Re: Coal chute

1

Harry the Dirty Dog?
I assume they're supplying coal to the furnaces in the basements of the buildings, which is how things were fueled before oil or natural gas.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:14 PM
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I think a coal truck is used to mask gunfire in The Public Enemy.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:15 PM
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Yep, that's one of them. He sure did get even dirtier still.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:16 PM
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Also a Golden Book about cars and trucks, and I think one other book, too.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:17 PM
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5

So it's a private delivery, essentially? Not part of the workings of the city, exactly?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:18 PM
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6

Lumps of coal for the children who did not please their elves on shelves.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:19 PM
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7

Why are the children beneath the street?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:21 PM
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I think it's the equivalent of the fuel oil truck these days. Or, at the candy factory down the street from my office, the corn syrup delivery that comes at 8:45 every morning.
Probably also in some Richard Scarry books.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:22 PM
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Houses used to have a coal room/bin/whatever in the basement. You still see the doors to them on many houses here.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:22 PM
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6: Panoptoclaus.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:23 PM
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11

7: They tried "not seen or heard" for a while before settling on "seen, not heard."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:26 PM
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12

Home coal delivery.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:28 PM
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13

Private residences used to be heated with coal? Huh.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:28 PM
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The illustrator of Harry lives pretty close to us, she had a book signing at the library down the street to celebrate some anniversary of the book (probably 50th in 2006.)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:28 PM
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15

Shut yer coal hole.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:29 PM
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16

Carbon sequestration!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:29 PM
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17

Coal hole.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:29 PM
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18

That's what I get for linking the video first. Also, apparently there's still a fair amount of home coal heating going on.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:30 PM
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7 -- The elf on the shelf is just the visible part of a vast network.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:30 PM
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13: Probably not so much in Fla.

Many of the late Vic/early Ed houses I've lived in here in MPLS still have the outlines of coal rooms visible. I've even seen a few coal shutes, although most of those are pretty thoroughly disguised at this point.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:32 PM
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21

Who knew. So then you shovel coal into your furnace every evening or so? That seems so Frances Hodgson Burnett.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:32 PM
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22

Or Elizabeth Enright -- the handyman character in the Melendy Quartet shovels coal when they live in NYC.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:36 PM
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23

I think it has an automatic gravity feed -- you put a couple of tons in the hopper and don't mess with it much until the coal truck comes again. Also, NYC schools had coal furnaces until recently, and it's possible that some still do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:36 PM
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This has come up a couple of times on the blog before, but I'm too lazy to find the relevant threads. That fabulous house I lived in had a coal door and boiler room in the basement, but I think the system had been converted to oil by the time we lived there. I don't see the same in older houses around here.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:37 PM
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This is a standard part of life in a lot of Looney Tunes cartoons I think. People like Robert Benchley always commented on how annoying the horrible noise of all the coal shoveling was, how annoying it was to have to go to the basement to put some more in the fire in the middle of the night, etc.


Posted by: Cryptic nred | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 3:39 PM
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Aka a coal cellar. My house, and the house in which I grew up, both had them. No boiler, though: you, or rather your servants, had to keep taking the coal scuttles down, filling it from the cellar, and taking them back upstairs to the fireplaces. Every week or so large men would come with sacks and dump some more coal into the cellar through a manhole in the pavement. We did this until I was about ten, then they banned coal, and now we use smokeless fuel.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:05 PM
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27

Just a pinch between the cheek and gum.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:06 PM
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28

the horrible noise of all the coal shoveling

And of the ash pickup.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:07 PM
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29

My aunt's house (rural CZ) is still heated with coal. My uncle and cousin I would go down to "stoke the furnace" (that is, smoke).


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:08 PM
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30

Why are the children beneath the street?

Because don't fuck with the elf on the shelf, that's why.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:10 PM
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31

I guess someone who has lived her whole life in Florida and Texas is lucky to be familiar with the concept of any sort of cellar, let alone a coal cellar.


Posted by: Crypitc ned | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:14 PM
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32

We had am outside coal bunker growing up. It was a council/municipal made concrete box with a lid, and an opening at the bottom where the coal could be scooped out with a shovel. The coal man would put coal in it on his weekly rounds.

Our cat liked to sleep inside it when it rained, and would get all sooty.

Every house I lived in until I left to go to university had a coal bunker and a coal-fire. My wife's parents house [rural Czech Republic] still has a coal fired furnace. Ours weren't furnaces like that, though. They were domestic fires in the living room, that had a boiler tank behind them that was heated by the fire. A Rayburn Rhapsody, I think, in one place. 1950s, quite beautiful in its own way. Hard to find a photo online, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:18 PM
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33

Guess she's never heard of a personal warmth plug either then.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:19 PM
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34

31: It is like the crawlspace, only lower.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:25 PM
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35

Now that I think about it, our heating appliance in my main childhood house was, I'm pretty sure, a coal boiler that had been converted to natural gas at some point. And then it blew up one night, thankfully not in a structurally-damaging-the-house sort of way.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:36 PM
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36

Our chimney went on fire a couple of times, even though it was cleaned regularly and on schedule. Once when my brother was a baby [so just my mum, me, and him in the house] I remember the firemen smashing the fireplace* to get a hose in, and then having to reassemble and glue it later.

