February 12, 2011

Wintertime in Uptown Chicago

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent


It snowed, you shoveled it, that was it; the city would not shovel side streets or your alley. We were lucky if some of the main streets were plowed. The city salt spreading went something like this:

A city dump truck loaded with sand and salt would stop in the intersection; two workers in the bed of the truck would throw the salt / sand mixture onto the street, intersections only. They used coal shovels and it was cold, backbreaking work. That was the city's snow program. I was watching the news the other night a couple of days after the snow fall, listening and watching to all the complaining. These lazy slackers could never have survived in the 40s.

Snow, what an opportunity to make a buck. Side streets unplowed, we would help dig out a car, then push it out of the parking space. We would used pulverized cinders that we would have in an old bucket and spread them out under the wheels for traction, then go on to the next car.

Cinders were free. Here is how we got them.

We would have to help the janitor of the building we lived in; we would pull the "Big Clinkers" from the furnace, spray them down with water, then smash them up with a sledge hammer. After the furnace was cleaned out we would add coal around the sides, starting from the middle of the furnace outwards; this was called banking the fire. We then  added some in the middle.

In order to get the clinkers out, we had a long metal claw devise that twisted on one end; we would pick them up and put them on the basement floor without burning ourselves.

I tried explaining what a clinker and cinders were, to some of my grandchildren; I never got past the coal part.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

as far as making a buck, a grown upneiighbor would tell you to shovel their snow and my father would make me do it because they were grown ups. IF you were lucly you might get a dime which right after the war was graet for a 9 or 10 yr old kid,


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