Memories and Musings: Franklin stove boogie

Published 11:12 am Saturday, January 26, 2019

By Gene Gallelli

After my brave and resourceful family’s failed attempts to stay warm in our first Antwerp, New York winter — electric blankets, kerosene and electric heaters, etc. — I took a neighbor’s free advice: “Buy a Franklin Stove!”

Like so many simple solutions to complicated problems — Stop worrying! Install a generator. Get a life! — my ignorance, lack of common sense and dwindling cash flow were trumped by my family’s desire to stay warm. At the time, we would all slip from under our electric blankets and meet in the upstairs bathroom to stay warm by the electric baseboard heater. Classic family time.

Buying the stove from Antwerp’s hardware store, which also sold Italian subs and ice cream, was easy; actually, it was fun. (I knew I would never fly a kite in a thunderstorm or sign the Constitution, like Old Ben, but I could certainly satisfy my colonial fantasies by purchasing his legendary wood-burning stove.)

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My Williamsburg-inspired dream began to falter when I asked the hardware expert, sub chef, soda jerk how to install the black, cast iron, legendary “heater” that proudly carried a forefather’s appellation.

First he informed me I needed to build a fireproof platform and wall addition for the cast-iron stove — “You don’t want to burn down the house!” he said.

“What’ll I need for that?” I asked. He told me, and I could feel my cash flow groan.

Then, he further instructed me to hire someone to poke a hole into the house’s chimney — “The smoke’s gotta go somewhere other than in your house,” he added, smiling. Of course, it had to also be inspected by the fire marshal, installed by a licensed HVAC technician and blah, blah, blah! I pictured dollar bills floating out the window like a windblown desk calendar into someone else’s pocket with each spoken word.

My immediate response to all the aforementioned requirements was to ask, “Where can I find someone to poke a hole in the chimney, hire an HVAC-certified technician to install the smoke-exhaust vents and the fire safety inspector to approve the installation?

When my jaw dropped after he said, “All of ’em would be me!” he added, “You look like you could use a fresh Italian sub.”

Old Ben’s furnace was delivered to the house the next day with little fanfare and uncertain smiles by the family. I left the house to purchase the two-by-fours, sheets of plywood, fireproof insulation and bricks to build the platform and wall covering for installing the stove.

Toolbox at the ready, spirits high, I began the Franklin Stove installation dance.

But that’s another story.