The Scariest Room in the House

 I get more upset when I have to call a repairman to fix my furnace or air conditioning unit than for almost anything else that goes wrong. I don’t know why except that I’ve always hated being too hot or too cold having experienced those two conditions many times as I was growing up.

I will never forget getting up on winter mornings to an ice-cold house. My father tried to get down to the basement before the rest of the family awakened to shovel coal into the huge, iron furnace which, by six in the morning, contained only cold, gray ashes. His first job was to load the ashes into a nearby container. Next, he would go into the pitch black coal bin near the furnace and scoop the dusty lumps onto his shovel. These he threw as far back in the furnace as possible in order to make room for the next several scoops which followed. I can’t remember exactly what he used to ignite the coal, but I seem to recall wadded up newspapers which he lit and threw in. Sometimes it would take him several tries before a few pieces of coal began to glow.

Meanwhile, we kids in our second floor bedroom huddled under bedding while trying to put on underwear and outer clothing. When we spotted the curtain blowing indicating that warm air had at last begun coming out of the register, we would race to see who could obtain that coveted spot atop it. I, being older and considerably larger than my sister, usually won the contest, and she was forced to go back under the covers to finish dressing.

My memories of cold mornings are all tied up with memories of that evil place, the coal bin. Those of us who listened to the program ‘Inner Sanctum’ on the radio couldn’t help but associate coal with scary, supernatural things, because the sponsor of the science fiction program was the Bituminous Coal Company.

It’s strange how memory works. Sometimes the sweetest moments are lost forever while we distinctly recall something like a scary, dark coal bin that undoubtedly housed creatures from outer space.


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