* into easily repairable big chunks, to be fair, mostly broken along the mortar lines.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:40 PM
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37

I am just this week getting bids on replacing the furnaces at my Mom's duplex; they're the originals from 1925.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:43 PM
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38

You glued masonry?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:46 PM
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39

My first apartment in Berlin was heated with coal ovens, in 2001. There was one in the living room and one in the bedroom. Giant tiled things that took up an entire corner of the room, with a big door where you'd put in the coal and make the fire and then all kinds of other doors for complicated venting things. If you did it right you could make a really hot fire and then shut all the doors at some precise moment and have it stay warm for hours, but in the one year I lived there I never got that good.

Every apartment had a separate coal storage space in the basement. You could order coal by the ton or half ton at the beginning of the season, and a big truck would show up with it and the delivery men trundled it all down to the basement in baskets worn on their backs. And then you'd bring it upstairs as you needed it.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:51 PM
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40

re: 38

If I recall I roughly reassembled it and used some sort of grouting/mortar type stuff. It was heavy heat resistant tiles over a concrete/aggregate type base layer. Not 'masonry' as such. It was fairly easy to jigsaw it back together, it was only a couple of big pieces.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:57 PM
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41

Los Angeles was essentially never primarily heated through coal -- it's been mostly natural gas heating from about 1900 on.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 4:58 PM
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42

LA has essentially never been adequately heated.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:01 PM
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43

Speaking of energy, it's almost time to get back in the rental Prius. If you put it in "power mode" and lose most of the environmental benefit, it's kind of like having 80% of an actual car.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:03 PM
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44

Tucson mostly relies on solar for heating.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:04 PM
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45

I'm heartened disappointed that nobody has linked to goatse.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:04 PM
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46

Guess she's never heard of a personal warmth plug either then.

Of course I have. Why do you think I'm always pregnant?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:27 PM
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47

We had these in Yorkshire, and even a real coalman with a D-series Ford flatbed truck who served them, but to be honest you had to be professionally odd. new houses had central heating; council houses had central heating, both fired by North Sea gas. that just left the deliberately eccentric.

meanwhile, why not warm your hips over this:

http://www.harrowell.org.uk/blog/2013/01/09/not-at-all-thursday-so-a-music-post/http://www.harrowell.org.uk/blog/2013/01/09/not-at-all-thursday-so-a-music-post/


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:41 PM
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48

Balls. Someone chop the link in half.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:43 PM
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49

You want your scrotum cut in half?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:46 PM
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50

Or cremaster muscle.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:48 PM
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51

re: 47

I think because our council houses were fairly old - one early 50s metal prefab, and one wood on a brick platform quasi-prefab of a similar era -- most of them had coal heating. The metal prefab one had the Rayburn which did heat the house. There was a boiler, heated by the fire, and it fed radiators. But it wasn't centrally controlled. You just lit the fire and let it get on with it.

The other had a coal fire that heated one room, and hot water for the bathroom and kitchen but had no central heating at all. That was shite, and very very cold in a Scottish winter. The council replaced the system with gas central heating in the early 90s and double glazed it around the same time.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:49 PM
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52

We had a coal stove in the house I grew up in -- I think my dad installed it when he converted the den to a garage. We had a pile of coal in the driveway every winter covered with a tarp, and we'd bring in buckets and load up the coal stove. We'd also play on the coal pile. This was throughout the 1980s.

At some point -- I think it was before my dad moved out in 1990, but it might have been that late -- we got rid of the coal stove and put in two day-beds, which was weird for watching TV unless you had someone over you wanted to make out with.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:53 PM
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53

In suburban Philly, FWIW.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 5:54 PM
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54

52 really calls for a kang instead, though not to the degree that 26 and 39 inspire a dumbwaiter.

The heat from an open coal fire is really something -- noticeably hotter than a good wood fire in either a open hearth or a closed stove; given lots of experience of the last, a little of open fires, and two wonderfully toasty evenings in front of coal. The Dwarf Lord and I switched seats halfway through to dry out the other half of our clothes. I knew logically that it should be so, and was still surprised.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 6:24 PM
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55

How do you inspire a dumbwaiter?

Order something stupid.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 6:28 PM
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56

I remember the firemen smashing the fireplace* to get a hose in, and then having to reassemble and glue it later.

