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What Wuz It Like Back Then On StatNisland Robert Sheridan bobsheridan George, that's an amazing piece of memory that says a lot about StatNisland. Since one thought leads to another around here, let me give you a piece of home heating of my own.

When we moved to those double-decker brick attached row-houses in FawCawnahs just before the war (WW2) ended, the whole area was heated by coal. The streets were made of loose stones. Later they laid down hot, wet, tar, and steam rollers came along and made everything flat. Puddles of tar remained on top of the stones. In winter they were slippery. Then they put "Play Street" stanchions at each end of the block, so kids like me could play stickball in the street. When motorists crept past, interrupting our game, we'd holler, "Pla-a-a-y Str-e-e-e-t," just to get the message across. We only did that to strangers. If you lived on the block (we knew everybody)we din't say nuttin,' nice kids that we wuz.

At any rate, back to the heating. We had coal deliveries. Each of the attached double apartments was heated by a single coal-burner. It sent heat up pipes that heated both floors, the downstairs, where we lived, and the upstairs, where the tenants lived. Sometimes the pipes made noise. Hissing, or knocking. We hung aluminum pans, on hooks, filled with water behind the radiators. They were big iron things you don't see nowadays, unless you go into an old Federal building that has them. They got extremely hot. You put the pans, called "humidifiers," (I say this for the poor guy a hundred years from now who otherwise would have to look "humidifiers" up in an ancient dictionary) between the radiator and the wall. That left a little space. Little kids climbing the radiator (they were sometimes covered with a thin metal covering) would sometimes slip between the radiator and the wall, when it was hot. They'd get scalded, as in a cooked leg. I had a neighborhood kid with huge scars on his leg from getting cooked by a radiator he happened to slip into. Very nasty things.

Windows would get frozen over, on the inside from humidity generated by breath, cooking, and the humidifiers. You had humidifiers because otherwise your skin would get dry and your lips and fingers would start to crack. So you used lotions and humidifiers.

Then you caught a cold and died, unless, like us, you lived, godknowswhy, we certainly asked for it.

When you got coal deliveries, the coal-truck driver rigged up a chute into a basement window. He carried bags of coal on his back from the truck to the chute. The chute led from a window leading to the outside, near where the truck could pull close to, to the coal bin in your basement, a walled-off wooden box. With coal you always had something to write with on someone's wall. Or draw a hopscotch box on the sidewalk. I'll let someone else talk about that and what a "Potsy" is. Or was.

On cold nites, your dad shoveled coal into the coal burner, and the steam came up, heating the radiators, keeping you warm. The condensate frosted the windows, and you carved your name with your fingertips, or made an opening to look out. You didn't want to waste coal, so you let the place cool off at night. In the morning, dad stoked the coal in the burner, meaning the ashes, and threw in another shovel-full, to keep the place warm during the winter-day, if mom and the kids were home, as we were.

Later, oil burners came in and we all switched to oil, abandoning coal. The coal bin was converted from coal to my room, using 2x4s and sheet-rock (covered with knotty-pine paper, courtesy U.S. Gypsum, via the dump). It kept me snug, warm, and atom-bomb proof, or so I thought.

Little did I realize that the front of the building, between me and NYC, the presumed target, would be of no help at all. Why? Because if the Russkis had any brains at all, they wouldn't aim for Lower Manhattan, they'd aim for the tank farms, i.e., the oil refineries, on the back-side of the Island,across the Kill, in Jersey, and the tank farms on the Island. They'da cooked my goose, as I had a clear line of sight to those babies. And they to me.

The oil trucks came by every month, stinking up the place, pumping oil into an oil tank, maybe 500 gallons (does that sound like too much? 200 gallons sound more like it? I can't remember). The tank had a line to the former coal burner, which now had an oil burning unit in it's place. No more coal dust, or shoveling coal. Smell of oil though. Left a residue of burned oil dust, which combined with the natural gas kitchen stove, required you to Spring clean with a vengeance.

Perhaps they use electricity now. AEK, it was called, all electric kitchen. Good cooks prefer gas. We used gas, but weren't good cooks.

Okay, so much for the heating on S.I., at least for me.

I gotta check out a couple other posts I've seen around here.


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