There was a photograph taken in 1956. A loving father had posed his 2 little girls who were wearing their full winter gear. The girls stand on the back porch of their home in Ann Arbor, MI. If you had been a passerby, I expect that you would have found the scene very endearing. Maybe you would have muttered, “how cute”. Maybe you would have just walked past with a new smile on your face. A father delighting in his sweet children was a good thing to witness.
My sister and I were the 2 little girls in the photo. She was 4 years old at that time and I was a toddler at the age of 2. The wonderment is that when I describe our outfits that were so overly heavy and bulky, that the carry away impression is still so stinkin’ cute.
Imagine, if you will, my sister is in a girl’s brown heavy weight woolen coat that reaches to just above the knees and flares at the bottom. It has 2 large pockets on the front of the coat and is closed with 3 big over sized buttons. Worn underneath this coat are a matching pair of woolen snow pants that are fitted with shoulder straps and a bib front. Her dress had to be shoved down inside of the snow pants. The hat, which was part of the same coordinated set, was actually more of a tie-on wool bonnet with a big front brim and unbelievably thick straps. Once the hat was tied on under her chin, it was difficult to have room for a simple nod. But wait, there is also a muffler (now called a scarf) that also had to fit around the neck. The outfit was completed by adding a pair of knit mittens tied to a string. The rubber boots in this ensemble made up their own story. You see, you wore your street shoes and had to pull on your boots over your shoes! How? There was a trick. That trick seems more like a tall tale than the truth. You had to pull a plastic wonder bread bag over your shoes and then yank the boot until it fit over the shoes. Then you had to do a strange boot dance as you hopped around trying to assure that the heel of your shoe was fully engaged inside of the boot.
In the photo, at 2 years old, I was wearing a more sensible one piece snowsuit. The snow suit must have been sold as a set, because the bonnet style winter hat (there was no hood) displayed all of the design elements from the silky snow suit. My boots were red. Were all girl’s boots red in the 50’s? Again, like all boots they had to be placed on over my shoes. To be exact, my lace up Buster Brown sturdy walking shoes.
In 1959, 3 years after the photo I just described, my father posed me once again in a winter scene for a photograph. I was 5 years old. I was smiling “to beat the band.” My delight was because my sister, neighbor friends, and I had just completed an architectural marvel. A nearly 10 foot long snow tunnel. You had to crawl through the tunnel on your belly, but somehow it was just wonderful. The fashions had already changed from 1956 to 1959. In the more recent of the photos, my waist length snow jacket has a hood. My hands are bare in the photo, but you can see that both pockets seem overstuffed with what I presume must have been my mittens. I must have proven myself able to keep track of my mittens, because there are no longer strings or clips attached to my sleeves. Oh…and the boots are still the brightest of bright red color.
This photo is from 1959
Oh, how great were the winter weather looks from the 1970’s. In still another photo taken by my father, I was sporting the very popular winter faux fur puff ball hat with big pom-pom ties. Hard to understand now, but at the time that was a very fashionable look! During this time era, I was a skier. On the slopes, I also sported corduroy knickers worn with tall woolen socks. The knickers always had a fancy leather strap and metal buckle to keep them tight at the bottom which was just below knee level. A thick ski sweater was made from scratchy wool but kept you warm on the slopes. Frequently, you could wear your stirrup pants underneath the other clothing as an additional layer of warmth. The 70’s was also the first time that I remember wearing thermal long underwear.
I suppose the reason that I have so many photos of my winter garments was because my father loved being outdoors in all of the seasons. Every winter, he poured an ice rink in our backyard. Starting in my teens, we went to the ski slopes and we had always taken winter hikes through the quiet woods surrounding our home. My father pointed at the various trees and told us their names. We listened to the birds and knew who was “talking.”
I grew up loving winter. That makes me a sort of odd duck. After all, I mostly hear folks grumble and complain about the cold. I just bundle up and go out. Of course, I am very grateful that boots advanced to the point that no wonder bags need to used to put them on.
I hope you like winter too. I hope you see children playing in the snow and smile.