Burlingtonians have established a reputation for their generosity in helping to feed the hungry in Third World countries.
However, the book Burlington Firsts, by Ray Mifflin, reports that even the village of Wellington Square, which Burlington was called in a previous incarnation, once suffered a mild famine.
The popular song June in January wasn’t introduced by Bing Crosby in the movie Here Is My Heart until 1934, but the notion could have been reversed in 1816 when the growing season was set back by an incredible pair of June snowstorms.
Severe frost in early September further shortened the growing season in Burlington and limited the supply of fruits and vegetables.
The year 2018 arrived with freezing temperatures and weather forecasters say the thermometer will not be rising much for the remainder of January.
Annual New Year’s Day dips in Lake Ontario by members of the Polar Bear Club were cancelled this year in both Oakville and Hamilton.
Trent and Todd Courage, founders of the dip at Coronation Park, were worried about participants slipping on the ice that had formed on the edge of the lake.
The Hamilton event, generally held behind the Hutch’s on the Beach hotdog and hamburger location, cited similar reasons for the cancellation there.
In late 1976 and early 1977, a 51-day stretch of sub-zero chills lasted from Dec. 21 to Feb. 9. According to Environment Canada the coldest temperature ever recorded in Burlington in January was -29.4 C on Jan. 23, 1976.
Normally Lake Ontario freezes only around the edges, but ice usually forms in Burlington Bay. In 1851 a team of horses hauling a load of cordwood across the bay to Hamilton crashed through the ice.
That didn’t discourage horse owners in the area, though. Incredibly in 1863, a harness racing meet was held on the frozen bay to mark the wedding of the Prince of Wales. And the races continued for years after that.
Long before refrigerators were in vogue, hired men cut blocks of ice from the bay and stored them in straw in ice houses along the shoreline to preserve food during the summer.
The ice-harvesting season was short, running from mid-January through February.
Wintry weather contributed to some tragedies, nevertheless.
On the morning of Feb. 12, 1894, a snowstorm hit Wellington Square and blew for 24 hours, creating a pile of ice 20 feet high and reaching out100 feet into Lake Ontario. There were snowdrifts 12 feet deep on shore.
The Brant Inn was severely damaged by a fire on Jan. 26, 1941. It was caused by an overheated furnace and aided by a 40 mile per hour gale that swept across Lake Ontario.
The day before the 1950 Grey Cup there were winds as high as 50 miles per hour in Burlington and 10 inches of snow fell on the town, even though it was only Nov. 24.
Residents of Van Wagner’s Beach in Hamilton had to get out of their cottages when waves 15 feet high came in off the lake.
The next day snow, which also blanketed Toronto, melted and turned Varsity Stadium into a quagmire. The game in which the Argonauts defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is referred to as the ‘Mud Bowl’. Rain fell throughout the entire game.
A few days before Christmas in 1950, ice-coated firefighters from the Burlington Beach and Stoney Creek brigades stayed up all night battling a blaze that started shortly after midnight on Dec. 15 at the Beach Bungalow school. As a result students got an extended Christmas vacation.
As early as 1935 Burlington had its own ski resort, just a short 15-minute drive from downtown. The Cedar Springs Ski Club, 14 kilometres to the north, was founded by W.D. Flatt, for whom Flatt Road in Aldershot is named.
At one time there was and 85-foot-high ski jump there, as well as 78 cabins and, because the temperature was 10 to 15 degrees lower than the downtown area the snow stayed around much longer.
The club had more than 2,000 members at its peak.