Winter, and the cold that it produces, makes Dakota a harsh place to live for several months of the year. But the people who have lived here have adapted to its trials. Far too often, winter is painted as a brutal, unforgiving time, but in actuality, winter can be a time of great beauty and mystery, a time to slow down and prepare for the coming seasons. During the early settlement period, those living here found the winters of Dakota a harsh reality and a battle between life and death. It was truly a struggle for survival. Today, we are better equipped and able to deal with winter’s harshness. Although winter still has its ability to be deadly today, these months are more about enduring rather than survival.
With the opening of hostilities during WWII, Sioux Falls was selected as a site for an Army Air Base to teach radio operation. The Radio Training School as it was known was opened in 1942 near the present site of the Sioux Falls Airport. The men were housed in frame barracks covered with tar paper and no insulation. The heating source was a smoky coal heater in the center of the room. The coal heaters not only failed to keep the barracks warm, they also caused health problems such as coal soot pneumonia, a respiratory disease from breathing in too much coal soot. Learn more about the conditions of the soldiers by coming to the exhibit!
The shanty was made from finished cut lumber and was sometimes covered on the outside by tar paper that was held on by wood lath. While waterproof during the rains of summer, the home offered little in the way of insulation during the winter. Heating these homes utilized a number of localized heating devices — fireplaces, stoves, and room heaters — where a fuel source is burned right on the spot to warm an area. Come to the exhibit to find what types of fuels were burned!
Winter travel can always be a challenge, even today. Early modes of transportation left a person very much exposed to the elements. In addition to dressing warmly, travelers did what they could to heat things up. A lap robe of buffalo or horse hide provided an extra layer of insulation against the cold in an open sleigh or carriage. Rocks and foot warmers were heated, and then placed in pockets or on the floor of a carriage or sleigh to keep hands and feet warm.
The toboggan, which was originally a functional device invented by Native Americans to transport large loads over long distances, evolved into a mostly recreational winter toy. A revival in the interest of outdoor sports in the early 1900s brought about the popularity of the Flexible Flyer, the most notable name in sleds today. Families would either sled on neighborhood hilly streets or find a nearby hill. Today some of the popular hills are in Tuthill and Spellerberg Parks.