COBWEB CORNERS: The days when trash was burned

By Mel McFarland

       When I grew up there was a common item in every yard, an incinerator. You do not see them any more, thanks to clean-air regulations. Some houses had an ash pit too. The ashes from coal and wood furnaces were dumped into this pit, as well as ashes from some of our incinerators. (Some people even made soap from ashes!) Some companies collected ashes and trash, but not everyone used them.
       In the several dumps around town, fires usually consumed much of the burnables. There were several dumps in our area. In a column a while back I told the story of the Manitou "volcano," which was in reality the Manitou dump. Another dump, now under the Penrose Arena, was once the site of the Portland Gold Mill.
       Some folks do not recognize incinerators. One in easy view sits not far off 1-25, just north of the Garden of the Gods Road exit. It has an interesting history. A large house sat on the end of this hill, and during the late 1950s and early 1960s a friend of mine lived there. Over the years everything except the incinerator was removed.
       My friend has answered questions about the "Indian Oven" so often he gets upset. Now Indian and Mexican ovens do look a bit like this, but I can assure you this is an incinerator. This shape was the most common one seen. At my old place, the contractor furnished a slab-sided incinerator with a metal top. This was later buried under 1-25 when it was widened.
       Years ago I was asked about huge ovens up in the mountains. These were charcoal ovens. Charcoal was used in the early smelters to get hotter fires. Coal was burned to make coke - no, not the drink, which is burned to give a hotter fire than even coal. At the steel mill in Pueblo, back when it was in full swing, their coking ovens gave out most of the smoke. Some have found smaller stone ovens in the mountains, which are usually traced back to when crews were building the railroads, but these are usually small and crude, since they were only temporarily used. Some are in Eleven Mile Canyon.