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Columns

April 9, 2014

Old movies offer more than entertaining TV

Toby and I like to watch old black-and-white movies, especially to see the clothing on the men with wide lapels, double-breasted suits, wing-tipped shoes, and ladies with beautiful hats, matching gloves, handbags and high heels.

We are alert to the background furnishings and décor, too. One particular movie brought back a flood of memories for Toby of the house they lived in on Mason Street in Schuyler Falls when he was young.

He started his description right at the back door of the woodshed, then the kitchen complete with an old kerosene pot-burner cook stove. Those things were dangerous and I’m sure many mothers were glad when they got a gas cook stove.

That was what my mother said when I asked her if we ever had one of those kerosene stoves. She related one occasion when my dad got up early (as he often did, being a farmer), filled a large pan with water, set it on the stove and turned on the kerosene pot burner to heat the water. He then went to the barn, not realizing that the fire was too high.

Mum said she woke up to a soot-filled bedroom where she and I were sleeping upstairs, black all around my (chubby) face in my bassinet. When she went downstairs to see what was burning, she found that the high flame had sent soot flying into the room, hanging off the curtains and the furniture.

When my father came in from the barn and discovered what was going on, she said he immediately went to Fort Covington and bought her a new gas stove (after he cleaned up the mess, I imagine).

Toby also told me about the woodstove in their kitchen, which kept the house warm during cold winters. It was his job to fill the water reservoir before bed every night. He said they appreciated the warm water in the morning, especially when it was so cold that the hand pump froze.

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