Bragging Rights, Fun & Games
Cochrane, ON, located at the transition point between subarctic and humid continental climate zones, is a happy place, proud of its cold winters. I lived there from 1941 to 1946 and remember them vividly.

  • The railway junction and District seat didn’t have a weather station; radio reports lumped us in with Timmins, 30 miles to the west. We adopted the bragging rights of Iroquois Falls, 30 miles to the south. A temperature of – 58.3 C ( – 72.9 F) there on Jan. 23, 1935 was the lowest  in Ontario and fifth lowest in Canada.
  • The sun shone and the snow was dry, white and deep. It crunched like crazy when you walked on it but you didn’t just walk. For variety you held your foot out and ran it back and forth to uncover or form ice so you could zip along faster. All was safe and silent on the residential streets.
  • We girls lay on our backs in the snow and ‘flew’ with our outspread arms and legs flapping up and down to leave the impression of an angel. The trick was to try to jump back up on both feet at once without leaving any exit marks.
  • To play tag, we first made a ‘pie’ in the snow by running around behind each other in single file to make a huge circle. Then we bisected and quartered the pie to make paths where we could chase and catch each other. If you lost balance and made a footprint in the unbroken snow, you were “out”.
  • The arena was the busiest place in town, full of would-be hockey stars and figure skaters. Men on curling teams wore jackets that looked like Hudson’s Bay blankets.

Cochrane 001School, Frozen Noses & a Calamity

My sister, Enid, attacked my sister, Tanis, with a snowball but she was a survivor. School was never once closed because of the weather; if we’d had snow days no one could have got any kind of education.

  • After we made it to school on a terribly cold day, we stayed in the lobby to inspect each other’s faces for signs of frostbite. If you saw a white spot on someone’s nose, ear or cheek, you massaged it gently with an open palm until it became red again, a sign that circulation had been restored.
  • The Principal, Mr. Marwick, stood at the door glancing outside to see who still hadn’t arrived. He kept his finger on the electric bell and didn’t press it until the last straggler was in.
  • One cold day Tanis was hurrying to school along the curve in the road, keeping close to the 15-foot slope down to the frozen lake on her right. She heard bells, a clatter, pounding hooves and a “Neigh-h-h” behind her and realized she’d better get out of the way fast. It was good she and her friend, Mimi Duranceau, were Cochrane High School’s championship tumbling team.
  • The empty flatbed the horse was pulling jackknifed and went over the slope, scooping up and dispersing everything in its path as the terrified horse galloped by. Mr. Marwick saw the drama and yelled, “That kid! She must be dead! It’s Tanis!”
  • My big sister did not die but she suffered from a concussion. She had flown through the air of her own accord and managed to tumble right down the snowy slope without getting whacked by the fast-moving ‘tram’. cochrane3World War Two & Our Stars 
  • The boys fought off the Germans and Japanese with BB guns in hand-made snow forts. We were all sober, patriotic participants in the effort to achieve Victory. Food, soap and gas were rationed; we bought war savings stamps and volunteered to do errands for the Red Cross.
  • All the high school boys belonged to the cadet corps and drilled daily along the peninsula where the school was located. You can be sure Tim Horton, the future NHL player and donut-chain namesake is marching in this platoon. Another notable native son, Don McKinnon O.C., is there too. He discovered the Hemlo Lake site where three major gold mines are located. Michael Barnes wrote a book about him called “The Scholarly Prospector.”
  • Incidentally, Enid was Timmy’s girlfriend and got to use his stick on the girls’ hockey team.


Main Street’s Winter Wonderland
Main Street turned into a fun place in winter. Three fires — in 1910, 1911 and 1916 — had burned it down and each time it was rebuilt with the two sides farther apart. This was so the flames could not hop from one side to another.

  • The plows had to clear it as if it were two streets, and leave a big snow bank in the center. It was always fun to cross over , especially when the bank became more than 10 feet tall. A polished, shiny, icy track formed from the heat of pedestrian traffic. The paths became steps on the way up and slippery slides on the way down.
  • There were no cars (only delivery horses pulling trams) to run into.
  • No one even tried to keep a car running in winter, except travelling salesmen who parked in front of the hotels on Albert Street opposite the railway station. Family cars were put up on wooden blocks in garages or sheds with their wheels removed. A lot of ‘snowbirds’ drove south instead.


Intrepid Parents, Fashion & Climate

  • My parents were very good sports about the Cochrane winters and never let them be an excuse for not going out of doors for a brisk walk, visit or church service.
  • The right hats helped them survive and enjoy the winter weather. Father bought a fur cap especially for Cochrane. Mother’s unique cadet-style hat was custom-made from ermine pelts by a Cochrane tailor. (That is another story which I tell in A Book of Kells.)
  • Mother always stated a good cloth (wool) coat was as warm as a fur one. Synthetic fabrics did not exist in those days. She never wore pants but was delighted to discover cotton ‘over-stockings’ which she could pull up over her silk ones.
  • The exhilaration continues. The average Cochrane temperature from Dec., 2016 to Feb., 2017 was – 22.6 C  ( – 8.7 F) and the record low was – 47 C ( – 52.6 F).

Happy Reading & Writing from CozyBookBasics!