I grew up on the southwest side of the Olympics. We spent most of the rest of the year preparing for winter. We had wood heat and started cutting our annual wood supply in the spring so we would have enough dry wood and kindling to carry us through the following spring.
Power lines ran through tall timber for much of their length, so we could expect to lose power if there was a storm. Father helped put the pole line for our local REA system in 1935. Prior to that, we used kerosene lamps or Coleman lanterns for light. We still have a supply of those lamps, candles and flashlights in case the power goes out.
Mother had a Monarch range in the kitchen that heated the stove top, oven and water back on the wood-burning side, and electrical cooktop and coils that also heated the oven. She could cook and heat water quite conveniently whether the power was on or not. That and the lights were all that we used the power for until Father dug a well and put in an electric pump in the early ‘50s.
When we built our current home in the early ‘90s, we put in a wood stove to back up the electric heat.
One December, we had a winter family gathering and it started to snow midafternoon. After about an hour, it looked serious, so the families headed home. A little after dark, our daughter called from a kind neighbor’s home, just west of Minter Creek on 302, to ask if I’d come and get them.
There was compact snow on the roadway, and they’d been waiting for two hours for the road crew to clear the road. They hadn’t arrived and no sign that it would be soon.
I got the chains on our Ford Fiesta and headed out. Compact snow covered the road. Cars were in the ditch, crosswise of the road, hanging over the edge of the shoulder, all empty, the occupants having left in search of shelter.
It took until 11:30 p.m. to get three carloads of family home. We slept 21 people here that night.
Another time, a tree fell across our private road and we had to wait for the Peninsula Light crew to deal with the power lines. Our visiting families stayed over. No lights or running water, but we had stored water, lamps and candles. Water heated on the woodstove provided baths in our big kitchen sinks for two little ones.
A bathtub makes a good reservoir. We stuck 5-gallon buckets under the downspouts for washing and toilet flushing, as there was plenty of snow melting off the roof.
We do winter storm prep year around, and that habit has helped us many times.
Frank Slater, retired math teacher and Korean War veteran, lives in Vaughn.
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