Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I remember when the "garbage man" made his curb pickup followed by the "ash man." Back in the day, most homes were heated by a coal and wood burning furnace. Ours was a HUGE circular affair with oven like cast iron doors which opened to reveal the fuel oven. Ours was mainly coal, but in the deep dark days of the depression, it was over to Kuser's Woods for a few wild cherry or oak mini logs to heat the house. We had a steel grate planted firmly between the dining room and what we called our "parlor" but today they call a living room. By the way, when you are passing down Sylvan Avenue and heading toward the Hamilton Township Public Works complex, you will see a huge hill on your left as you pass by the cross streets in the Patterson Avenue area. That was the location of the Hamilton Township incinerator with its huge tall chimney that belched out all kinds of bad stuff. Inside the incinerator building was a huge garage large enough to allow the garbage man's dump truck to back in and dump his load of garbage. A chain pulled block and tackle device hooked on to a very large manhole and lifted the cast iron cover from the burning ovens below the garage. At that point, all the garbage was dumped into the flaming inferno and consumed. Don Slabicki and I often drove there when we worked for the Kusers and took their trash to the incinerator. An indelible memory for me was the day that Don's dog "Rex" died. He brought Rex to the incinerator and he was cremated in the Hamilton incinerator. How in the world do I remember all thes 70 and more year old memories?

1 comment:

SJBill said...

My grandmother rented a place on S. Mill Road in Dutch Neck. That house was also heated by coal, and she had a coal fired cook stove in hte kitchen that very ably heated that room, even in the summertime.

You old furnace sounds remarkably like hers. Most of the house was heated by the large, round, cast-iron grate in the vestibule. The adjacen stairway allowed heat to rise to the second floor living spaces. There were vents in most of the walls that let hot air flow upward and outward, and cooler air return to the basement.

Down in the dirt floored basement the coal fired beast sat there and it required frequent tending: loading coal and stoking to keep the fire going, and removing the ash from the pit. We took it outdoors where it was spread on the garden or to melt the snow on the path out to the carriage house.

She used slice apples and then string them up and hang them around the furnace to dry them for use all year long (laxitives were not needed in that household). She dried cherries and pears in a similar manner. And there were benches all over the rest of the space where canned fruits and vegetables were stored away from light.

The Depresion years taught many lessons that were lost by my generation.