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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Being in hot water
actually a luxury

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
Recently, after a weather front blew past, I had to relight our hot water heater.

Today, we take hot water for granted, but not so long ago, plenty of hot water was considered a luxury.

Memories about hot water, or the lack of it, crossed my mind. Some go way back to a teakettle sitting on the back of our kitchen stove, which was the only hot water we had available.

At various times in the Trew house, we used a blue spatter porcelain, a white porcelain and an aluminum teakettle to heat water. The aluminum kettle was best because when you banged on the sides to knock the calcium deposits loose, porcelain vessels often chipped, causing rusty holes to appear.

Down at the Parcell Ranch on the Canadian River, where mostly men (and little boys) hung out batching, we used two porcelain coffee pots. The light gray was for coffee and the big blue was for hot water.

Our wood cook stove had a hot water reservoir but at some time it had frozen solid and cracked the tank, rendering it unusable.

As long as I can remember, on bath nights we filled the galvanized milk buckets with water heating on either a wood, coal, kerosene or butane stove. Because of the expense, we had butane for the refrigerator and kitchen cook stove but used other fuels to heat our house. Later we acquired a butane tank, allowing us to install a floor furnace and hot water heater.

In my antiques collection I have a two-burner, kerosene, hot water heater. When I say burner, I mean the old round-wick type burner that you tipped the top aside and lit the wick with a kitchen match.

The hot water tank above holds only about two gallons of water so we think this was a barber shop heater, keeping enough hot water for shaves only.

While researching the McLean POW camp book, I learned one of the requirements of the Geneva War Accords about treatment of prisoners of war is to provide them with all the hot water they require. In my early days, this would have been coddling or luxury treatment.

Another little boy memory came when our family went somewhere, either to town, church or the neighbors'. My brother and I were called into the kitchen and stood on a kitchen chair.

Mother poured hot water from a teakettle into the wash pan, took lava soap and a rough wash rag and proceeded to scrub the skin off our necks, elbows, hands plus "reamed out" our ears. My skin is still tender today from her efforts back then.

Last came our feet. Sometimes we went barefooted unless the goat-heads were thick, then we donned high-top tennis shoes without socks. After a while, the smell was enough to brings tears to your eyes. By the time the foot-cleaning process ended, we were howling, mother's face was red and sweaty and the atmosphere was electrified with temper.

But at least the water was hot.


Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew" Column
- May 3, 2006
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.


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