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Lighting Up The Past

Keeping the globe clean was important so that the light was bright enough.

When my daughter-in-law took the old coal oil lantern from the shed where it had been stored since 1952, it brought back many memories. The lantern was much like the one my parents had on the farm when I was a child. We used it for doing chores in the barn in the early morning and at night. It was hung there while the animals were fed, cows milked, the horses harnessed and when calves and piglets were born. I can still see the warm glow it gave to the inside of the barn as it cast light on the animals and their surroundings.

The pathway to and from the barn was often eerie looking for me as a child, as sometimes the lantern cast long, strange shadows, depending on how it was carried.

Once outdoors, if the wind was strong it could extinguish the light which would then have to be relit using matches carried in our pockets. The lantern was also used on the inside and exterior of a horse-drawn caboose; lighting the road and giving some light to the interior.

Keeping the globe clean was important so that the light was bright enough. It was a daily chore to trim the wick, wash the globe and fill the lantern with coal oil. We had a galvanized gallon can with a spout that was taken to town to fill up for use in the house lamps and lantern. Matches were also on our shopping list.

Now on this farm we flip a switch for light. Electric lights brighten more than a pathway, giving bright lights wherever we need them. Where there once was darkness, I can see yard lights dotted over the countryside. The newly painted lantern hanging as a yard decoration, reminds me of days gone by. I would not want to go back to those inconveniences of past years, but the lantern was very useful in its day. It invokes sweet memories of a slower-paced time when I was a child living a carefree life on my parents’ farm.

– Joanne Rawluk writes from Gypsumville, Manitoba

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