Having Hot Water; Chicago, 1953


Talking things over the other day with other geezers about things we’ve taken for granted for many years, I offered a case in point: hot showers any time we want one.
In 1953 my house in south Chicago, across 61st Place from Englewood High School, had no hot water heater. None of my schoolmates lived in houses that had hot water heaters.
In the winter, we got hot water as a by-product of the heating system; that is, the coal-fired furnace that heated the house by circulating hot water through radiators. How the coal got into the furnace is another story for another time.
In warm weather – yes, there is warm weather in Chicago – hot water was obtained by starting and maintaining a fire in a much smaller furnace designed only for the purpose of providing hot water. I earned a great deal of motherly affection by my willingness to build fires in that little furnace when she wanted hot water without having to put a huge pot on the stove.
It came to pass that I discovered the Southtown YMCA, where I learned eight-ball, boxing, swimming, and basketball. To my everlasting surprise and delight, I also learned that there was an everlasting supply of hot water in the Y’s showers, hot water I could use by simply turning on and adjusting the faucets. It was somebody else’s water, it wasn’t in a tub, it hadn’t already been used at least once by another member of my family, and it didn’t need to be warmed up with a huge pot of steaming hot water from the stove.
This has made me go enjoy another hot shower.
Two or three a day whether I need them or not.

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One thought on “Having Hot Water; Chicago, 1953

  1. Very interesting, Einar ! The only times when I remember having to warm stream water for bathing on the top of a wood stove, was in the late 1930’s at our summer cabin in the mountains near Ruidoso, New Mexico – where we also had a modern, outdoor privy (w/ a concrete floor / stool base). But we also had to pump and tote drinking water from a spring, about 1/4 of a mile upstream.

    Rayburn M.

    Like

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