Friday, May 19, 2017

Zboray Coal Grand Opening – May 23, 1947

As I sit here writing this, it’s 90º outside – not exactly a good time to think about coal. Nevertheless, that’s the focus of this full-page ad for the Grand Opening of Zboray’s Coal, which ran in the Lorain Journal on May 23, 1947.

Joseph S. Zboray was the man behind his newly expanded business, which was known just a few years earlier as the Smokeless Coal Company. The company was located at 1127 Reid, which puts it right next to the Nickel Plate tracks.

You can see a little of the building in this archival photo courtesy of Drew Penfield. (For a Then & Now treatment of this photo, click here.)

Anyway, the ad is interesting because it lists the various brands of coal available, including Silver Ash, Blue Fire, Blue Flame and Slo-Glo. I always thought coal was coal.

Some of the brands show up in 1947 Zboray Coal phone book ads.
Speaking of the phone book, at that time in 1947 there were no less than 35 coal dealers listed in the Lorain Telephone Company directory.

But coal’s days were numbered, apparently. By 1950, the phone book contained only 29 dealers; by 1956, only 18 remained.

It was about this time that the Zboray Coal Co. disappeared from the directory.

Coal continued its downward slide; by the end of the 1950s, the number of coal dealers had dwindled to 11. And by 1970, three remained.

Like many houses in Lorain, the house that my mother grew up in on Sixth Street had a coal furnace. She told me that the coal bin was located in a corner on the driveway side of the basement, and that there was a little window above it through which the coal company would extend its chute. “I can still remember the sound of the coal coming down that chute into the basement. The whole house shook,” she explained.

I'd never really thought about what a coal delivery looked like until I saw a Tom & Jerry cartoon called Mouse Cleaning (1948). Here are a few frames from the cartoon, in which Jerry Mouse diverts the coal chute from the cellar into the living room to make a big mess (and get Tom in trouble).

Later, my grandparents reluctantly converted their furnace from coal to natural gas. Mom said Grandma felt that a house heated with gas wouldn't be as warm as one with a coal-fired furnace.


Matt Weisman said...

This brought back old memories. We had a coal furnace and I remember the coal loading just as your mom remembered. I learned to fire the furnace and bank it in the evening and rekindle in the morning. The real chore was hauling the ashes out of the basement. I believe around ’53 the furnace was converted to gas, when a line came down the street. Still gravity flow heat delivery, but no more daily work in the winter.

Loraine Ritchey said...

We still have the coal chute opening on the side of my house, my grandson (5) asked me what was that for just the other day- try explaining what coal is and why it had to be delivered into the house and the fact you had to shovel the coal into the furnace- I am sure he thought I was making up stories ... when we moved into this house it still had the gigantic furnace changed to gas and during the gas crisis we found that the utility company was slipping in mad made gas rather than natural gas which burned at a lower BTU taking more gas and longer to heat up the furnace.... which meant the meter went round faster so we were paying more.. anyway we eventually ( for efficacy) changed out the furnace........ I used to burn coal in the fireplace ( very European) but can't find it anywhere close a bed of coal kept the logs burning without having to jusmp up every half hour or so to keep the fire stoked.....

Rick Kurish said...

It's amazing how an article can evoke memories that you haven't thought about for years. When I was a little kid my grandparents lived in a house that was built in 1929 on Lexington Ave. in Lorain. By the time I was a kid my grandparents had converted from coal to natural gas, but the coal supply was formerly housed in a coal cellar, that was a separate room in the basement. My grandfather converted the unused room into his workshop, which he kept locked to keep us kids out. Another family I knew converted their coal cellar space to a home wine making operation.

Your mention of 47 coal suppliers in Lorain shortly after World War II, reminded me of one such business near where I used to work on F Street. By the 1960s the business was long gone but the former fenced coal storage area along the railroad tracks was still there along with a weathered sign painted on the side of a building on the site. The sign was too old to be clearly readable, but an older co-worker told me that the location was the site of the East Side Coal Company. Later an enterprising individual added some buildings to the site and turned it into a self storage business. I never thought about it but probably most, if not all, the coal supply businesses were located adjacent to the rail tracks to eliminate any extra hauling of the coal.

Wireless.Phil said...

The Silver Ash was a coal company out of Indiana, closed.
The rest I didn't check.