The Heater Room and Cold Winters
When I was a youngster and grew up in the 1950's we lived in a four room house in the cotton mill village. By any stretch of the imagination we were poor folks and some of the town dwellers looked upon mill workers as "cotton mill trash." The stereotyping didn't seem to bother my folks and as a kid, those remarks didn't deter me from being happy and I didn't perceive any differences in the social system of my school friends and classmates since we all experienced the same set of living conditions.
During those days winters seemed to be much colder than they are today. I told someone once our mother put so many blankets and quilts on our beds we woke up each morning tired from having to hold up all those covers while trying to get a good nights sleep. The two bedrooms in our house were cold and there were cracks in the windows and doors. Daddy did the best he could by filling the cracks with newspapers to cut down on drafts seeping into the rooms but there were times we didn't have to get out of bed to know it had snowed during the night.
Mom and dad shared one bedroom and the four of us, my two sisters and one brother shared the other. We had two beds and my brother and I shared one and my sisters the other. We didn't have an inside bathroom but an out house and a path. Even when my parents moved from the mill village due to the relocation of a major roadway in the mid 1970's, the old toilet which had served the family faithfully was finally laid to rest along with the home where we had been raised .
Dad heated our house with an old wood heater later changing to a Seigler oil heater when we were teenagers. As young boys my brother and I kept the wood box filled and the heater room was the only heated room in our house. Until my mom got her electric range following the death of our youngest brother we also had a wood cook stove in our kitchen which helped keep our house warm.
The old mill house had no insulation so most of the heat generated by our wood heater went straight out the chimney. I remember one winter it was so cold daddy made us go to bed and cover with blankets. I think maybe he was worried we might freeze to death. The advantage of having a sibling sleep with you was the body heat and blankets and extra quilts would keep us warm. Of course having to get up during the night and go to the toilet, we had to get all our clothes and shoes on before making the trip. God forbid if you got a stomach virus and a hasty trip up the path became necessary. These viruses did come, all too often during the winter it seemed. The cold dark nights and boogers in the imagination of our young minds didn't help.
On Saturday nights we all took baths. We heated our water on the heater and took pan baths. Over all we had privacy and went to bed right away after our bath. The heater was stoked and filled with wood before the lights were turned off and before we made a dash to jump under the covers.
I loved the wood heater and moms cook stove. The warmth and smell of hard woods burning just seemed to be a part of our lives and are forever embedded in our memories. I wouldn't want to return to those days. Maybe I have become a wuss but I enjoy the constant temperatures of our home. I still like my bedroom a little cooler than the other living areas and as someone has so aptly put it, scrooching up to a warm body has so many advantages.
Many people today are returning to wood heat. This is understandable with heating fuel and electricity ever spiraling. Fireplaces and newer more energy efficient houses make our homes easier to heat. the heater room is a thing of the past and no longer the warmest room in our dwellings. While wood is a nice addition to our homes, we must remember that burning wood also creates some problems. Creosote builds in chimneys and should be removed on a regular basis to prevent a chimney fire which can spread. It is not unusual for local fire departments to be called for chimney fires which haven't been cleaned periodically.
It is also imperative smoke detectors be installed throughout your house and batteries changed each year.
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