Life was simpler in days of cookstove

As the years have gone by, I find myself less able to do some of the things that I used to enjoy. Betty and I did quite a bit of traveling and enjoyed seeing the country. We also took part in many local activities and were involved with several groups.

Today, our traveling seems to be limited to the local grocery store, to the doctor’s office or out to the orchard to get some fresh apples and a bit of cider. Simple activities seem to satisfy us most of the time.

As I think back, I can remember those times when I was growing up that life seemed simpler than it is today. I’m not sure it was but we didn’t have all the conflict and chaos that is part of our society now. Some days I just shut my mind to the negative news that seems to surround us.

Years ago, in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, we didn’t have all the electronic devices that are available today. No television, cell-phones or fancy cars with more features than I can remember how to use. We were lucky if we had a telephone that hung on the wall and we answered it when it rang. One radio was all we needed to keep us informed about the world.

Newspapers were important and each edition carried a lot of news, both local and worldwide. They also carried a lot of advertisements to let us know what was available to buy if we had any money.

As I think back to those years growing up one of the things that comes to my mind is our mother’s cookstove. I vaguely remember when she got a new one that was a multipurpose piece of equipment.

It had a top with lids that came off to put in the wood. As you can guess, it had an oven, and above the top of the stove were warming ovens where food that was ready to eat was put until everything was done.

On one end was a reservoir to hold water that was heated by the fire in the stove. It was used mostly to do dishes and wash a few clothes. It was one of our jobs to keep that reservoir full of water so it was warm and ready to use when Mom needed.

Oven temperature was hard to control because it depended on how much fire there was in stove. That was controlled by the amount of wood that was put in the firebox. It also meant that Mom had to watch carefully what she was baking to take it out of the oven when it was done.

Water for washing clothes was heated in a large copper boiler on top of the stove. Here again it was our job to fill that boiler every Monday morning so Mom had hot water to use.

Wood for this stove had to be smaller than what would go in the heating stove in the living room. So another one of our jobs was splitting logs to make them small enough to go in the top of the cookstove. We also had to keep the wood box behind the stove full.

The kitchen stove served another purpose. It provided heat for the kitchen and other parts of the house. In the winter it was a popular place because we would sit around the table to enjoy our meals and tended to visit longer because it was a warm place.

I can also remember popping corn in a favorite pan on top of the stove. We would put in a little extra wood for more heat, put enough kernels of popcorn in the bottom of the pan to fill it when popped, and cover it with a little oil. When we had a full bowl we would melt enough butter to cover the corn. It was delicious and helped pass a lot of cold winter nights.

Were the days of the old cookstove simpler? You be the judge.

Parker is retired from The Ohio State University and an independent writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Reach him at jbparker149@ gmail.com.