Grandmother's Gas Stove

Stove

Daily Photo

Even though the spring on the door of the warming compartment expired with a thud last week and the door on the main oven gapes a little stupidly and has for all of my littlest one’s life, I’m not planning on getting a new stove. This one belonged to my grandmother and she got it second hand around fifty years ago when she first moved to a battered Southern Humboldt cabin from the big city of Eureka.

Forget microwaving food, even quick cooking oatmeal stirred over this stove’s burners feels like a nasty rush job. I’m a hasty throw together type myself but this stove has infused my kitchen with my grandmother’s life—I cook slow and from scratch more often than not.

In this oven I learned to bake my family’s favorite foods—popovers, pot roasts, homemade bread, and a few but memorable blackberry pies (Summer passes too fast even in slow kitchens like mine). From the burners come pots of sizzling venison stew, waffles made on old fashioned irons heated on the flames, and pans of hot chocolate waiting for a cool dollop of cream, hand whipped to cloud heights.

For no discernable reason, the winding timer on the back of the stove sometimes drones a warning that something, somewhere is needing my attention. I suppose that could mean it is broken but, to me, it feels like a grandmotherly reminder that life needs us to look around and see if someone, somewhere needs a little help.

The stove doesn’t have the modern amenities. There’s no self-cleaning oven and no easy clean surface. What it does have though is the spirit of a time gone by telling me—flavor is more important than speed when you cook, life is more about savoring an experience than about getting through a task, and grandmothers are still with you even when they’re no longer able to hold you close.

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25 comments

  • Now you’ve done it…you’re going to make me cry. (reminds me of my grandmother’s gas stove in Florida – that was some time ago)

  • Kym, Do not. I Repeat, DO NOT ever get rid of that stove. All of the parts to that stove are available. They have made a grand comeback. You can have them re-porcelained and you can completely restore them. Knobs are available, burners etc.

    My Mother and my Grandmother both had one of the grand old stoves. The most popular was the “Wedgewood-Holley with the griddle in the middle”. O’Keefe and Merritt, and Wedgewood Holley were the two most popular stoves of the fifties.

    I had a double oven Wedgewood-Holley with the griddle in the middle in my shop for years. One day a dear fried of mine saw it, and said that she had to have it. Recognizing her love for the old gas range, I gave it to her. She went home and promptly send someone with a truck after it. She died a few years later and I have no idea what happened to the range, but now, every time I see one I think of her.

    That range with the round oven is very unique. The oven door can be restored and recoated with porcelain. Most of the doors were broken by kids standing on them. You didn’t do that did you????

  • Kym, we don’t always comment, but we do always enjoy your posts. Thank you for taking the time to share your photos and thoughts they are a blessing. This post, of course, made me cry; grandmas and old stoves and taking the time to enjoy the NOW, what could be more important.

  • Grandma K would be very pleased to know you are treasuring her stove. Might be worth looking into Ernie’s suggestions about getting a new door etc. for it.

    Grandma H had an O’Keefe and Merritt. It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about it, but it seems it had a griddle, too. I remember the big wide spot in the middle between the two sets of burners, like the one in your photo.

  • Well, call us what you will, but we inherited an O’Keefe and Merritt with the griddle in the middle in the house we just bought, and we’re getting rid of it. I understand the nostalgia factor, and on the surface of things I like the way it looks, but it’s too big for the kitchen, it’s an energy hog, and two of the four burners don’t work. We’ll sell it to the local appliance rehab place and I’m sure they’ll be able to fix it up and sell it to someone who will appreciate it.

    If it was my grandmother’s stove, I’m sure I would put in the effort to rehab it and hang on to it, so keep and enjoy yours…I’m a strong supporter of surrounding yourself with things and people rich in your personal history (but clear out the junk once-in-a-while, too).

