About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Keeping Warm, Catching on Fire

The topic for this week's Fun Monday is scars, either kind--physical or emotional. Jill ,our host for this week, asks us to describe scars we may have, how we got them, and what did we learn from the experience. I have a large heart-shaped scar on my right leg and into adulthood extensive scar tissue on my right hand. The scar on my right hand is not so noticeable anymore, only I know it's there. I got both scars in a childhood accident trying to keep warm.

In the 1950s my family lived in several coal mining camps along the C&O railroad in eastern Kentucky. The camps were Big Shoal, Little Shoal and Keiser Hollow, getting their names from the Big Sandy River along which the railroads ran. The camps were built by coal companies and rented to miners who dug the coal from the mines in these hollows. That coal was shipped out of the region to fuel industry in the eastern and northern parts of the US. The houses in the mining camps were sorry affairs by the 1950s. Most were three to four rooms, including the kitchen.

Our houses were heated by open fireplaces in the bedrooms and a cast iron cookstove in the kitchen. Coal from the defunct mines was stored in
coal sheds near the house and served as the main source for heating and cooking, along with some wood to get the fires started. It was so cold in the winter that we were never warm enough. Most families grouped 3-4 straight chairs around the fireplace and once you claimed a spot you didn't want to move because someone else was always ready to take your place. Water for bathing was kept hot in the reservoir of the kitchen cookstove. The warmest place to bathe was behind the cookstove.

So when winter set in, the fireplaces were heaped with coal and kept burning into the night. Another trick that I used to keep warm was to wear one of these chenille robes in the evening. (Sorry for the somewhat hoochie photo, but this one was most like the robes I wore with the big flowers around the bottom of the robe. And this color was quite popular in the '50s.) On cold nights I stood in front of the fireplace as close as possible, warming my front until it got too hot for me to stand and then turning around to bake the other side. One night I accidentally caught my robe on fire. Of course, it has been so many years since this happened. But I do remember trying to run through the house--which I understand is a very typical response (I didn't know the "Stop, drop and roll" drill that all children are now taught). I remember my mother grabbing me and snatching a bedcover off the nearest bed and wrapping me in it to smother the flames. I escaped with only burns on my leg and the very painful one on my right hand. I also remember that the treatment for the burns was to rub them with butter--which we now know better than to do.

What lessons did I learn from this experience? Well, keep a safe distance from the fireplace no matter how tempting. But most importantly as an adult I refuse to freeze in my own house. I keep the thermostat at a comfortable level even if the bill is a bit scary in colder weather. I survived the cold in childhood. Now that I'm grown and paying the heating bill I'm going to have a warm home.

Now go over to Jill's place and check out other Fun Monday participants. Also, I'm hosting the August 24 Fun Monday. Our topic will be "Back to School". As we near the end of August the yellow school buses start rolling through our neighborhoods. With the beginning of school do you start thinking about taking a class or learning something new yourself? What do you want to learn--new technology, photography, yoga, painting, line dancing, writing? The list is endless. Either sign up in the comments for this post or wait until Wednesday when I'll put up a more complete description of the topic. Hope you'll join me and keep Fun Monday going.


karisma said...

Oh my! That must have been terrifying! I am so glad our fire is closed as the girls tend to stick their butts right on top of it too! Burns are the worst kind of pain, and yes I can vouch for that having had two terrible burns myself, one from hot oil and one from hot wax. I am amazed I have no scars to show for it! My skin just goes ahead and peels off then cures itself! I am actually missing all the skin from one finger this week that I nearly cut off last week. The actual cut has healed but the skin is all gone! Very odd!

Count me in for next week. Of course I will come back for more info but I will play either way!

Lil Mouse said...

Hey! you need to repost your link! it's not working on the mr linky!!!

Lil Mouse said...

my mom always said their house was so cold that ice froze on the walls. although they only basically had 2 or 3 rooms I think, and there were 13 kids! Well at least 13 were born anyway, a few never made it out of infancy or toddlerhood, but still, I can't imagine having a baby and it being so cold in a house! Scary. I don't think I've ever been on fire (knock wood), or had too many burns, I'm always too scared to get too close!

Debs said...

I'm nervous of fires as I set my dressing gown on fire by standing too close to an electric bar heater when I was little.

Glad our fire is closed too.

ChrisB said...

Reading this brought back so many memories of my childhood, not the burns the keeping warm.

I remember when my father got burnt when a pan of oil set on fire and he opened the back door to throw it out. He got badly burnt on his arm and face.

