The Importance of Newspapers: Rural Living in Cumberland, Ontario

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by Gladys Lillian (Tootie) Egert (Scharfe)

This article, from the Cumberland Historical Society’s “Caboose”, will remind some in this region of life in the past.

As I recall in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the newspapers that came into the log house on the farm were not only informative but also useful. The Ottawa Farm Journal and The Family Herald were delivered by mailman. Our mailbox was approximately one-quarter mile away near S.S. #10 Public School. The mail was retrieved from the rural box by many modes of travel. The following was used by my family: walking, by bicycle, on horseback, with horses and buggy or cutter, team and sleigh, 1925 Star, 1928 Buick, 1941 Chevrolet, and a 1956 Meteor-Rideau.

One particular and important use was in the outhouse. The glass chimneys on the coal-oil lamps and lanterns were cleaned with bunched up newspapers. A wad of newspapers with a little pork or goose grease, and the stove surface would be cleaned. This was done when the fire had died down and the surface not very hot.

In the mornings, the fire in the stove was started by using newspapers and small, dry kindling wood. The wood cook stove was used to help heat the house and for cooking food. There was a box stove (heater) used mainly for keeping the house warm. This stove could accommodate larger chunks of wood that would burn for a longer time. The box stove in our log house was small, horizontal with a crack in one side. This crack provided a lot of burned spots on the hard wood floor over the years. The box stove could warm a house fast. I remember the red-hot stove pipes and the chimney fires. Larger box stoves were used in the one-room schools and community halls.

The reservoir-tank on one end of the cook stove was kept full of water. The water was kept warm by the heat from the stove. This water was used for personal use and for washing dishes. Water was heated in a large boiler pot, oval-shaped, approximately 12” wide, 2’ long, 18” deep on top of the stove. This water was used for washing clothes and, during the summer months, to have a bath in the bathtub. The tub was in the summer kitchen. The water from the tub drained outside through a hole in the wall onto the grass. During the winter, it had to be sponge baths in a wash basin. A pail under the sink caught the dumped water (careful not to overflow the pail). The pail had to be carried outside and dumped on the snow, ready for use again.

During the summer season, rainwater was collected from the log house roof into a large wooden tank. This water was used for washing in the summer. In the winter, the water had to be pumped and carried in pails from the deep well at the cow stable.

Newspapers were also used to set wet boots on at the door. Then, if possible, would be hung on the wood-box to dry out, then burned in the stove the next day. If shoes were too large, newspapers were crammed into the toes. Newspapers were also used in boots to help keep the feet dry and warm in the winter. On cold days in the winter, bricks were heated on the stove. These bricks were wrapped in thick layers of newspapers and put into the cutter or on the sleigh drawn by horses. This was done to help keep our feet from freezing, while travelling for hours.

Newspapers were important to have in our possession. Newspapers were a necessity.

[Used by permission, the Cumberland Historical Society]

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