Looking Back


Winter Weather has NOT Changed!


Back in 1916, the school register from Beaupré School shows that cold weather was a problem then too. On January 11 and 12 (Tuesday and Wednesday), Mr. Pineo noted "Extremely Cold" and showed none of his 33 students (grades 1 – 8) in attendance. The following week must have been OK with most of the students there but the week of January 24 – 28, he wrote "School Closed account of extreme cold".

A couple of years later, on January 20, 1918 Mr. Priestley wrote "Stormy weather – no schoolchildren". Attendance before and after that day seems to be normal.


Kids (and teachers) walked to school, wearing very heavy clothing. If they were lucky, they got a ride on a horse-driven cutter. For the "family" trip to town for supplies, besides heavy clothing, the cutter or sleigh was well equipped with heavy blankets, probably a footwarmer or hot rocks or maybe a mini-stove.

Mrs. Betty Ulmer taught at Bilby School and travelled in winter on a horse-drawn cutter. She and her children went to school, cuddled up under a blanket made of horsehide. This 5-foot square blanket is lined with heavy blanket-like fabric then trimmed with felt decorative edging. The blanket is heavy - weighs over 20 pounds! Mrs. Ulmer and her family used this blanket from 1938 until 1956.


Horsehair Blanket

Horsehair blanket

Horsehair blanket used to keep Mrs. Ulmer and her children warm
riding in the cutter to Bilby School.
This was also used in the wagon when going to Onoway for supplies.
(In this photo, the blanket is warming a pew from the Old Anglican Church.)


The crockery footwarmer was filled with very hot water.
It could be used in the cutter or at home in bed.

When Edmonton went through an extended cold period in 1969, the Edmonton Journal gave out certificates to commemorate the "Deepfreeeze".


Deepfreeze Certificate 1969Onoway held its first ice carnival on February 1, 1974. An article in The Reporter reported that "an estimated 400 spectators braved bitter 30 below zero weather to watch Onoway's first real ice carnival. They left two hours later, their hearts warmed with pride, their faces aglow with pleasure. They had watched some 96 children ... perform for the first time."


So Onoway area residents have been dealing with extremely cold weather since the first days of settlement. We are tough! We chose to live here and take cold weather in our stride – right?


Deepfreeze certificate 1969

The temperature went all the way up to -6˚F twice during this "Deepfreeze".

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Last updated: March 3, 2019