3 mins read

The Joys of Hot Running Water

Remember the days when the idea of having running water meant one’s younger brother dashing out the door to fetch a bucket of water from the nearby spring? Probably not, but that’s not a bad thing. Oh, and if you weren’t on the water detail, then you were the one on ash duty or coal patrol which helped to stoke the fire to keep the home fires burning. And that was just the fire to heat up the hot water reservoir, which was attached to the stove, to experience that glorious sensation of a hot water bath.
It was usually a once a week experience on Saturdays and the waiting in line for one’s turn was no popcorn at the Nickelodeon thrill. It involved more than the discomfort of the cold. It involved patience, stamina, and back-breaking labor. Then, only the more modern families had the convenience of a hot water reservoir, for it was actually considered a luxury.
Water was heated by the means of the flue, from the stove’s smoke stack, passing through the hot water reservoir. The hot water was then drawn off from a faucet attached to the reservoir. Well, you get the picture. The other way to create hot water was through Grandma’s copper pot.
Grandma would be standing in front of her stove in the kitchen tending to her huge, copper pot. This 25 gallon boiler, when doing its job, became the most welcome visitor on those cold, winter nights. What with all that running, stoking and carting of the coals Grandma’s boiler would yield a fine pot of hot water. The ritual of the Saturday Night bath was born out of the necessity for cleanliness in times when hot running water was not readily available at the kitchen sink.
It had come to be expected that all would take a bath whether one needed it or not. It was most always in the kitchen close to the warmth of the coal fired cook stove. Would it have made sense to have it anywhere else? The kitchen in effect became the bathroom. Certainly a forerunner of what one has today.
But now back to the actual bath. If one was lucky he got to be the first one in, or maybe not so lucky, as he was then responsible for carrying in that old washtub that served as the receptacle for the bath. They used the term receptacle because it sure wasn’t big, let alone comfortable. The youngsters would be the first in the water.
It was not changed for each person, rather additional hot water was added until everyone had their turn. Of course, the biggest challenge was keeping the few inches of water in that tub hot. The first bathers would be the ones with the cleanest bodies. It only made sense that the last person in was the dirtiest, after all who would want to follow that episode?
Is it any wonder that those of us living in today’s modern times, with today’s modern conveniences, tend to distance themselves from the struggles and inconveniences of days past. There’s nothing wrong with that, really. But it would be something if the next time you stand before a sink with hot running water, flowing away by the gallons, that you would at least give a nod to those who made that convenience possible. It is the modern day plumbing contractor.