Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Thursday, March 8, 2012


We met with a couple from our church last night and we were talking about the "old" days -- the 40s and 50s.  We are the same ages (he and his wife, Alan and I), and the subject of coal furnaces came up.  That reminded me...

When I was a little girl -- before the early 50s -- we had a coal furnace.  I love that heater, although I'm sure my dad and mom didn't. 

I loved it because the floors were always warm -- big pipes in the basement pushing the hot air into the few registers we had upstairs.  My favorite register was the one in the kitchen and I'll get back to that topic shortly.

I figure dad didn't love the coal furnace because early in the morning he had to shovel coal into the main part of the furnace, after getting hot ashes dumped into the holding bind under the main heating area, then he had to wait until the fire died down a bit to empty the holding area into a large metal bucket which he had to wait again for said bucket to cool down, then he had to dump the ashes in the metal can (garbage can not used for garbage only for ashes) out in the back yard which was half-way up the stairs to a door that exited out to the back yard.  Then he had to go through that procedure at least twice a day -- once mid-day, and once just before he went to bed.  He didn't add any coal at that time but banked the coal so there wouldn't be a fire.

He never complained.  Perhaps it was something he enjoyed doing -- let's just say my dad was not a handiman and perhaps that made him feel more useful around the house?

Mom didn't like it because of (1) the dust that collected daily on all the furniture.  NOTE:  I usually notice the dust every 7-10 days, we could write messages to each other on our furniture from the dust that settled on the furniture on a daily basis back then; and (2) the day the coal arrived and was deposited into the coal bin (a small section of the basement that was baracaded off from the rest of the basement) there was a bit of coal dust that collected on all surfaces in the basement, which meant mom and I would sweep and dust the basement wearing our bandanas, our face masks, and carrying our sprinklers (bottles with a cap that had holes in it) to keep down the dust.  We were quite swarthy when we finished down there.  I think it was a quarterly event.

Now, back to the register in the kitchen.  It was between the stove and the chimney, and I used to sit on it to get warm, or I would stand on it and watch my dresses balloon out when the hot air came up.  That kept me warm also.

I am sure you are wondering why I would write about this.  Well, I was thinking as we reached 70 degrees late last week -- around March 1 -- dad would be been delighted because it would be warm enough to do without heat -- we'd just get warm under the down quilts we had. 

I bought a new, warm, down-filled coat for this winter with a hood, figuring I would need it.  I haven't worn it once -- the winter has been warm. 

I know dad and mom would be rejoicing over a warm winter, first heater was coal, and dad wouldn't have to shovel as much; second heater was oil, and the oil bill wouldn't be as much; and the last heat was gas, I think they had a gas heater last.  Anyway, as my husband is rejoicing over the lower heating bills, so mom and dad who lived on a very, very tight budget would have been happy.


This item has not been proofread.  Please forgive mistakes.

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