Speaking of which, we were told by the gentleman who serviced our furnace a couple of months ago, before the start of the heating season, that he'd had to vacuum up a fair bit crumbled bricks? masonry? from the bottom of the chimney, which is connected to the furnace in the cellar (basement), and he felt that the chimney liner was rotting away -- that is, nonexistent for the bottom two feet or so -- and really needed to be replaced.

How serious is this? We've informed our landlord, and later talked to his wife about it, but nothing's been done. Can we wing this for this heating season? We have a carbon monoxide monitor, though I'm not sure where we should place it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 6:46 PM
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57

Very serious! Looks like we're decided on Baltimore, with a side of Amish chimney-raising.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 6:52 PM
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58

Would warm CO2 rise from your basement into the living space? Probably.

advice on CO2 monitor placement, not that you couldn't have found it yourself.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 6:55 PM
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59

Ack. CO. I'm surprised I didn't type AGHG automatically.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 6:56 PM
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60

Yeah, we have the remains of an old coal chute and coal room in the basement. I was doing some caulking around the chute this past weekend.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 6:59 PM
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I think at the bottom? when my mom's chimney was seriously wrong she was told that, had she lit a fire in the living room, she would quite likely have killed my brother (sleeping with his bed at the head of the unused basement fireplace). but you probably can't have too many carbon monoxide monitors in a rental with a fucked-up fireplace, really.

when my father was young, the bottom of our house in savannah was a coal cellar, and the men would dump in--like you say, a half ton, or a ton, or whatever, at the start of winter. then people (specifically servants) would carry it up in, um, coal scuttles? and there were coal fires in all the fireplaces which, after the normal mantel and brick surrounds had metal surrounds a good foot-and-a-half wide and then a little place for the fire. we still had all the accoutrements when I was a child; we were just never allowed to start a coal fire. I could never believe it was hot enough, but he insisted it was; further experience of coal fires indicates the rightness.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 6:59 PM
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Sigh. Okay. I'll yell at speak seriously to the landlord one more time, and then we'll just have the chimney liner replaced ourselves and deduct it from rent. For crying out loud. I have no idea how much it costs.

Thanks for 58.2, clew. And I should have looked it up myself.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 7:16 PM
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63

Eh, this is sort of the 'net version of bringing a person a cup of tea, yes?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 7:47 PM
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64

Filling the cellar with coal to feed the furnace.
My family did this until 1961, when Gas lines got run. Until then, a guy came and filled a room in the basement with coal. We (dad) shoveled the coal into a furnace three times a day where it burned and heated the house.
I can't believe I actually have to explain this, and it makes me wonder how I would describe to you why I split big pieces of wood into little pieces, which I stack into orderly rows. When the weather gets cold, I set these pieces of wood on fire in a metal container which gets hot.

Good lord.


Posted by: fcc | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 10:01 PM
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65

In fairness to heebie, I'm pretty sure she was born more recently than 1961.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01- 8-13 10:09 PM
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66

We didn't have a coal cellar, but our house was mainly heated by coal fires before we got in central heating when I was about seven or eight. We still kept using the kitchen range, the fireplace in the "dining room" (really our living room but retaining its historic name) and the one in what had once been two thirds of my granny's large drawing room but had been converted to become the local post office, and sometimes one of the upstairs fireplaces.
I can get coal fires and turf fires to light and burn well, but wood fires always seem to defeat me. The wood smoulders sullenly giving hardly any heat or flame and partly turns to charcoal. I suppose wood was such an unusual fuel when I was growing up that I'm not used to its ways.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 4:28 AM
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Who knew. So then you shovel coal into your furnace every evening or so? That seems so Frances Hodgson Burnett.

I keep forgetting how young you are. We had an outside coal bunker like ttaM, but yes, you bring in the coal in a coal scuttle or hod and feed the boiler every morning or evening. We have a coal cellar where we live now, but the chute mouth is rectangular, contra Wikipedia. We don't keep coal in it, but it does have the gas and electricity meters on the wall.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 4:45 AM
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I think it's more that I've spent my life in Florida and Texas than my age. I mostly hadn't thought about coal one way or the other, but if asked I would have said that houses were heated by gas furnaces and coal went to electricity plants.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 4:48 AM
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Something about trucks stopping in the middle of busy streets and depositing the coal under the streets, in the books, gave me the impression that it was being used under the streets as part of some city-wide utility, not that that was how you access store-front basements. I would have thought there'd be a back alley, at the very least, and that the infrastructure of the building would be divorced from the infrastructure of the tunnels under the street.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 4:50 AM
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Probably most places the coal hole is round the back or in the passage between the buildings, but in a lot of cities they built rows of small buildings without access between them and the alley at the back is too narrow to drive a truck up it. It is separate from the public utility tunnels because the chute runs at an angle back under the building. The actual coal cellar is within the footprint of the house above ground.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 4:58 AM
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My great-grandfather lost a leg when he was around twelve, after his foot got caught in the railroad tracks. He had been engaged in his daily chore: walk along the tracks to gather coal that had fallen from trains for the purposes of supplementing his family's supply of coal for heating.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 5:32 AM
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72

