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We Heated with Coal

Updated on February 4, 2017

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.

chunks of coal
chunks of coal

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.

Did your family ever heat with coal?

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coal furnace
coal furnace

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.

© SamSonS


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  • samsons1 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Tennessee

    thanks again WillStarr for your fine comments and for sharing some or your reminisces. I hear we have more oil that all the middle east if we would just drill for it...

  • WillStarr profile image


    7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    We also heated with coal and had a coal bin in the basement. Just a few chunks of coal can heat a large house all night.

    There are tremendous amounts of energy stored up in coal, and today, we are learning how to get that energy out cleanly.

    The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal.

    Another great Hub!

  • samsons1 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Tennessee

    thanks Happyboomernurse, for your friendship, your visit and your nice comments.

    Merry Christmas...

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 

    7 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Samsons1

    We lived with my paternal grandparents for awhile when I was very young and they had coal in their basement. After a fresh delivery it looked like a hill.

    Liked this hub. Thanks for sharing.

  • samsons1 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Tennessee

    thanks daydreamer13, I find myself daydreaming a lot, comparing yesterdays with this day and time...

  • daydreamer13 profile image


    7 years ago

    Great story! It's fun to remember!

  • samsons1 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Tennessee

    thank Bro Dave for sharing your reminisce. Mom and dad were afraid of gas and I've just discovered a pollution free home by having gas for the first time installed and my wife and I are enjoying heating with fire logs. It looks almost like real wood burning (but no soot or ashes) and it doesn't adversely affect my COPD.

  • Dave Mathews profile image

    Dave Mathews 

    7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

    samsons1: Been there and done that many of my friday afternoons were spent dumping the bags of coal down the coal shute, till we finally got converted over to Natural Gas. Fond memories are nice to hold on to and recall.

    Brother Dave.

  • samsons1 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Tennessee

    Thank you yolanda yvette for your friendship, your visit and your kind comments...

  • yolanda yvette profile image

    yolanda yvette 

    7 years ago

    Great hub.

    We didn't use coal, but I enjoyed reading this.

  • samsons1 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Tennessee

    thank you Polly for sharing your sweet reminisce. I feel now I must write a addendum to this hub to tell everyone the changes to that little house...

  • Pollyannalana profile image


    7 years ago from US

    Voted up and useful. I just won't admit how many years ago but my mom's parents I stayed with often, had like a dug out under their house with an ugly furnace but they had big floor vents in the house with filters so no dirt or smell came up and Mama had the most spotless house I have ever been in to this day and she cleaned everything with bleach everyday. Anyone else I knew using coal had Warm Mornings in the middle of a room almost. I was so shocked though the maybe one and only time I say that ugly dirt room and furnace, lol.

  • samsons1 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Tennessee

    *thanks drpastorcarlotta for your visit and your gracious comments and ratings.

    *and thank you Pam for sharing your reminisce and your nice comments.


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Samson, That brought back memories for me. When I was around 5 or 6 we lived in a house in the north with a basement and in had a coal bin. We had coal delivered and my father took care of keep the coals burning. I remember being quite excited when the coal was delivered. Thanks for a good hub and walk down memory lane.

  • drpastorcarlotta profile image

    Pastor Dr. Carlotta Boles 

    7 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

    We never heated with coal, but felt cozy reading your Hub! Liked it! and voted-up!!!!

  • samsons1 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Tennessee

    *thanks Quill for the share. Times were sure harder on us as kids. Kids this day and times couldn't make it I'm afraid...

    *and thank you Fiddleman for your share. Don't know that I ever told you, but I get ideas from your hubs - as well as your comments...

    *dahoglund, thank you for your faithfulness in responding. We later added a 'stoker' and when we ordered the coal we had to specify 'stoker coal' not 'chunks'...

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 

    7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    We had a furnace that burned coal or wood or whatever we threw in. Dad put in a "stoker" which was sort of a conveyor belt and coal was shoveled on to that. It had to be like briquettes if I recall. Later he had it converted to gas.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    We used coal some but not all the time. I remember dad going to town and buying bags of coal to burn in our wood heater, it made cinders and I remember throwing one of those cinders at a neighbors daughter and hit her in the head. It cut a big gash and she had to have stitches. By the time my daddy finished giving me the whipping of my life from a limb off that Crab Apple tree in the back yard,I though I was gonna have to have stitches on my back. I learned a leson that day. Enjoyed the read.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Remember it well, we had a coal shed and by job as a child was to carry enough coal onto the Pool Hall Dad owned. An old Station Master stove heated the entire hall. Ashes needed to be cleaned out daily. The other chores were hauling all the water we needed in the home as well as the garbage.

    Blessings for the memories

  • samsons1 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Tennessee

    *thanks Alexk2009 for your visit and comments...

    *and thank you VioletSun for sharing your reminisce...

  • VioletSun profile image


    7 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

    This was an enjoyable hub to read, gave me a cozy feeling. Being from New York, I lived in apt buildings most of my life with radiators to heat the home, so never experienced a fireplace or hot stoves, that is until I moved to Oregon 6 years ago, and we have both a hot stove and fireplace; I love to be watch the flames dance and be near the warmth.

    Learned about coals from you, didn't know the process of coal delivery. Interesting!

  • AlexK2009 profile image


    7 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

    I remember chimney fires. Later we graduated to Paraffin


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