Stovetop Hot Cocoa and Coal Furnaces

I’ve been thinking about my great-grandparents lately.  Our microwave died not long ago, and with it the ability to heat up coffee and milk instantly . . . IN the cup we plan to drink from.  Instead we have to add coffee and milk to a saucepan every morning, heat it to a foamy boil, and then pour the steaming liquid into our cups.  It’s not really that hard to do, and it takes almost no time.  Plus, it actually tastes better than the microwaved version.  (Not that we have any intention of living without a microwave for much longer 🙂 )

With the recent bitter cold courtesy of the polar vortex, I’ve been heating up coffee and milk multiple times every day, which is what puts me in mind of my grandparents.  My great-grandfather was custodian of the elementary school where my great-grandmother taught.  In cold-weather months of the Great Depression my great-grandfather walked a few blocks to the school every single night (holidays included) to take care of the coal furnace.  When he got home, he sat in the living room before going to bed and drank the hot cocoa my great-grandmother had made for him in a saucepan on the stove.

Isn’t it strange?  My great-grandparents have been dead for almost fifty years.  But they’ve achieved a type of immortality as long as I (or my children, who have heard the stories) still think of them while doing things like pulling the car over to take a photograph or heating up coffee and cocoa the old-fashioned way.

Speaking of coal furnaces, by the way, I actually once saw coal being delivered to an old three-story house on Milwaukee’s East Side.  This was probably twenty or twenty-five years ago.  A long chute ran from the delivery truck to a basement window, and the whole thing vibrated like crazy, shaking the coal along its path from truck to house.

Being curious, I just found a video online of a residential coal delivery, and apparently what caused all the vibration was a conveyor belt.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. My blog is a space for playing with ideas about creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, and the nature of "insight."
This entry was posted in History, Life, Milwaukee and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Stovetop Hot Cocoa and Coal Furnaces

  1. We had an old ash box in our yard when I was growing up. For the ashes from a coal furnace!! Thanks for the memory!! 🙂

  2. haha, this is a touching post, for some reason. hi, doc kat… sorry i’ve been remiss in these parts. and now, i’ve a lot to backread, hoho… hope things are well. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Better Than Brownies (#tbt) | Katherine Wikoff

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