The Kitchen by Anne Cameron

My first memory of gas must have been between 1956 and 1960, Of course gas had been in our house long before that but I had never been aware of it – it was there just as the electric lights were there. My brother was born in 1956 and in the first few years of his life he suffered from attacks of croup. The only way to alleviate his breathing problems was to keep him in a “steamy” atmosphere. And here lies my first memory of gas.

In my Granny’s living room she had a gas tap on the wall next to the coal fire place (what would Gas Board officials think of that nowadays!) From this tap there was a rubber tube which connected on to a single gas-ring which sat on the hearth, When my brother was having a bad croup attack the kettle was put on to the ring to boil and the fire was stoked up and before long the living room was like a sauna! The gas-ring was usually used for my Grandpa’s tea. The tea-pot used to boil away for what seemed like hours to me as a little girl and the tea that was eventually poured out was “stewed” to almost the colour of coal. To get to this state of course it bubbled over quite a bit with the result that Granny’s hearth always had a corner that was stained brown, that no amount of Ajax powder or bleach could remove.

Granny did have a cooker in the kitchen – I used to call it the Green Monster because of its colour – green and cream. As far as I can remember it was cast-iron and stood on four legs which meant the oven was some 9 – 12” off the floor. It had solid electric rings one of which was oblong in shape and I don’t think there was more than 3 rings for cooking on. At that time my Mum had a small gas cooker through in her small kitchenette with 2 gas-rings and a small oven. I always used to think my Granny’s rice-pudding tasted better out of the Green Monster than Mum’s cooked in the gas oven!

We had no central-heating when I was small and in fact the house still hasn’t. The coal fire in Granny’s living room had to be made up every morning but through in our end of the house Mum had an all-night coal fire which was stoked up with dross every night, the damper put in to stop it “drawing” during the night and the front of the grate put up to stop the draught burning the coals too much. I used to love coming down in the mornings and watch Mum poke the fire to life once the damper was out and the grate let down again for the day. Taking the ashes out was quite a job especially if it was windy. The ashes collected in the ash-pan under the grate and a special handle fitted into the pan to lift it out. Of course in the mornings the ashes were red-hot and it was a case of Mum shouting “out the way – I’m coming with the ashes!” and everyone used to scatter including the dog. By the time she’d got outside with the ashes there was dust all through the living room and the kitchen!

No electric-blankets when I was small – just a hot-water bottle, lots of blankets and a quilt when it was really cold. (fore-runner to the modem-day duvet) I used to think it was great if I was ill during the winter as I got the coal fire lit in my bedroom. This was the only time the bedrooms were allowed to have the fires on!

October 1997