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Louisiana for Christmas and Quebec Heaters in Canada

By Remy Benoit

It is cold here where we are accustomed to very high temperatures and heavy humidity.

There is a "wintry mix" falling; part of I 10 was closed for awhile do to icing. It made me think of this piece by Stan Scislowski, author of Not All of Us Were Brave.

The Quebec Heater Wood Stoves of the 30s

We didn't have a furnace in our house until 1943 when we had a basement put in, by which time I was already in the army.
Anyway, until the furnace came along. we, along with most other people in Windsor and everywhere else heated our house with an upright wood stove known as a Quebec heater. How we ever managed to keep from freezing half to death in those ice-age 30's winters when the temperature frequently fell below zero Fahrenheit, I¹ll never know.

Our frame house had no insulation except newspapers tacked between the plaster and the outside walls. With the stove centrally located in the dining-room, it naturally made it the warmest in the house except when Ma was cooking up a big meal. Then the kitchen was comfortably warm. No heat, however, got as far as the bathroom, and I swear that the toilet-seat had been carved out of ice. What a shock to the nether region, especially in the morning!

Lucky for us we had the nice, thick feather ticks, we so-called foreign-ers had for sleeping under. These down-filled comforters were the greatest even in the coldest weather. Although it was cold when you first crawl-ed under the 'perenas' as they were known in Ukainian called, in a couple of minutes you were delightfully warm. On the coldest days the windows might be a covered in frost built up a half inch thick, but under all those soft feathers encased in the big cotton envelope, it was like summer.

Besides it being the main source of heat, we depended on the stove for toasting our bread in the morning. No toast made in the modern pop-up toasters could ever match the quality that we got from making them on the stove. But we didn¹t always come away with what we were looking for. Conditions had to be just right. If the stove was too hot. you ended up with a carbonized slice of bread. And there was, for some reason, only one spot on the side of the stove where you applied the bread. After you pasted it on, and this could be a tricky operation since chances of a badly burned palm or fingers was very real, it took about five seconds, and if everything was just right, the bread would fall off onto your hand when done. It gave you exactly what you wanted,a smooth, light brown surface on which the butter melted so nicely. Naturally, we toasted only one side. And it¹s a wonder we never burned the tip of our fingers. By comparison, those dry, crumbly things that come out of pop-up toasters could never match for taste what our old wood stove did for bread.

You never ever hear of kids sitting down to a meal of bread and warm milk anymore. Doesn't sound like much, but I loved it. Nothing like it for warming you up on a frigid winter's day after a heavy skating session on our outdoor rink. And speaking of outdoor rinks, there were a good many neighbourhood outdoor rinks in the city. Wherever there was a vacant lot, large or small, you could be sure, come the cold, cold weather in late December or early January that before long there¹d be a rink out there and all the kids in the neighbourhood plus a few outsiders who we never chased away would be having themselves a great time circling the ice or scrambling around in a choose-up hockey game. And at night when we couldn't see the puck to play hockey, we'd play 'crack the whip' or just skate merrily 'round and 'round our almost regulation-size rink on Parent Avenue between Tecumseh Road and Hanna. And when it was time to warm up, there was always a nice fire going a few yards away‹ kept going by scraps of wood, most of it supplied by the fence boards of the Fibre Products Company on nearby Langlois Avenue. Yes, those were the good old days. How could going to one of these modern arenas compare in providing fun for the kids and even adults as to what we had in those wonderful days of mid and late 30s playing pick-up games of hockey with no coaches to brow-beat us, and no rules like offsides to slow the game.

I couldn't afford to buy tube-skates, and then when I got a pair for Christmas, my ankles were so weak, even with supports, they nearly touched the ice. Definitely not good for quality skating. Eventually though, in my frequent junking expeditions I found a pair of straight blade skates, and even though the leather was torn along one side they were just what I needed, yet they were at least three sizes to large for me. Though it improved my skating, I knew then I would never end up playing hockey for the Windsor Bulldogs. But I had fun, and that was the name of the game.


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