Rushville Republican

Columns

October 24, 2012

Ward: Coal smoke brings back a lot of memories

RUSHVILLE — One of those crazy things that I remember from my youth is how I loved to smell the coal smoke that used to encircle Rushville. Many homes heated by coal. The trains that roared through town used coal. Many downtown business buildings used coal, and the smoke would always be around in the winter.

Rushville had an electric utility and it was coal fired. Southeastern Power was oil fired, but still was a very interesting place to go.

We used coal when we moved to Main Street and Dad would stoke the furnace several times a day. At night he would bank up coal enough to last the evening so he could sleep and not bother to have to fire the furnace.

Dad decided about 1940 that we needed a coal furnace that fed itself and he found one. It had a bunker that had small coal pieces that seemed to me to be soaked in oil and the machine fed coal into the furnace when needed and it was all automatic. All one had to do was keep the bunker filled, which lasted a few days at a time.

In my mind, we were in hog heaven when there was no coal to shovel. Still had the ashes to contend with, but that was easy enough if you did not have to shovel in the coal.

Dad tended to try almost anything that was new and looked like it might work.

There seemed to be a coal smoke smell to town all winter and until we moved away to California I didn’t realize just how much I missed it. My five years in San Diego and then a couple of years at Butler took me away from Rushville in the winter and that coal smoke smell.

When I ended up in the Army and in Germany I was back home once again. Germany was much like Indiana in climate and it heated almost exclusively with peat, which was a type of coal that was not as hot burning as American coal but did the job. It was usually taken off the top of the ground in small briquettes and sold that way in sacks of bricks. They, of course, made smoke and that smoke smelled just like my beloved coal. Almost all the trains that went any distance were also coal fired, so that helped.

Back in the states when I was in basic training the World War II wood barracks we lived in was heated by coal and those involved in the barracks were responsible for keeping the furnace fueled up and warm. I will admit that the word heat was something we all liked but seldom had. They did not intend to make those barracks comfortable and they succeeded in a great way.

I remember touring a castle of Mad Ludwig’s called Neu Schwanstein and it was an old beautiful castle built on a mountain top overlooking a beautiful lake. Seems Ludwig spent years and millions to make his castle but only enjoyed it a year or two before falling out of a boat and drowning. According to the guide there was something of a question about how he fell out of the boat. But they heated the entire castle with those peat bricks. Each room had at least one coal furnace built into the walls facing inward to a long hall way. The furnace had a door in the hallway that opened out so servants could quietly go through the whole castle on regular routes and keep all the furnaces heated and working well. I spent a whole day just wandering around the castle and really enjoyed it.

It seemed that Germany used wood and coal almost exclusively to heat homes and businesses. There was much more smoke all around Germany than in the US and it was sort of heavier smoke than what I was used to. It may have been different, but I still liked it and enjoyed smelling it during the winter.

Many Germans would purchase their peat at the local grocery or hardware store. They did not have large furnaces such as we had on Main Street, but small usually self-standing furnaces with maybe one in every room. The winter in Kitzingen could be as bad as in Rushville and I never really understood just how the Germans managed to keep their homes toasty warm with peat.

I know it is silly to like such a mundane thing as coal smoke, but I did and still do. Prior to and during the war coal was the main fuel used for heat and industry. It was cheap, plentiful and easily available to the whole state, in fact the whole country. It was fairly well distributed throughout the country and oil was expensive, about 30 cents a gallon for fuel oil, and not all that readily available.

Between 1945 and around 1955 coal lost out to oil in many places, at least in Rushville. I miss the mournful moan of the steam engines whistles as they passed through town. I miss the heavy black smoke those engines left behind them as they left town. Of course, the smoke dissipated rapidly, but still I loved it.

There are so many silly things I remember from my youth; why, I have no idea. Life changes and so does almost everything else, so I guess it is time I sort of decide to forget my past and go modern (or not!).

1
Text Only
Columns
  • There's something about Maryland My family unit has just returned from a death march – oops, make that, “vacation” – in Annapolis, Maryland. In spite of constant 96-degree temps (though it dropped as low as 95.7 at night), and the stifling humidity, we had lots of dolgurn fun. Mainl

    July 22, 2014

  • Learning to say goodbye From as far back as I can remember, saying hello has been a part of nearly each day.During my youth, it was used when I met new people my parents introduced me to and was frequently followed by a handshake. I couldn’t count the number of times I used

    July 18, 2014

  • Lessons from the largely forgotten war As we approach the official date on which the First World War started, July 28, 1914, when the first shots were fired by the Austro-Hungarians who invaded Serbia, it’s appropriate to think about the lessons that catastrophic event has taught us one h

    July 15, 2014

  • Please go away My wife is planning our summer vacation, which we will take in the fall. We took our spring vacation this summer. We got behind in 1984 and still haven’t caught up. I don’t have much input into the planning of these trips, but Mary Ellen did assign m

    July 15, 2014

  • Soothing '60's Surf Sounds I’m sitting in my home office enjoying a serenade of rhythmic pulsations emanating from the outside wall. It’s coming from our water spigot. No. 5 son (age 13) and his buddies are using it to fill water balloons. 1,500 water balloons to be exact. 1,5

    July 15, 2014

  • Soccer-stopping Storm a Lousy Treat What a great way to spend a Saturday morning in July: I’m sitting in my car with rain cascading on the roof, lightning skittering all over the sky, and thunder sockin’ it to the atmosphere with such force that I feel a rumbling in my bum.I’m staring

    July 8, 2014

  • Only in America - Top 10 As we move into the glorious months of summer, I thought you might be amused by reading the Top Ten List of what Canadians supposedly think of how things are going in this country. It’s a lot like David Letterman’s “top ten list.”Number 10: Only in A

    July 8, 2014

  • Government today is way too intrusive What ever happened to the America of my youth? That great country that was indeed the jewel of the common person of the world. The country where one could actually, through hard work and industry, make a good living and actually have the OPPORTUNITY

    July 8, 2014

  • Gone in the blink of an eye Over the holiday weekend I was able to enjoy three days, (somewhat) off work. Three day weekends are always a highlight for me and I am sure most of you will agree.I went fishing to wrap up my Sunday evening. While sitting in the old John boat castin

    July 8, 2014

  • Mum Mum If my grandmother were alive today, she would be 125, and she would still, no doubt, be walking around in her six-inch-high heels, the ones she asked to be buried in—and she’d have a Marlboro in her fingers. She demanded to be called Mum Mum because

    July 3, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.