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Our Boiler Was The Only Fear That We Had

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

Our old boiler took on the appearance of a demon.

Our old boiler took on the appearance of a demon.

Looking Back to The Sixth Grade

the year was 1966. I had just turned 12, “the” ripe age for males as they enter that scary maze of life called puberty. Some make it fine. Some do not. Guess which one I was. But with all the pro’s and con’s of “that” very special year (ABC TV missed it’s chance in filming that movie), I can truthfully say that 1966 was a mixture of fun (when our teacher, Mrs. Lena Dozier was retiring at the end of the school year) and a good mix of anticipation when we all became adult-enough to settle down and get ready for our school vacation and start yet, another phase of our lives, Junior High School which in itself was a “beast” unto itself.

Sixth-grade was the defining year that made us look at ourselves in an honest light, and no one dared to reveal the visions we saw in that all-knowing light, but we were strong or stubborn enough to walk the walk of young adults and hope that we all grabbed that brass ring.

The reason that we were all in a hurry most of the time because Mrs. Dozier was always giving us one project after the other and we had no time for our hands to grow idle so satan could ease into our classroom and give us a few hints on mischief. But even he grew weary of Mrs. Dozier talk and talk about her trip that she made in the summer of 1965 with her friends to Mexico. If we ever wanted a time to NOT listen to her lectures, all we had to do was just mention Mexico. It did not matter what we said, it was just because the statement was about Mexico. What a great time that was.

The old rusty steel boiler made sounds much like a dying T-Rex.

The old rusty steel boiler made sounds much like a dying T-Rex.

Moving Past Mexico

and onto what this piece is really about: our class did NOT have anything or anyone who could bring us down due to fear. Spell it F—E—A--R! What a tough creature with no face, hands or tail. Scary is not the word. Horrific is. But in all honesty, and this is not boasting, but our class worked with Mrs. Dozier, did what work we knew how to do, and just live from day to the other without any hint of fear.

I know that I sound like a braggart, but please believe me, I am not. I am just trying my best to recall the facts of “that” year of 1966, and hopefully, give you an interesting piece of hub-work. I hope. Like I stated, one day at Hamilton Grammar School where we were in sixth-grade was like one day to the next. Most of us would get off our our school bus,walk to Mrs. Dozier’s room and while we walked that hardwood floor, “that” smell of an iconic school house was everywhere and even if the custodian, (a) Mr. Spencer, did have the manpower and energy to completely-clean our school, “that” smell was more like a scary winged creature that haunted our rooms and hallway again.

But friends, we did not have anything or anyone to fear. Even the dangerous thunderstorms of early September with their harsh rain, sharp lightning and loud thunder did not phase us that much. We just worked, talked, and prayed that 3 p.m. would soon roll around, like most schools do today in 2019.

The Only Fear That

we had to contend with was located underneath Mrs. Dozier’s school room. I mean right underneath her desk. This ancient, mid-1940’s steel boiler which resembled a chained-up demon with glowing eyes and mouth when the fire inside its belly was on High Heat, was our only fear and our only hope of somehow doing something or maybe praying something that would cause this old steel boiler to explode or maybe (with a master saboteur) he could do something so diabolically-sly that this old steel boiler would be made to shut down

We did not ask for a lot of time for the old boiler to be down, but at least a couple of weeks, maybe an entire month, because we had studied this old relic of a boiler and when the thing was sleeping, we crept into its nest where all of its food (coal) was stored and read a manufacturer’s plate stating the year that the boiler was created, not built, and what materials it took to repair it in case of a break-down and the best part was in order for the parts to be ordered and delivered would take at least a month and a half to get its stoker back to working and the entire school building was once again be warm as toast.

Oh, what would be the chances? One time, maybe three times, we rough-neck guys all aged 11 and 12, took it on ourselves during one morning recess to check this old, rusty, boiler that we knew had once been the pride of someone’s factory, but the wear and tear of the daily grind did take its toll sending it to a place like our school building, a shameful thing to happen to this old, steel boiler.

At one trip we boys 11 and 12 years old, stood silently and some even wept at how this old boiler would chug and gasp for the air coming too quickly into the fire pit and causing the fire to dwindle down to little of nothing. But in our heart of hearts, we all prayed for that old “steel crutch” to go down on one blustery, frigid November morning as Mrs. Dozier started our class only to have her announcement speaker that hung at the top of her room tell us that our parents would have to be called in order for us to go home thanks to NO heat. This was no fantasy. This was Gloryland.

Now I have to tell you the truth only if it is my personal confession. I did think that during those foggy, cold winter months that the old rusty boiler was able (by some evil magic powers) to show-up in the shape of a big Florida Everglades crocodile slowing crawling on its steel body up and up to the sidewalk that was adjacent to Mrs. Dozier’s classroom just above the boiler room. I dreamedt that the look on the old rusty boiler’s face was angry with that hot fire glowing with hatred and we would soon be its dinner unless we could use our wits and escape. This was only a schoolboy’s dream.

"It really didn’t matter. Sometimes I think that it is far better to just keep walking and not look back."

No one dared to enter the boiler room, but Mr. Spencer, our custodian.

No one dared to enter the boiler room, but Mr. Spencer, our custodian.

Years Prior to Our Visit

to the boiler room, a few years ago when the old boiler was working halfway decent, we thought what if this old piece of machinery were to explode and what would be the results? Some boys replied injury and some said death to some. But me? I would have been as happy as any clam to just be out of school for eight weeks and get to watch TV, eat junk food, ride my bike, and just crash on my sofa in our living room without anyone, friends, parents or Mrs. Dozier there to cause me any grief. I mean. I did not hate these people, but a 12-year-old does NOT need this kind of aggravation. He must have some space in order to breathe and have a life.

Alas, the old boiler never exploded on that last winter of 1966 and Mrs. Dozier and her class, (us), made it out alive. Then the Summer Vacation rolled around and we knew that we would never be with each other again. Some students laughed. Some embraced and wept silently. Mrs. Dozier just looked placid and looked down at her desk. We all said good-bye to her, but she only nodded. Later we knew the reason why she only nodded was because she was afraid to start crying.

But as I ran down the hallway out to the awaiting school bus, I do remember this eerie feeling that something or someone is going to do something with our old boiler. But now, that was not anything to be concerned with. The next class would have that old piece of rust and steel to contend with.

Then I heard this sad groaning as if some prehistoric T-Rex had fallen and was taking its final breath. In the year of 1967, the year after we left Mrs. Dozier and Hamilton Grammar School, a new boiler had to be purchased. I wonder if the old boiler was alive when it was replaced?

August 22, 2019_____________________________________________________