By Agnes York – Saskatoon, Sask.
Remember when our central heating consisted of a heater in the middle of the room? This heater was usually fueled with wood and/or coal.
My parents used a tin heater that sat in the middle of the living/dining room and was fueled with wood. When lit, it made quick heat.
The heat from this also provided heat to the two bedrooms which had entry from one side of the living room.
The bedrooms were always on the cool side in the winter and especially at night when the heater was dampered down to a very slow burn to hold the fire for the night, and usually there would be a few live coals left to get the fire going in the morning.
The floors in all the rooms were always cold.
Warmed clothes by heater
As kids, the heater was a welcome spot upon arising and this is where we’d get dressed, but first we’d drape our clothing over a chair and place it close to the heater to warm the clothing.
While the clothing warmed, we wore warm wooly slippers to the kitchen where we got washed up at the washstand.
The kitchen was heated by a wood-burning range also lit with live coals left from the overnight dampered down burn.
When there were no live coals left, maybe there would be some extra to scoop out of the heater, and lastly there was always kindling and paper on hand to restart the fire.
Water for washing up was heated on the range and poured into a basin, or if the fire had been on long enough there may have been warm water in the reservoir of the range.
We stood with our slippers and pajamas in front of the washstand and hurried to get back to the warmth of the heater.
Then as times progressed we became modernized and an oil burning space heater was installed, which had a dial to set the amount of heat required but still sat in the middle of the room, and the floor was still cold.
The tank that held the oil was attached to the back of the heater and during cold weather was filled on a daily basis with oil brought in from outside in a pail with a spout.
Oil too thick to pour
When it was extremely cold this oil would be too thick to pour so the pail was set behind the kitchen stove for a while to warm until it was pourable.
The stench of oil permeated but was tolerated in lieu of now being able to set our heat at a desired level and the convenience of oil.
These oil space heaters were somewhat temperamental and the heating apparatus would at times become clogged or sooted up and go out, and sometimes when lit, there would be a poof that would send ash like bits of soot through the top that would settle and make a mess on top of the heater and surrounding items.
These heaters didn’t become popular, their little nuisances outweighed their convenient heating value.
Then my parents installed an oil fueled floor furnace. The heat from this came from a grate on the floor, still in the middle of the room. This seemed to be quite an improvement over the space heater.
The oil was fed into the furnace from a tank set alongside the house and its operation seemed to run more smoothly. And a large area of the floor was now warm!
This was the final mode of heating that took place at that home.