Keeping Warm

With the cost of natural gas and heating oil increasing there is some discussion of using the old coal burning heaters again. Back in the late thirties to mid-fifties most homes in Fayetteville used coal for heating. Each home had a coal pile in the backyard, a coal-burning heater or coal-burning fireplace, a coal bucket ( called a scuttle), and a small ash shovel to help in the daily removal of ashes.

Each afternoon before dark, we would take the scuttle to the pile and fill it up and cut some kindling to help start a fire the next morning. The fire was usually allowed to die at bedtime and started again the next morning. Mother or Daddy usually used some kerosene along with the kindling to quickly start the fire. We never considered the danger of using kerosene and I don’t remember hearing of any accidents with it.

Before we got out of bed the next morning, one member of the family would get up and start the fire and quickly run back to bed and get under the covers to wait for the chill of the room to lessen.

When we lived in the house with Miss Jenny Farrar, we only had three rooms: the living room, the bedroom and the kitchen. We heated the living room with a small coal-burning fireplace that had a grate to hold the burning coal. We didn’t use this room every day. The kitchen was heated in cooking. We had a small Rex heater in the bedroom. It was set out in the room with a long stove pipe to the chimney. Much of the heat for the room was provided by the stove pipe, which would get very hot at times.

One morning Mother got up and started the fire. As the stove pipe got hot she turned her back to it to warm a little before going back to bed. She was wearing a loose nightgown and the tail of it was accidentally ignited as it hit the stove pipe. Frightened and in desperation she ran and jumped in the bed with Daddy. He tried to smother out the fire without much success so he used his hands to twist the tail of the gown and put out the fire. His hands were badly burned and he wore bandages on them for several days. After that I never questioned his love for Mother.

When Daddy was in the army overseas during World War II our funds were quite low. We received a check of ninety dollars each month from the government because Daddy was in the army and Mother worked as a telephone operator here in Fayetteville. She would save a little each month to buy coal for the winter. She usually bought it in the summer time. Maybe it was cheaper then. She said it was because of the availability of a special “soft” coal that burned very well.

Redwine Brothers sold the coal. They had a huge coal pile where Farmers and Merchants Bank was later located, across from the Fife House. They also sold kerosene and Standard gasoline to merchants in the county. I remember their blue-green tank trucks. They had two with compartments that let them transport kerosene and gasoline at the same time. Kerosene was used in small kerosene heaters, in lamps and in kerosene cooking stoves.