The End Of An Era
Geno called me. He told me that he was giving his wood cook stove to his son Steve. The wood
cook stove was not a good auxiliary heat source anymore. He told me that Steve was bringing him a high efficiency wood stove to take its place. I had told Geno on an earlier visit that I wanted to get a photo of the "Monarch" Wood Cook Stove before he banished it to the garage at Steve's house.
Geno McManamy is his name. I always like talking with him. He reminds me of my father. Geno has forgotten more hunting and fishing memories than most people will experience in a lifetime. Geno is one of the last remaining members of the "Reber's Gas Station Gang". All of the members would meet at the only gas station in town on Sunday mornings. They would drop their wives off at church and then they would ALL meet up at the gas station and swap hunting and fishing lies. The noon whistle meant church was over and time to pick up the wives.
"Monarch" was one of the wood cook stoves of the Malleable Iron Range Company, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. The company was in business from 1896 until 1985. This model was made around the turn of the century.
I drove to Gays Mills today to take a couple photos and get some history behind the stove. Geno and his wife Marilyn were at home. Marilyn told me that she learned how to cook on that wood cook stove from her mother Anna. Both of them were not sure if all the things Marilyn cooked on that old Monarch would taste the same on an electric stove. The smell of wood some how gave the food a more appealing taste.
Geno said: "It wasn't so much the taste but the memories that go along with the old Monarch." The wood stove signified days gone by;"Simpler days." We sat down at his kitchen table and talked about the old days. That cook stove prepared the first family meal for Geno and Marilyn when they were newlyweds. It warmed many baby bottles for their children.
Geno equated the old relic to hunting and fishing. "I cleaned many a trout and northern on that butcher block table next to the stove. Marilyn would have the bacon grease at the perfect temperature by the time I was done cleaning my brookies. She popped them right in the grease. I can smell the aroma right now as we speak. I can taste the crisp tails of those mouth watering brookies."
"Many a deer was butchered on that butcher block table. The back straps were the first things to be fried on the cook stove. It usually happened the same night the deer was harvested. Lots of onions and green peppers were in the pan. My son and two daughters watching their mother cook. The whole family was living an experience that is seldom re-enacted nowadays. ALL of my children are good cooks."
Marilyn also told Geno she had baked a couple apples pies in the electric stove and that they tasted almost as good. She wasn't sure if her rhubarb pie would taste the same out of an electric stove. She would get back to him soon on that. The rhubarb was thawing in the sink.
Geno asked Marilyn if she could cook all the things he was used to on a new fangled electric range. Marilyn reassured Geno she could. Geno said, "Even squirrel and morels?" "Yes dear," she responded. They both were not certain that the house would be the same without the "Monarch”. It wasn't just the way the food smelled or tasted being cooked on that old stove....It was the memories that went with it.
The "Monarch" had been retired as the family cooking stove for over a decade ago. A new fangled electric stove had replaced it quite some time ago. It was used as a wood heat stove nowadays. It was fired up on special occasions (Family Gathering) for sentimental reasons.
The stove is being taken out the last weekend of September. The memories will stay in that house. It truly is a shame that progress has made some of the good old days obsolete. Computers and game stations have supplanted the meetings around the table in the kitchen. The wood cook stove in the background making the food just right. Just the way you remember it. Then there were the talks about the day's happenings at the table. Tthe stove was very much a symbol of the past. Geno said: "It ain't no microwave." Geno & Marilyn hold on tightly to their memories of the old days.
It was a simpler time when families spent more time talking and cooking, experiencing life together in front of that old "Monarch."
Since I wrote this story Geno McManamy has become a resident of heaven. Geno we all miss you and hope there is a wood stove in heaven to prepare the food perfectly like Marilyn does.