I'll join in next week. http://mscellania.blogspot.com//
Thanks for hosting again.

m (the misanthrope) said...

Oh my gosh! Terrifying indeed, and what a painful lesson to learn! Um, I have a dumb question - I always thought you were supposed to put butter on a burn? I guess not? (In other news, I hear that some youngster named Neil Armstrong just landed on the moon.)

Great FM topic for next week! Count me in. I'm convinced that this Kentucky stuff is just malarkey and that you are really my next-door neighbor/separated-at-birth twin. I have been dying to blog about a new class I've started taking, and this will be the perfect opportunity!! How'd you know? *grin*

To answer your question on my KW part 3 post - nope, I didn't eat conch :-( I don't like shellfish - I may be drummed out of Maryland, aka Shellfish Heaven for that, but it's the truth. So anything in a shell is BLECH to me, unless it's a pearl of course, in which case I say - hang that baby on a necklace and send it my way! *giggle* And thanks for the birthday wishes!

Gattina said...

That must have been terrible ! At least we had central heating but with coal and a bath could be heated only once a week, it was too much work ! I also hate freezing and prefer to save money on something else instead of freezing. I think once you were frozen til the bones you will never forget !

Faye said...

karisma--ouch! hot oil for intensity and wax for longevity--which would be worse!

lil mouse--finally Mr. Linky and I are friends. Re cold walls--these old wooden structures had no insulation except for wallpaper--the wind whistled through the cracks. No wonder we about froze.

debs--your dressing gown sounds so much more elegant than my chenille robe. :-) When our power goes off in winter storms there's always a concern with freestanding heaters--either carbon monoxide poisoning or fire hazard.

chrisB--thinking of your father's accident--we forget that the safest thing to do is smother a fire, not expose it to air or water. We need to take a survey of how many readers froze in underheated homes when growing up! We're a tough lot to survive that.

P.S.--you live in The New Forest near Bournemouth? I'm envious!

misanthrope--supposedly butter just helps the burn to continue to "fry", driving the pain deeper. We need to check with some of the resident nursing/md bloggers as to accuracy of this info. Glad you like next week's Fun Monday topic. It's close to September and I'm getting excited over continuing ed classes that are offered.

gattina--yep! bathing was quite an ordeal with our heat sources. My mother thought I overdid the whole thing, especially washing hair. She always threatened that I'd get "slow TB" for from going to school with wet hair! To this day don't know the difference between "slow" and regular speed tuberculosis!

Pamela said...

we had wood burning stoves for heat, too. I can still smell the early morning match (sulfur) that dad would light, and I would roll over and snuggle in my covers/blankets.

The Church Lady said...

Goodness Faye, I guess you will never forget that experience and you have the scars to go along with your story. I have never been badly burned other than by Mr. Sun! We currently have a wood stove in our basement and we like to burn it during very cold winter days. It certainly keeps the house warm and toasty. But now, I will always think of you when I am standing next to it, as I sometimes do in my bathrobe!

Jan n Jer said...

My goodness Faye, what a frightening story. A burn can be so painful. I remember heating our house with coal as a kid. My grandpa would stoke the furnace before going to bed every night. Count me in for your FM next week. I will come back and sign up later this week.

Sayre said...

Oh! Burns are the worst!!! Good thing your mom knew what to do.

I don't mind the cold much (we keep our thermostat at 62 in the winter), but the heat in the summer just kills me - thermostat stays at 75! Even then I wind up sweating if I'm doing anything. But that's as low as my pocketbook will allow me to go.

When I was a kid (in Florida), we didn't have central heat or air - and we used our fireplace for heat. Sheer luck that I didn't have the same experience that you did.

I finally posted mine!

Faye said...

pamela--my dad always jumped out of bed and,still in his longjohns, got the fires started in fire places and cookstove while we stayed in bed until it was warm(er). All the firemaking supplies were carried inside the night before.

church lady--several of our neighbors "graduated" to the wood burning stoves--potbellied kind that jutted out in the room. They were more efficient because you could sit all around the stove--and cook a pot of pinto (also called "soup")beans throughout the day.

janis--in those days a "good" dad or grandfather--or any other resident male--took care of the fire building so women could concentrate on cooking and cleaning. Glad we don't keep with the same rules today, aren't you!

sayre--like you, I can deal with cold better than the heat and humidity of summer. constant refrain from me: "have I mentioned lately how much I despise summer weather?"

samantha said...

Just found your blog, and am very grateful for the time and effort you've gone to here. Great and varied taste
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