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Right in my Own Backyard - by Brandt Carter
posted: Jan. 12, 2023

Right in my Own Backyard header

Out of the Past: Coal Bins
O.K., I'm going to date myself with this remembrance of coal bins. As a young child, the first house I lived in had one of these outmoded necessities. Coal was the fuel used to heat our house. The coal truck would pull up, open an exterior chute and a ton or so of the shiny black chunks would rumble down into the basement coal bin.
The coal bin held mystery and inspired terror. It was cold, dark and ominous. Mothers in that day could discipline with the warning, "You better behave or your dad will take you down to the coal bin when he gets home." That translated to a spanking. The words "coal bin" were quite a deterrent. Today's "time out" chairs just don't loom as darkly as the coal bin once did.
Coal bins also had their positives. When I was young, we only got fresh fruit in season. Produce typically was not transported in from other regions and countries year round. Apple season was a particular favorite. Dad would buy a crate of apples (Golden Delicious being our family preference) and, after the initial round of eating, the basket would end up in the coal bin to keep the apples cool. This meant we could be enjoying wonderful apples usually through the Christmas holidays.
I can still picture my dad, strong and young then even though I thought he was old because he was my dad, going downstairs with his work clothes on, opening the coal bin door. He'd take a wide-mouthed shovel in both hands and heave one load after another into the big furnace. The flames would leap high and the house would warm.
There's just something about cold winter days that always seems to trigger memories of the coal bins that were part of yesteryear's houses. As quickly as I entertain thoughts of bygone times, I am grateful for natural gas and a heating source that only requires me to turn a thermostat and change the filters. Progress does have its virtues.

Brandt Carter, artist, herbalist, and naturalist, owns Backyard Birds at 2374 E. 54th Street. Visit her web site Email your bird questions to
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