  • Chris, it could be my Mom’s old stove. LOL

  • I have never seen one with the round window in the oven. These stoves sell to the craftsman bungalow crowd down in LA. Twenty years ago they could bring $800. I have no idea what it would be now. The other great one was a Chambers. Beautifully made.

  • Ben, Chambers ranges were know for being combo-ranges. Like in wood and electric.

  • Kym, here’s a parts source. One of many. I tried to send it as a link but your blog-site recognizes it as advertising, so it chewed it up and spit it out like a dog eating cabbage.

    http://www.antiquegasstoves.com/pages/parts/westernholly.html

  • I love that picture. I have an old wood burning cook stove in storage. The thing weighs a ton but I’d never get rid of it. Grandma used to make the best spaghetti sauce on it and us kids would get to stoke the fire for her. Great memories.

  • That is the exact stove my grandmother had. Wow.

    Great photo, too. Love the pot on the stove with the lid open.

  • And that’s almost the exact stove we have. Ours came with the house. It sits right behind me as I write this. One difference is the oven windows on ours are square. We also have a griddle in the center, between the burners. Hard to tell if that’s on yours.

  • Oh, one rather odd coincidence (maybe they all do this eventually?) is I see the oven door on the right of yours doesn’t seem to close tight. Neither does ours.

  • Grandma’s stove is a Western Holly like you suspected, Ernie. She has a griddle in the middle with a porcelain top (I keep a butcher block on there though ’cause I like the warming color of wood against the coolness of the stove’s colors. Also I don’t use the griddle because I have my own cast Iron one that I like to put on top of the burners.

    I appreciate the link for the parts–several of my knobs could use replacing. I don’t mind the chipped porcelain, though if it were to magically be restored I wouldn’t mind that either. But someday maybe we can figure out if you can replace the door springs without me having to lug the poor dear down the hill. I don’t think she liked the last trip.

    Old stoves aren’t for everyone but I love them—especially this one. And no, I didn’t stand on the door but maybe Fred did on his.

  • Kym,
    What beautiful memories of Grandma. I remember that stove boiling the coffee early in the mornings and the smell of the oatmeal that would be our morning breakfast. No matter how hard I try, that oatmeal doesn’t taste like Grandma’s did. There was a distinct smell of anything that she lovingly prepared on that stove.

  • No, the right door on ours was always like that. It usually leans a bit out but you can push on it and it can stay almost fully closed.

  • Sande, I make oatmeal the old-fashioned slow way like Grandma. Sometimes I hit it right and sometimes, like the oatmeal hidden under the lid in the photo above, it turns out a bit gluey–still good but not quite Grandma.

    Fred, I had the stove reconditioned about 15 years ago but about 8 years ago the door sprung. I think it was from setting heavy baking dishes on it. I’ve learned a little late not to do that anymore. I still haven’t figured out why the “Broyl Oven” door sprang.

  • Ok. I posted a picture of mine on my blog. Picture came out real small for some reason, though.

  • Great story. Nothing better then to slow down and enjoy life. I to hae a soft spot for things of the past. Nothing can replace the warmth of a good memory.

  • I don’t have any of my grandmother’s appliances, but I do have dishes, flatware, and dishtowels that were hers. I agree that the sense of connection is priceless.

  • Fred, I like your stove. The two square windows are nice.

    KB–thank you. I write pieces like this not so much for other people but to remind myself of why I should slow down, enjoy, be thankful.

    Elaine, I’m wearing a necklace of my grandma’s right now. It isn’t worth much money but it is priceless. (BTW, I like this old avatar the best. It is unique.)

  • Ol’ Pinkface is back! ;^) Actually, this avatar is connected to my WordPress identity and never changed. I may have to restore it to my Blogger account as well. I’m getting a little tired of that caricature of myself as a three year old over there.

  • beautifully written and photographed.

  • Lovely old stove.
    The Slow Food Movement is not such a bad idea., eh?

  • The fadding/blurring around the edges of the stove is a really cool aspect. LOVE IT!

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