My grandchildren are not wrong when they say I come from another century. Growing up we didn’t have cell phones, or telephones for that matter. We had Carmelle. We didn’t have refridgerators, we had ice boxes. Ice was delivered and installed on the side of the box. As the ice melted, the water would drip into a pan underneath the box. And we emptied it regularly.
We didn’t have thermostatic heating either. We had a coal furnace. A truck came and delivered coal. The truck would back up and a discharge chute would be put into an opening in the wall – our coal chute. This chute lead to the basement.
As the coal tumbled down the chute it made a machine gun like sound as it bounced off of the metal walls. Rat a tat tat tat…A cloud of black dust would sneak its way up the stairs and into the house. We were constantly wiping coal dust off of our furniture and the dog — who used to sleep in front of the basement door.
Our job, mine and my brothers, was to shovel the coal into the coal box. We also shoveled the coal into the furnace to heat the house. The furnace was always hungry, and we couldn’t shovel fast enough to feed it. The house was always cold!
We also had to empty the ashes from the bottom of the furnace into another box. The ashes were used during the winter. We scattered the ashes on the sidewalk in place of rock salt which was a luxury.
Although most people knew enough to empty the ashes from the furnace none of us seemed to concerned about cleaning the chimneys. This might have explained the sparks shooting from the chimney of the Bianchi house. The fire department made regular calls on our little street every winter. As for us kids, it was fascinating to watch.
As I explain it to my grandchildren it seems like a lifetime ago – it was a life time ago.
To quote my grand-daughter, “Coal? It’s positively Dickensian!” And she should know as she had the lead role, Estella, in her high school play, Great Expectations.
My daughter, on the other hand, says it reminds her of the chimney sweeps in Mary Poppins. Now that’s a step in time!