Tuques still as popular as ever

When I was 11 years old, I started delivering papers along First Street with my brother in the middle of January.
We both went to Robert Moore School. School days did not end until 4 p.m. back then, and all the carriers would run/walk to the Times’ office, which was then located on Church Street where the Canada Customs facility now stands.
It was almost a mile to pick up our papers. So, too, was the distance the kids in the west end travelled.
It was much later that the Times began dropping off papers throughout town for its carriers.
My parents worried abut us being warm. We were outfitted in felt boots, over which rubber boots were worn.
My Grandmother Cumming knit us warm woollen socks, as well as tuques. I think the tuques went the whole winter without ever being washed.
And we didn’t have a spare. Gloves and mitts may have gone missing, but never a tuque.
Every tuque had a fluffed out ball on top. But by the end of winter, that ball probably had fallen off.
Lined corduroy pants and long underwear helped keep us warm. ?
As well, both of my grandmothers knit us mitts that would fit inside leather outers.
Our hands were always warm and when we finally wore gloves, we were disappointed that we found our fingers getting cold.
Everyone wore tuques. They weren’t the fashion statement of today, but were solidly knit and everyone at school wore one. We’d take them off entering the school and our hair stood on end.
Traditional colours were browns and navies for boys while the tuques that girls wore were white, or perhaps red.
We cuffed the tuques at the bottom to put a double layer of wool over our ears to keep warm. Our hockey teams played on the outdoor rinks and under the leather helmets, we wore our tuques. That was the lining that kept our heads safe.
Papers were delivered in darkness from the beginning of December through to the middle of February, when daylight finally started sticking around in the early evening. I don’t ever remember being too cold delivering papers, but I remember always being glad to be able to drop off that final one in the arena manager’s office ,and just become slightly warmed, before walking that last block home.
I remembered all of this on one of our nightly walks. I have dug out a fleece tuque that was one of my sons when they were growing up. I can throw the hood of my jacket over my head—and the bite of the northwest wind is blunted.
I am warm.
When the wind stands still, tuques more than provide warmth for these cold January nights. The cloudless night skies of this past week has seen the full cold January moon lighting the roads and sidewalks.
Modern fibres have replaced my felt shoes. Overshoes were replaced long ago with boots that now repel water.
Times have changed, and new fabrics have come along to keep us warm. Yet the old-fashioned tuque, which has been used for centuries, is as popular as ever in keeping our heads warm.

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