Gleanings From A Lifetime – Part 5
Tue. 18 Jan 2011. 8:51 am
I must have been about six when we moved into the Faxon House, about the time I started school. We still had a pump outdoors by the back step and you carried all the water in that you used and carried it out again. An outdoor toilet to care of our physical needs except for nights, extremely bad weather or when there was sickness. A pot or a chamber was called in for those times. They were made of earthen ware of some heavy dish-like material, some were low to the floor which must have been most uncomfortable for the adults and some stood maybe twelve or fourteen inches off the floor. These taller ones sometimes had matching washbowls and pitchers, so the pitchers could be filled with warm water to put in thewashbowl and you could bathe in the privacy of a bedroom. As I recall we all enjoyed a Saturday night bath when Mother’s was tub was brought into the kitchen, filled with water heated on a stove and we had a bath; me first, then Mother and finally Dad. How ever my six-foot Dad got curled up in one of those things I’ll never know and hope I never have to find out. Then of course the tub had to be carried out of doors to empty it.
We had a kitchen range for cooking except when the weather was too hot when we had either a gasoline or kerosene stove to cook on. The range was really great. It had lots of cooking space, warming ovens above, baking oven below and a radiator, or whatever it was called, on one side which was filled with water and would be automatically heated depending on how much heat was in the stove. I think they burned either coal or wood. The gasoline or kerosene stoves were not as handy. They were two or three burners and had a separate oven you placed over two burners when baking. Heavy iron flatirons also had to be heated on the stove in order to iron clothes and of course washing was done with a boiler, washtubs and a scrub board. All this water having to be carried in and out, besides being hand-pumped.
Besides the kitchen stove for heat we never had but one other, always in the living room and ours was a hard-coal burner. It was round and must have stood four or five feet tall and had a top that swung open to let the coal be put in, a small shelf-like area on the back which would take a teakettle or some such and keep it warm. It had isinglass window squares which let you watch the fire burn and really it was sort of like watching a fireplace now-days. Of course it had an ash pit below for what went in must also come out as ashes after burning and they had to be carried out-of-doors for dumping. I really have no memory of what happened to them eventually. A garbage pick-up was an unknown thing. I do remember the ashes were scattered on slippery sidewalks then like salt is now.
Our lamps of course were kerosene with glass chimneys which had to be washed each day and they did not give out too much light. Eventually we got a gasoline lamp for the living room and its light was comparable to an electric one now-days. It had to be generated with alcohol as I recall. Mantles were a part of the lamp and were very fragile. It seems the mantles had to be generated with alcohol tongs and dipped in the alcohol and held somewhere near the burner. After a certain amount of time they generated enough so the gasoline could be turned and we were in business with a really wonderful light. Mantles were a big replacement item.
Dad always had a garden and also raised a few chickens, Rhode Island Reds, so a lot of our food came from the garden and the chickens. For groceries, the folks not wanting to show partiality, traded with one grocery for two weeks. I took care to go along if possible when the bills were paid, for I always came away with a small bag of candy.
Mother had a boarder and a roomer one winter. I don’t know how come. He was a school teacher and maybe places were hard to come by. We mutually disliked each other. The only thing I recall had to do with my eating habits which probably weren’t too good as I wasn’t and still am not a very good eater of vegetables. But my memory concerns eggs. I would never eat the white of the egg and he was always saying, ‘If she were my kid she’d eat the whole thing or go without.’ Lucky for me Mother ignored his wisdom and I was sure glad I wasn’t his kid. How our roomer ever managed to get a bath I have no idea. Maybe he has to be content with the washbowl and pitcher method. Certainly none of us were as clean as people seem to think they must be now-days. The wherewithal was too hard to come by.
We always had a cat for a pet and probably my favorite of all time was a black one with a white star under his chin for decoration. I named him ‘Nigger’, certainly no offense intended. All I knew of Negroes was that they were black people and all the years we lived in Sylvania I never heard of but two. One was a gardener and handyman for the owner of the other hardware store. He seemed to be notch above the rest of us and was considered to be quite wealthy. The other black was a woman nurse and housekeeper for an invalid confined to a wheelchair. We eventually shared a double house with them. ‘Nigger’ was my pet and playmate and I loved him greatly. I’d hide someplace in the house and call, ‘Here Nige, come Nige.’ and keep calling until he’d come and sniff me out when we’d both jump and I’d grab him up to pet. One time we had a cat that had kittens and I was playing on our front steps. I’d jump from the lowest step to the sidewalk then the second step, etc. and one jump landed me atop one of those kittens and squashed it. What a sight. I ran screaming into the house and once again it was poor Dad to come to the rescue to clean up the mess. It bothered all of us for days.