Monday, November 23, 2009

Kalamazoo Stove 1907

They bake, they warm, they clean themselves. New ovens are a marvel to behold. A naked turkey can is basted, stuffed and poked with a timer that allows the oven to bake the bird to perfection. Ah, we've come a long way from when I was a baby.

I sat in my high chair in front of the window overlooking the grape arbor. My grandmother lifted me from my seat as her mother looked on from her rocking chair next to the stove. It is a memory, only one of the three I have of my grandmother. A memory long ago etched in time and place.

In 1907 my grandfather bought his bride a new stove. I know because I have the paperwork from the purchase, a receipt of order sent with a 2¢ stamp. This fancy new stove was every woman's dream. Wood was stacked behind it waiting to be tossed into the chamber that heated the stove. Delicious smells of food mixed with that of burning wood. Much different from what we presently have but a memory of wood smoke and a place to warm oneself on cold winter day.

I'm not sure how the stove was delivered let alone carried into the house. I don't know what happened to this wonderful stove when replaced with an electric range. I do know that a turkey would have taken more than a few hours to cook, probably days. Grandad would go to the woodshed to cut pieces of suitable size to replace the burned logs keeping the stove hot and the pile of wood dry and ready. Probably a cast iron kettle sat on a burner adding moisture to the dry winter air.

Clothing would be hung by the stove to dry. Boots tucked close enough to erase the rain. Vents from the kitchen to the upper floors would allow warmth to flow into the cold bedrooms. The stove was more than a place to cook. It was the hub of the house. And, probably in summer, used as little as possible.

My grandmother's life was changed in 1907 as were the lives of other women living around Neff Road. The wood stove would later be replaced with electric. Oil lamps replaced by light bulbs. But the family gathering around the old stove would not be forgotten by those who lived then.

This is a picture locked in time of a woman I did not know, but of a time I treasure of a grandmother, a great grandmother, a rocking chair and huge cast iron stove. The smell of burning wood brings me home.

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