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Was Winter Really Worse ‘Back In The Day?’

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(credit: CBS) Matt Brickman
Matt Brickman mans the weather wall on WCCO This Morning, Monday thru...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’ve all heard something like this from our parents or grandparents: “When I was a kid, I walked to school in three feet of snow — up hill, both ways.” But was winter really as bad as they remember? Matt Brickman went to find out.

“We had a cold snap a week ago, but other than that, it’s been pretty much plain vanilla as far as I can tell,” said Ron Iverson, a Texas transplant who has lived in Minnesota since the early 1980s.

Asking around the Edina Senior Center, you won’t find many people particularly impressed with our winter.

“We’re down here in the Twin Cities, isn’t that the Florida of Minnesota, I think they called it?” asked Rusty Wivell.

Wivell knows cold. He grew up in Taconite, an iron mining community, in a house heated only by a wood stove.

“I remember it being so cold that when my mother would bring me up a glass of water before I went to sleep and if I didn’t drink it all, it’d be frozen in the morning,” said Wivell.

Growing up in a house without insulation, Wivell got used to the cold quickly.

“We thought nothing of it,” Wivell said. “It was just that our feet and toes and fingers would get frozen and so forth. But, it was just normal to play hockey in the -20°F weather.

It may sound like an exaggeration, but in 1937, when Wivell was six, there were 11 days in January where temps fell to -20°F on the Iron Range, twice plunging to -40°F.

This year has been another cold one in Taconite. Halfway through January, there have already been six days of -20°F or colder.

But, it’s not just Iron Rangers who are tough.

Nancy Pennington grew up going to Edina Public Schools where a strict dress code for girls proved challenging on the half-mile walk to school.

“Only when it was -20°F were we able to wear pants to school. And so, it was mighty cold when we walked through the snow drifts and such to go to school,” Pennington said.

Pennington also remembers the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 that forced her father to take some drastic measures.

“We were snowed in for three days, because they didn’t have the plowing like they do now, and finally we ran out of milk and he skied to the store to get milk,” Pennington said.

With memories like that, you can understand why people like Wivell and Pennington bristle when they hear us complain about the cold this winter.

“They’re a bunch of wussies,” Wivell said.

Extra: Slideshow Of Minn. Winter Photos From The Minn. Historical Society

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