1996 Escort Transmission problems

Hello, I have a 1996 escort wagon with strange auto transmission behavior. Sometimes during the summer months but mostly during the winter; the transmission will start off in 3rd gear from a stop and wont go any higher or lower. If I drive it around for a while, it will suddenly shift into 4th then the transmission will act normally for a while then for no reason will just suddenly start off in 3rd gear from a dead stop. It has been doing this for about 8 months now. 146k miles. I have tried shifting through all the gears manually. It will drop down into first when I put the lever there, but when I move the lever back up into drive, it goes right back into 3rd. Help plz

When was the last time the transmission fluid was changed?