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Dead Men Tales: Modern Times, Old Buildings

HeatingHelp Administrator Posts: 634
edited January 2022 in THE MAIN WALL

Modern Times, Old Buildings

In this episode, Dan Holohan shares some entertaining tales about troubled heating systems and human nature.

Listen and subscribe here.

Thank you to our sponsor SupplyHouse.com.
Turbo Dave


  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,226
    Nice! Just one call to the health department could have made it all even more memorable. o:)

    Yours, Larry
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,487
    Retired and loving it.
  • OuterCapeOilguy
    OuterCapeOilguy Member Posts: 46
    In 1971 I as a 19-year old budding jazz trombonist rented an apartment in a Cambridge Massachusetts fpurplex near Central Square. I, too, it was puzzled by the lack of radiators or any other visible signs of a heating system. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the freestanding kitchen range had, built into its right side, a space heater, complete with vent pipe going into the chimney! I had never seen one of these before, but later found out that they were quite common in the area. Being a “shotgun flat,“ and inasmuch as the kitchen was in the back, I wondered how we were to heat the front part of the dwelling. This mystery was solved when I discovered a gas tap in the front bedroom, and a gas space heater stored in the basement. I had already developed fairly decent mechanical skills by my late teens, so I wasted no time in hooking this apparatus up. These heaters, coupled with one or two pedestal fans which I salvaged from a dump, kept me and my housemates toasty through that winter!
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,487
    @CapeCodOilGuy, good story! Thanks for sharing. Meg's apartment (such as it was) was in Worcester.
    Retired and loving it.
  • CaptCurt
    CaptCurt Member Posts: 1
    Hilarious! Keep em coming ;-)
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,487
    Will do, @CaptCurt! Thanks.
    Retired and loving it.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,470
    When I came home from the army the family was living in the first floor of a standard (for this area) two family house. We had steam heat that did a great and very quiet job of heating four of the five rooms, if you set the very old Delco thermostat to 70 it kept the apartment at about 70 - no muss no fuss.

    This house was built after WWI and back then the wives were homemakers, the husbands went off to work while the wife took care of the kids and cooked and cleaned when she wasn't chasing after junior. Back then just about all meals were cooked at home so between cooking and baking the stove was one a lot and because of that none of these houses had radiators in the kitchens. The gas stove gave off plenty of heat so as long as it was on for hours every day it kept the kitchen warm enough.

    During WWII and thereafter a lot of woman were working outside the home so that stove no longer was on enough to keep the kitchen warm. Something had to be done and the Glenwood Stove company had the answer, They made a 36" free standing stove with a gas log heater on the side that put out 30-40,000 BTU of heat, you could set it for high, medium or low to control how much heat it put out and it exausted combustion fumes into the house chimney.

    In 1978 we had a blizzard come blasting through that paralyzed the area for 3-4 straight days, the drifts were 5-6 feet high and temps were in the teens. We were without power for over two days but that standing pilot gas log kept the house pretty comfortable. The kitchen was 70+, by closing the right doors the bathroom and bedrooms were in the 60's with the living and dining rooms falling into the high 40's and low 50's.

    Some luck folks even had a stack heater beside the stove that would heat you water by just turing tha gas valve on so you could have hat water and heat without electricity. There was no thermostat so you had to shut the gas off when you were done or youmight get to see that stack heater launch itself when it's pressure got high enough.

    Any single family house in this are built at that same time was the same - no radiator in the kitchen and most of those had Glenwood stoves with gas logs on the side. During storms you might not have power but you could keep the first floor reasonable if the power went out, The second floor was a little cold and the bathroom was up there but it was almost always right over the kitchen so the pipes were kept from freezing.

    When I was in the army in the 60's a lot of the buildings were old open stud construction from the 1940's, most had steam heating with boiler but some of these buildings were converted to offices and instead of running a lot of steam pipes and small radiators they ran gas pipes and installed open gas logs for heating, you turned on the gas and lit it with a match. As long as you kept newspapers away from them they were safe and the building construction ensured there was enough fresh air. Some used to put C ration cans on them to heat up what was inside but if you waited a little to long there would be a loud pop and then you had franks and beans all over the place and the captain would be really pissed.

    Despite all the above we made it into adulthood with some scrapes and burns and went on with life as best we could.
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    Larry WeingartenTurbo DaveSolid_Fuel_Man
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,487
    Thanks for the history, @BobC . Where were you living when you came home from the Army? And thanks for your service!
    Retired and loving it.
  • aohare
    aohare Member Posts: 5
    Once again, this story shows why you tell some of the best stories ive ever read!
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,487
    Retired and loving it.
  • fixitguy
    fixitguy Member Posts: 91
    Still using my 57 Roper with space heater every morning, even though I added a steam radiator 10 years ago. Nice & toasty in the kitchen.
  • roncook
    roncook Member Posts: 8
    Another great story Dan
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,487
    Thanks, Ron!
    Retired and loving it.
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,295
    Grandparents had a two family in Springfield that they bought around 1915. My uncle lived with them and was tasked with snow shoveling and keeping the boiler stoked. He got up every morning at 4 am to get the boiler running before walking 4 miles round trip to work. The 3 of them never had a drivers license or a car. Originally had hot air but we found receipts to install two coal fired boilers radiation and piping for $700 and change from 1918. Pretty good deal

    They lived on the second floor and rented the first floor. The stove in the kitchen was a huge Cast Iron contraption. It was gas and had a tank on the side full of keroseine to heat hot water. The refrigerator was also gas.

    Found receipts to change the electric service in 1948 from 120 volt 30 amp to 120/240 volt 60 amp.

    The receipt was pages long and itemized everything like 98 six penny nails etc

    They had converted the tennents boiler to oil but my grand father would not convert his to oil.

    After he died at 91 in 1970 I think my uncle had it converted to oil the next day

    Going into the house was like a time machine back to 1920

    My grandfather kept the outside painted and in decent shape.

    The inside..........if it was good in 1920 then it was good enough in 1970

    Leaky, drafty with old windows but you would never know it. It was always toasty with coal