of their homes or automobiles covered with snow? What about photos of ancestral horses and sleighs?

Nope, no photos of snow, sleighs or ancestral horses (of course, I don't have a horse in my ancestry, does anyone besides Mr. Ed?).

You will be amazed to know that the two places that I've been the coldest are Orlando, Florida and Laa Vegas, Nevada. In January 1982, I was in Orlando for an engineering convention and stayed with my Aunt Gerry for a weekend. This was the weekend that the Chargers lost 27-7 to Cincinnati in - 27 F wind chill and QB Dan Fouts got frostbite in his fingers trying to throw the rock. The temp in Orlando was 20 F and the wind was blowing. Then, in the early 90s we took Tami's travel softball team to Las Vegas for a post-Christmas tournament. We had to play in 15 F weather - the girls wore mittens under their ball gloves and wore several layers under their jerseys. Coach Randy was out there in the 3rd base coaches box in his polyester pants and team windbreaker. Cool. We won! I've been in Yosemite, Portland, Topeka and Boston in the winter when it was cold with snow in the air and on the ground, but it was always warmer than 20 F.

Now I can hear many of my readers and fellow genea-bloggers laughing out loud and saying "Boy howdy, that Randy has sure missed out on a major part of life because he didn't live where there was more than one season." And I probably have missed out on many boring days inside trying to stay warm and dry, many walks or rides to school in the cold and flakes, many snowball fights, some ice skating crashes, some sledding mishaps and the like. I've never had to drive with tire chains or snow tires.

My best memory of winter in San Diego is during a Santa Ana several years ago. It was crystal clear, and we went out to the end of Point Loma and could see 100 miles to the north and 50 miles to the east. There were snow capped mountains out there - from Mount Baldy above Ontario (we can see just the top of it due to the Earth's curvature), to Mount San Jacinto above Palm Springs, to Mounts Palomar, Cuyamaca and Laguna in San Diego County. Majestic. Awe inspiring. Breathtakingly beautiful. I will try to go take a picture from this spot the next time these conditions present themselves. From the ocean, to the city, to the mountains white with snow ... I love San Diego winters.

1 comment:

GEM said...

Great post! What a way to write about your experience of winter from a specific geographic place -way more interesting than dry reportage of weather conditions. I love your off-handed humour, too. This was a good read, thanks. G