Sunday, March 27, 2022


The old stove

I just went up to the Woman Cave to get a fire going in the new-to-me wood stove. Theoretically after it's burning for awhile it'll get warm enough in the WoCave for me to be able to do some sewing without wearing mittens. The only question now is how long it'll take. It was still below freezing in the building when I wandered back down the driveway in search of a hot cup of coffee. I do like the way my current stove looks but if I'm going to be honest, it does not draw nearly as well as its predecessor and does seem to take a lot longer to get things warm. 

The old stove, long time readers (all two of you) may recall, was a homemade box stove. It would probably have given an insurance agent nightmares, but once it got going it burned really well. I liked to compare its appetite for consuming wood to a wino's grabbing for bottles of Ripple. I once decided to ask the S.O. about the actual history of that stove. As I suspected but wasn't sure about, the stove was created locally. Charles B. Dantes (aka Young Charlie) built the stove in his garage/shop in beautiful downtown Herman. I do not know (and doubt if the S.O. knows either and I forgot to ask if he did) if Young Charlie built it meaning to use it in his garage or if it was purpose-built for where it went: the Waiting Shack, the small building the Herman kids hung out in while waiting for the school bus in the morning. 

Why was there a Waiting Shack? Because the full-size school bus couldn't navigate the side roads, or at least not the one that probably had the most kids living on it. The bridge over Dault's Creek (which is always referred to as the Herman Creek when you live in Herman but is Dault's on the maps) for the Summit Road was considered unsafe for the buses. The fact fully loaded logging trucks ran over it all the time was apparently irrelevant. It's one thing to chance dropping multiple tons of pulpwood into the creek, risking a busload of school kids is a different story. The school board dealt with the bridge issue by contracting with someone to drive a feeder bus, i.e., an ordinary car, out to the kids who lived on the various dead end roads that fan out from beautiful downtown Herman. (In retrospect, that car was like a rolling human sardine can, way more bodies crammed into it than it had been designed to hold, all sans seatbelts. Then again, nothing had seat belts back then. In a family sedan mom's lap was presumed to be the baby seat.) 

It is also possible the bridge wasn't an issue at all. The fact the back roads were pure shit may have been more of a factor, but I like the bridge story. 

The feeder bus would go up Lystila Road to pick up the kids from there, drop them at the Waiting Shack, and then go out the Summit Road to pick up kids, back to the Waiting Shack, out the Nestoria Road, and back, until all the kids were waiting for the big bus. Whoever drove the feeder bus got a fire started in the Waiting Shack before the first run out.  The kids who got dropped off would then toss additional logs on the fire if necessary while waiting for the rest of their colleagues to arrive. 

I'm not sure when the system with the Waiting Shack started. I never thought to ask my mother. She mentioned riding a school bus into L'Anse for high school in the 1930's but before that, i.e., first through 8th grades, she and her siblings either walked or skied to the Herman School. (That school closed around the time World War II began; the building is still standing, which is a real tribute to the guys who built it considering how long it's been sitting vacant.)

Anyway, back to stove history. At some point, the S.O.'s uncle Waino bought the stove. I'm not sure when the Waiting Shack stopped being used -- they were still using a feeder bus system the last time our kids were in the L'Anse schools, which was past the time when we acquired the stove, but apparently if the shack was still there it wasn't being heated anymore.

Waiting shack, Herman School in background
Not sure why the S.O.'s uncle bought the stove, but we acquired it from him in the late 1970's. We got it set up in what was then the back porch for the Shoebox (a mobile home) and it hasn't moved since. We did try to do it reasonably safely. As noted in other posts, we started covering the wall with a sheet of asbestos, which kind of shattered while being handled so it never really got all the way up. We also put an asbestos-backed metal pad under the stove. (Asbestos really was everywhere at one point. I'm always amazed there aren't more people dropping from mesothelioma. Check out an old Girl Scout handbook sometime: there are craft projects described in pre-1970's manuals that used loose asbestos fiber to mold candle holders.)

We got the old stove out of the WoCave last summer. We debated doing something with it, like turning it into a legal incinerator. Michigan now has a law stating that if you burn trash outdoors it has to be in an incinerator that includes a chimney. No more using a basic burn barrel or pretending we're in Texas or Missouri and burning trash in ditches. We've got some old brick we could have made a pad with so it wouldn't sink out of sight immediately. In the end, though, it went up to the field (or what used to be a field) to reside on the scrap iron pile. It's probably going to be in that location for a long, long time. It is made from really thick plate steel and isn't going to rust into nothingness any time soon. Does it count as a historic object? Now that it's on the scrap iron pile, knowing the provenance becomes kind of irrelevant.


  1. nothing beats a wood burning stove...

  2. There are kits to build wood stoves from barrels. They work pretty well. The best wood stove we have owned was a Baby Bare made from boiler plate. I don't know if they make them any more. We heated our whole house with one back in the eighties. Rural Maine is a lot like upper Michigan - lot of old home made gear still around.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  3. What a good story, and the photo of Herman school and the waiting shack is the cherry on top. You live in an interesting area, and how great to

  4. Asbestos everywhere and dangerous ways to transport Children, ah, the good ole' days, how did we all Survive?

    1. The ones that didn't aren't here to talk about it

  5. A great story, Nan. Very enjoyable. I'm sure the kids who participated had great stories to tell their kids and grandkids


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