Daddy built the house that we lived in when we were in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. I was far too young to remember a lot of the particulars, but some things stood out more than others.
Like the way Mom used to pull her old ringer washer out the kitchen door and into the yard. She had to use an extension cord to make it work. She would put a metal washtub up in a chair to sit underneath the ringer and fill it with water to rinse the clothes.
I remember the big upright canisters of propane that we used to run our stove that Mom cooked on. I can’t remember what kind of cook stove it was. All I knew was that it ran on gas and sure did a fine job cooking a meal.
I remember exactly where everything sat, and how simple it was compared to my own house. If Mom didn’t need it, she didn’t have it in her house. It was as simple as that. Sometimes certain things did double duty if she needed them to. Like the way her cabinet model Singer sewing machine doubled as a table if we had a lot of company and room ran out at the table. Or the way we had a bed in the living room at one point, that doubled as a couch during the day.
One of the things I remember the most was the old Stokermatic. A Stokermatic is a lot like a furnace, only it didn’t hook up to vents or ductwork or anything like that. It burned small bits of coal and had a blower on it. It worked a lot better than the old wood stoves we’d always had.
I remember it being fairly large. Of course, that may be because I was so young at the time. And if I remember correctly, the outside of it didn’t get really hot while it was burning. I think safety was one of the things my parents thought about when they picked it out.
Of course, it was only appropriate that we had one. After all, Daddy was a miner and all. He could get coal from just about anywhere, anytime, and even borrow a little if we needed it.
Coal burns for a long time and warms a house a lot better than any other form of heat. My husband and I had a coal stove not long after we married. I remember that our house would stay warm all day long on just a half a bucket of coal.
It was really loud when it was blowing, that Stokermatic. But after a while, it became the sound that lulled me to sleep. It also kept me cozy and warm enough to stay that way.
If I did happen to be awake when it shut off, though, it was as if every other sound in the whole world was magnified. Louder. But then, that was me.
If I had the choice, a Stokermatic would be what my family heats with today. And maybe someday it will be. But I haven’t ever actively looked for one.
Things were simpler back then, though. Doubt they’ll ever be simple like that again.