We Heated with Coal
Reflections of my childhood...
I was eighteen months old when we moved into our first house and I don’t remember anything before that. But I do have a memory of much of my life as a child. I remember our house was small and there was six of us; dad and mom, my sister Peggy, my two older brothers. Jim and Jack, and me. I remember we didn’t have a bathroom inside, not at first. Before we built one, there was an old pair of steps that led down to the basement. Not a real basement, just a large area dug out of the clay right below the center of the house where a large coal furnace was placed. This is how the little house was heated during the cold months. On the back of the house was a small window, and whenever we needed more a coal truck would back up beside that window and unload through that little window a load of coal. Large chunks of black coal that dad would burst up into smaller chucks that could be put into the furnace to heat our home.
The men were covered with the coal dust
I would watch for the coal truck to come then hurry outside to watch as the men would unload it through that little window. The men were covered with the coal dust and dad told me that working with coal was a dirty job. He said the men that dug the coal out of the coal mines in Virginia and Kentucky got paid well but that was because their work was so dangerous. I ask if this truck just came from the mines today and he explained to me that most of the coal was hauled away from the mines by long coal trains to the different cities around and then the coal companies would deliver the coal in smaller trucks to the homes. He said that one of the large coal trucks at the mines could haul two or three tons at a time, but that large a truck would tear up our back yard so our coal was always delivered in a smaller truck.
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Keeping that little house and all the family nice and warm
Mom said that dad could start a better fire than she could in that old furnace and sometimes he would take me down those old steps to the basement. When we got down there he would tell me to wait on the bottom step while he found the light. There wasn’t much room nor much light until dad would reach up to find the little light bulb and then he would give it a little twist and light would flood the small hollowed out area around the furnace. Mom always kept our old newspapers to start the fires with. Dad would crumple up two or three pieces to place inside the door down on the grate and then he would put a couple hands full of kindlin on top the crumpled newspaper. He would then just light a match and throw it in and wait for it all to catch up. When the burning paper caught the kindlin up real good, dad would add some larger pieces of wood then the coal. Four or five big chunks of coal would burn all night keeping that little house and all the family nice and warm.