The Old Coal Stove

On Sunday, December 19, 1948, fourteen inches of snow fell on Long Island, New York. I was 4 years old. We had recently moved into a 2-story house on several acres in Glen Cove, a small city on the north shore of the island only a few blocks from Long Island Sound, a tidal estuary of the Atlantic Ocean between Long Island and Connecticut. The house was old, and my mother had wanted the old Kalamazoo kitchen stove replaced by something modern. It had 4 gas burners on the top right surface and a cast iron box on the left that could burn either wood or coal.

Snow had fallen all night. When I rose in the morning and looked out the window, the white glare hurt my eyes. I hurried to find warm clothes, dressed, and ran down the stairs. Dad was putting on tennis racket-type snowshoes. He planned to walk to town to get groceries and the Sunday papers.

Kalamazoo Stove

The snow continued to fall. The day before, my father and older brother had taken the old green army jeep into the forest behind our home and chopped a large fir tree down and placed it in the living room. We cut strips out of construction paper and made red and green garlands. Mother made popcorn, and we strung more garlands.

Just before bedtime, the lights went out and the oil burning furnace quit. We started to get really cold. Dad went outside and filled a bucket with lumps of coal from the pile left by the previous owner. Then he cut up the Sunday paper into scraps and placed it in the stove box with coal on top. After several attempts with matches, the coal started to burn, and warmth filled the kitchen. We carried our mattresses down from the bedrooms upstairs and placed them on the kitchen floor where we slept comfortably. My parents took turns staying awake to add coal to the fire box.

My mother never complained about the old stove again.

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