By Ray Day
With fall leaving and winter right on its heels, I look back in time to some of the cold days and nights we had in the old days. We had wood and coal and corncobs to heat with, and many times there was that little bit of time when you were waiting to get some good results from that fire.
In the middle room we had an old Florence heating stove, and you got a good blast of heat from it when it was going good. At the bottom there was a place where the ashes would fall, and you had to keep the ashes cleaned out if you wanted a good draft from the heat.
Usually we started the first fire with some paper and small pieces of wood, and then we would put in the coal on top of that and wait for it to take hold. Then we would put a little wood down on top of that, and then some more coal.
You tried to not use all the coal, because you wanted to be able to stoke the fire enough so that it would keep some heat through most of the house.
Then in the kitchen there was a big cook stove with four holes with covers over them. You started that fire with corncobs and kept it going for most of the day by adding a little coal and wood to get it ready to cook on.
Mom did a lot of cooking through the years on that stove, and the mouth-watering biscuits and cornbread with a big pot of beans, along with a big skillet of fried potatoes with chopped onions, we loved.
That stove we heated with was just below a transom in the ceiling, and that was how the warm air got to the upstairs bedrooms. There were three bedrooms up there, and one of them belonged to Ernie, Bob and me – that is, until Ernie decided to go out on his own.
The middle room was not used, except when Dad worked midnights at the mill. That was where he slept in order to get enough rest. With all the kids in our family, it was hard for anyone to get enough rest, but he got what he could.
No one went upstairs except Mom when Dad was trying to sleep. If you knew you were going to need something, you had better get it downstairs the night before or you did without it. Good thing Dad only worked the midnight shift one week out of three.
Getting back to the stoves: It was the responsibility of we boys to stoke the fires, take out the ashes, and bring in enough coal and wood to last the night and most of the day.
I remember some of those cold nights when ice would form on the windows due to the heat inside and cold outside. Dad always, when he had the money to do so, would send us to the outlet store where they had those blankets that our soldiers used in the war. Man, you put two of them on your bed and it was warm till morning when you threw the blankets over and crawled out of bed to begin your day. Many times there were some thin layers of ice on the tops of those blankets.
Down the stairs one of us would go try to stoke what fire was still in the stoves and then add more corncobs and wood on top to get it going good. The rest of the kids would belly around the heating stove to get warm so that you could change clothes and get ready for school.
But not before that angel we had in our home, who started making breakfast for all of us. We called that angel Mom, and, boy, was that food good. I don’t think anyone ever got tired of Mom’s great food and, to this day, I make some things about like she did, but she was the pro. And the dinner and suppers were great too. Bless her heart.
Ray “Uncle Ray” Day is a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.