Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis

Fun coal memories

When I was 6, we moved to North Carolina and into what was then a huge house to me but was, actually, pretty medium sized. 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, kitchen, living room, den and playroom. It was older. Probably built in the 20s.

And it was heated by a coal furnace. Last night I caught a bit of This Old House where they were explaining what having a coal furnace meant on a day to day basis and all of a sudden, I remembered when I was 6.

Our basement was really just a hole carved from rock. There was a little window in the corner and periodically a truck would back up to that little window and dump a load of coal through it. We kids thought coal day was pretty exciting. Black rocks about the size of my 6 year old fist just pouring into the basement. That whole basement was covered in black coal dust. It was a mess. We were not allowed to play down there at all. But, of course, we would sneak down there every once in a while and get caught every time because there was no way not to get covered in black dust.

To get heat, someone had to go down there and get a shovel full of those coal rocks and shovel them into the hot oven. This had to be done a couple of times a day. And if the fire was allowed to go out, it was a major major PIA to get it going again.

Daddy was, of course, the coal dealing person when he was home BUT, he was not home a lot. His job had him traveling all over the country much of the time (my Mom used to say he traveled 8 days out of 7). And so it was my Mom who had to shovel that shit down in the filthy basement to keep us warm.

As I think back on this now, I am just amazed.

I think it was the third winter we were in the house that the coal furnace died. Completely. Never to live again. It was really cold. I remember Daddy was not out of town. And it was Christmas. And it was cold and we had no heat.

But to us kids - I was 8, my sister 7 and my brother 4. It was a marvelous, wonderful adventure.
we had a formal living room that we were rarely allowed into. But it had a fireplace so Daddy kept a fire going and we got to sleep in there!! All of us together on blanket pallets. It was so fun.

At mealtime, Mom would cook the meal and then turn on the oven and pull down the oven door and put 3 stools around it and we would use the oven door for our dining table in front of the warmth of the oven.

I honestly don't remember how long this went on. It was probably not more than a day or two but oh what a fun day or two.

Then some men came and replaced the coal furnace with an oil one and we never saw the coal truck again and we could go down in the basement any time we wanted. There was still a lot of coal dust but you could at least go down there and not come up black.

Zillow says that that house is now 6 bedrooms and 4.5 baths and more than 5,000 square feet. Ove the years, a room was added onto the back and the screened in side poach was made a room and I'm guessing that coal covered hole in the rock is now a fully finished basement.

And those people who live there probably have no clue what magic used to be there.
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