Have you ever been told you will get a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking? When I was a kid and you were on the naughty list then it was for sure that’s what you were going to get.
There was plenty of coal around. My father was a coal miner and that’s what we used to heat the house. In fact, that’s what most people used.
Natural gas was thought to be too dangerous for home heating. You could use wood for fireplaces and the kitchen stove if you lived in the country where wood was plentiful. But coal was our mainstay because Dad wouldn’t think of not supporting his livelihood.
Dad started working in the coal mine at age 14. He would tell us about the mules down in the mine that hauled the trams of coal to the lifts. They were never brought out of the mine and would go blind from living in the dark all their lives.
Of course, that changed as did other things. The miners wore carbide lanterns on their hard hats which Dad preferred to the new electrical lights they used later. He said the carbide lanterns keep the gases burnt up as they worked. He should know since he was in two explosions and lost some fingers on one hand.
When the coal bin in the basement ran low, Dad would borrow a truck and go the mine and load up a bed full. I think he must have gotten a discount for working there, I’m not sure. The lumps of coal, about the size of a baseball to a softball size, was shoveled down the coal chute to the coal bin. Most houses had a coal chute built in the foundation.
For some people, coal was a luxury. My friend Pee Wee Jones would always know when the next train was coming through town. The locomotives were fired by coal and the firemen would shovel the coal from the tender into the fireboxes. Often times a good-hearted fireman would throw off a shovel full along certain areas of town. Pee Wee and other kids were there to gather it up to take home to Mom and Grandma.
I don’t know where you would get a lump of coal these days but if there were some around, I would probably get one in my Christmas stocking. Mary says that’s for sure!
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