Or at least, so goes the family lore. He might have just been goofing off on the tracks, like the guy in Fried Green Tomatoes.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 5:41 AM
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I'm in my 40s, and I grew up in a place cold enough that the winters routinely kill people every year (Philly), and I've never seen a coal thingy. My grandparents' houses didn't even have them. I think the UK was just coal-centric for longer than the US.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 5:54 AM
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74

I read 71 five times trying to figure out what the pun was.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 6:13 AM
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75

Something about trucks stopping in the middle of busy streets and depositing the coal under the streets, in the books, gave me the impression that it was being used under the streets as part of some city-wide utility, not that that was how you access store-front basements

See also pubs with cellar trapdoors at the front.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 6:17 AM
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76

Most of the stores in my neighborhood business district have and use those trapdoors. Some of the covers are so rusted that I'm not willing to step on them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 6:20 AM
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77

I think the UK was just coal-centric for longer than the US.

Probably, but also 1. I'm nearly 20 years older than you and 2. The UK has a lot of housing stock that's 100+ years old. If a house is built with a coal cellar it doesn't go away when people stop using coal, it gets used for something else.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 6:20 AM
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74: When he got his prosthetic leg, his family wanted to remind him to take greater care, so they carved an 'L' for 'look out' on it. He got a new calf 'L' for carrying coals.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 6:25 AM
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79

Oh good lord. That's worse than Stanley's usual.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 6:33 AM
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re: 77

Yeah. Our newly moved into house, which isn't super old looking [mid-terrace] was built in 1896. Lots of things here are routinely much older. Especially compared to the non-North-Eastern bits of the US.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 6:43 AM
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79: It's harder when you have to start with the story and work backward to the pun.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 6:52 AM
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Given the great expanses of nature in the U.S. (compared to England), it also makes sense that there was a lot more heating by wood stove. My dad grew up in a house heated by wood, and when I was a kid our house (built 1978) had both a heat pump and a wood stove. We used the latter most of the time until my father got tired of playing with the chainsaw.

From when I was very little I remember the raised platform in my grandparents' kitchen with the giant, by-then unused wood stove. At the point it finally got taken out, in its place went a cart with the newfangled microwave oven.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:02 AM
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79: I thought it was going to be a pollack joke. 'L' so he knew to put it on his left leg. I was preparing to be very offended on Stanley's behalf.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:03 AM
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84

We had a coal-fired microwave oven.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:06 AM
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85

I suspect many are ultimately so powered.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:15 AM
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86

Lots of people used to heath their houses with corn cobs. I think my dad's family got coal heat when he was younger, because they had the money and because it requires a lot less tending the fire when you burn something more dense than corn cobs.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:19 AM
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75: After the revolution, we will totally have a city-wide beer utility. Schools, churches, dry-cleaners -- there'll be a beer chute in every sidewalk and a chicken in every garage.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:36 AM
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walk along the tracks to gather coal that had fallen from trains for the purposes of supplementing his family's supply of coal for heating

Hence the stories about National Servicemen being made by the drill sergeant to paint the coalheap. this is part of British folklore as the ultimate example of bullshit and regimentation, but there was a point: you painted a white line around it so it was obvious if anyone was stealing what was then a commodity in short supply.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:41 AM
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87: A lot of German cities and provinces have a publicly-owned brewery. But I don't think even they've run beer mains along the streets.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:43 AM
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There's a story in my family that during cold winters the railway men would sometimes deliberately knock some coal to the ground as they passed my ancestors very isolated log cabin. Firewood was extremely limited back then.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:45 AM
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walk along the tracks to gather coal that had fallen from trains for the purposes of supplementing his family's supply of coal for heating

I have seen this cited in articles about North Korea as an example of the dreadful state they are in and thought "hang on a minute, that was us not very long ago". Also reducing the minimum height for the army from 5'3" to 5' - we did that in the first world war to boost recruiting. Bantam Battalions, they called them.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:47 AM
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walk along the tracks to gather coal that had fallen from trains for the purposes of supplementing his family's supply of coal for heating

Reminds me of the beginning of Wajda's A Generation


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 7:53 AM
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90: Firewood was extremely limited back then.

Unlike in the verdant forest that is today's Nebraska.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 9:41 AM
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94

Thanks to the CCC, whole bunches of trees were added.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 9:46 AM
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95

All this reminds me of The Bucket Rider.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01- 9-13 3:13 PM
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