Steinbeck on Stoves

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  • There are many passages in older books relating to the warmth and pride of ownership of a decent wood stove. Having recently read Cannery Row (Steinbeck), I was particularly taken with these paragraphs:

    The text relates to some bums who were outfitting their flophouse in Coastal California (1930's , approx.)

    They were some time acquiring a stove and when they did find what they wanted, a silver-scrolled monster with floriated warming ovens and front like a nickel-plated tulip garden, they had trouble getting it. It was too big to steal and its owner refused to part with it to the sick widow with eight children whom Mack invented and patronized in the same moment. The owner wanted a dollar and a half, and didn't come down to 80 cents for three days. The boys closed at 80 cents and gave him an IOU which he probably still has. This transaction took place in Seaside and the stove weighed three hundred pounds. Mack and Hughie exhausted every possibility for haulage for ten days and only when they realized that no one was going to take this stove home for them did they begin to carry it. It took them three days to carry it to Cannery Row, a distance of five miles, and they camped beside it at night. But, once installed in the Palace Flophouse it was the glory and the hearth and the center. It's nickeled flowers and foliage shone with a cheery light. It was the gold tooth of the Palace. Fired up, it warmed the big room. Its oven was wonderful and you could fry an egg on its shiny black lids.

    With the great stove came pride, and with pride the Palace became home.

    .......In their minds, they sneered at unsettled People who had no house to go to, and in their pride they brought a guest home for a day or two.