Pat Shingleton: Dropping the Grate..."
Before gas furnaces, many relied on the coal furnace. From the basement of the home the burning coal heated an iron "bell" that radiated heat into the rest of the home through a network of insulated ducts. As noted in a previous column, the radiated heat ultimately made it into registers that warmed the rooms and the house. Before bedtime it was the duty of my father, grandfather and later us, to stoke the fire and layer coal to provide some overnight warmth. Eventually, the grate that held the coal ashes sifted into a chamber that was cleaned on a daily basis. Traditionally, our grandfather would "drop the grate" on Saturday afternoons to remove the remaining ashes and to provide more heat than needed, while he enjoyed his bath.