BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE
STOKING THE COALS
Think back to 1958. Do you remember the clunky coal furnace that lived in the basement? I vividly remember when Dad announced, “We’re moving to Indiana, Pennsylvania. I purchased a large house for $6000!” Dad had accepted the position of Chairman of the Music Department at Indiana State Teacher’s College, now IUP.
“We’ll have a large yard, lots of property, lovely roses, daffodils, walnut trees, and weeping willows,” Dad said with a wide grin on his face. What Dad forgot or refused to mention was the heating system in our home–a coal furnace with radiators positioned in each room. Mom eventually painted the radiators white to blend into our decor. Of course, the paint blocked what little heat we felt from the radiators.
Each evening, Dad entered “the basement” and each night he bumped his head as he descended into the dark, dank space to prepare our evening fire. The furnace seemed to open its mouth and gobble chunks of coal. If it could have burped, it would have. Clunk, clunk, clunk. What noises came from that basement, especially when Dad bumped his head again before he re-entered the kitchen. “Judeus Priest!” Dad shouted at the top of his lungs as he rubbed the sore spot on his forehead. Dad solved the head-bumping problem by tying an old red rag on the offending basement beam, a reminder to duck.
My teeth chattered at 4 a.m.; I shook to get warm. When I attended eleventh grade, my dad’s Aunt Essie had given me a lovely cream-colored coat. I reluctantly jumped out of bed, made a mad dash to the hallway, and grabbed my coat. I tucked my legs into the sleeves and pulled the rest of my coat up to my chin hoping to trap my body heat.
None of the twelve of us attempted to rise out of bed until Dad made his move to feed that old furnace with coal chunks. “Rattle, rattle, bump, bump, what a feeding frenzy. Satisfied, the furnace spewed out heat.
Do you, too, remember those good old days?
Oh, a side note, when my brother bought the property, he tore off red rag, only to bump his head. On went the rag, again!
Later, when my brother-in-law purchased the property, he, too, removed the rag. After a few head bumps, he retied the rag.
I wonder if that red rag is still there today? I know the furnace is gone. Dad replaced it with a gas furnace a few years after we had lived in that old house. I kind of missed that old coal smell. It had smelled like home, but how grateful we children were to have a gas heater to sustain the heat and how thankful Dad must have been not to have to stoke the coals!
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