As fall progresses into winter I have begun to pay more attention to the falling temperatures. And I remember the significance of this.
One of the first things you saw when you stepped onto Uncle Bart and Aunt Virgie’s front porch was the Coca-Cola thermometer that hung beside the door. Firm believers in utility, it never occurred to them to hang it anywhere else. Beside the door made sense. It was easy to crack the door open a little and peek around the frame to check the temperature without letting a lot of cold air into the house. And, one had to know what the temperature had been every winter’s morning so comparisons could be made when Stecoah residents met around the big wood heater at Clyde Garland’s store. Dry Creek, where Uncle Bart and Aunt Virgie lived had pretty low temps, but some of the other creeks and hollers often won the honors—Locust Cove and the head of the head of Cody Branch, for example. Checking the thermometer in the morning also had an impact on how to dress for the day as well as on what kind of chores would be done. Physical activity like chopping kindling and shoveling out stalls were OK for cold days because they provided enough exercise to maintain warmth but still got one out of doors for a bit of fresh air. Upon returning to the house for dinner (lunch) or supper (dinner) the thermometer was checked again to see how much the temperature had warmed or cooled since morning.
I always liked that old thermometer. I recall many times one of them held me up to see that little red mercury bar when I was still too small to see it from the floor. They taught me how to read a thermometer using that old metal Coke bottle. When I got older and went to visit during the winter I always checked it as I went inside, often opening conversation with the reading. After I got married the old thermometer broke and Aunt Virgie threw it out, replacing it with a replica. It never occurred to either of them that someone (me) might want a broken thermometer. It had no utility.
When they had to move into a facilitated living home they sent the new (by then old) Coke bottle thermometer to me. I have a small newer thermometer that hangs on the post beside my front steps where I can see it from inside the house. It is ugly, but it serves a purpose. Like them, I am a firm believer in utility. We also need to know how to dress for the day. And, we like to compare temperatures with others at work, usually winning the lows in the winter and losing the highs in the summer since we live around 3000 feet. The new old Coke bottle hangs beside my front door. It still works. There are different kinds of utility I have discovered. The Coca-Cola thermometer’s main purpose now is to be a physical reminder of two people who played a major role in my growing up years. As if I could ever forget either of them.