Ever play with fire?

Kids are fascinated by fire but do not appreciate its danger.

“Sambo” Merritt and I found an old glass projector lens and had a grand time focusing the sun on dry leaves.

We burned down someone’s old tool shed trying to start a fire. Well, actually we were quite successful at starting the fire and the owner dreaded tearing down the shed so we skated on that one.

Boy Scouts supposedly learned to start fires for warmth and cooking. It took a long time to learn that green wood would not burn and a hot fire was too wild for cooking.

From the time between thinking about fire-roasting a hot dog until we had a useful bed of coals could have been over an hour. This taught us patience and to think ahead.

At age five my father walked the mile up the dirt road to Mr. Bartow Dukes’ store for a nickel’s worth of kerosene. That was in 1913 and before his home received electric power in the 1930s.

The kerosene was for oil lamps and lanterns, the only illumination in the house. It lasted a week.

The first thing his family wanted was electric lights and power for a radio. Up until then a radio was something that, if amplified, used batteries.

It is no wonder that electric power is associated with “light” in that utility poles are still called “light poles,” and the electric bill is a “light bill.”

Electric power came to the Kansas Woman’s family in 1948 for a refrigerator. Until that year she did homework by an oil lamp. Three years later she left the one-room school for “town school.”

Cleaning the glass lamp globes was a child’s chore. Their hands were small enough to fit inside the globe and it gave them responsibility. If the globe was dirty everybody knew whose fault it was.

My dad said that glass globes were first scraped of soot and mixed with kerosene for home-made ink.

Camping boys had a choice between a battery-powered flash light and a lantern. Kerosene was far more economical than batteries and was the easy choice.

Today there are few parents that would trust their kid with an oil lantern. They just don’t have the reference of fire danger and the experience of using a lantern.

Looking for something else I found the Hilco No. 400 lantern I used during my scouting days.

We just managed four days without power due to the storm. I was glad we had oil lamps and the little red lantern.

I would have been happier if I’d had some kerosene.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at joenphillips@hotmail.com.

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