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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Dec 23, 2016

Here it is Christmas week and a time for warm memories. My warmest Christmas memories are from the mid- to late-1950s when I was around the age of 10.

My mother grew up in southern Minnesota and traveled on the railroad to northern Iowa where she had been hired as a school teacher.

The school was located in the town where my dad lived with his family on a farm.

Both my parents came from large families, but there was a difference.

My mother’s brothers and sisters married and stayed in southern Minnesota, except for her younger brother who never married.

My dad was the only one of the four brothers who married. He had three sisters who had small families so cousins on my dad’s side were few.

However, cousins on my mother’s side were numerous and close together in age. I was about in the middle of the cousins in terms of age.

As a result, Christmas gatherings on my mother’s side of the family were a big deal with lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins plus her father and his bachelor brother.

In case you are wondering, that makes a total of four bachelor uncles and one bachelor great-uncle.

For many years, Christmas Eve was the traditional Christmas gathering for my mother’s side of the family and we filled that farm house just north of the Iowa-Minnesota state line.

Getting there was about a 40-minute ride each way as most of the road to get there was gravel at that time.

You are probably thinking that what I have just described is the warm memory, which it is, but not the warmest memory from that time of my life.

Not surprisingly, Christmas Eve was a cold night’s ride in the 1954 Pontiac, then the 1956 Chevrolet, and the 1957 Pontiac.

It was a cold ride there, but it seemed the ride home was longer, plus my sisters and I were tired from our big evening.

When it was late and time to get ready to return home, my dad would go outside and start the car so it would be warm before we left.

Here comes the warm memory.

These cars from the ’50s all had their heaters under the front seat. Once the engine was warm and the coolant started circulating in the heater core under the seat, there was a lot of heat. It was a radiant heat, much like sitting next to a fire.

Of course, a warm car mixed with a late hour after a lot of fun meant we were sleeping within minutes and for my dad, the driver, it was a quiet ride home.

When the ’57 Pontiac was traded in for a new Ford in 1963, we saw the heat came out of a vent located above the transmission tunnel, just below the dash.

Under seat heaters disappeared because cars were going to lower profiles and lowering the front seat meant there was no room for the heater under it.

Another warm memory of the under seat heater was when it was first used each fall, a spring and summer’s worth of dust had settled on it.

When it was first turned on in the fall, the dust would rise with the warm air, enough dust that there would be coughing by the car’s occupants.

If we thought ahead, we would open the windows first.

Then there was not a problem until the next fall when it happened all over again.

Is it possible there will be day when one of my grandchildren shows me their brand new SUV and says, “Look, they put the heater under the seat. It works really well. Isn’t that a great idea?”

Yes, it is.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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