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by Charles (Chuck) Robey
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                           PLEASE READ (HEBREWS 13:7-9)AS AN INTRODUCTION


You may ask, what does "Potbelly Stoves" have to do with our "Old Time Religion" ? Austerely put, both demographics are representative of a simpler way of life. A life's approach deemed to mirror those nostalgic " good old days". A time in the past when you believed life was better. A time when love abounded (1 John 4:11). You see, when we think fondly about when we were younger, we often times tend to remember the good times; and forget all the bad times. Does that not parallel those old "potbelly" stove conversations, with our "old time religion" experiences ? Whether talking around that old potbelly stove concept, or worshiping together, both should encourage us to take on the spirit of Christ (Philippians 4:6-7, 10).


Our beloved statesman, Abraham Lincoln, once penned the phrases, " That old potbelly stove, the common mans bully pulpit". How true this was. For my grandpa, on my Mother' side, seemed to always be  in the thick of any conversation, down at the "Community Coop Store". One reason why he would always take the floor, so to speak, was because he was well known for being the "motorman" on the famous Fairmont to Clarksburg WVa Trolley run. Everyone for miles around knew grandpa, and would listen up when he spoke, as he was a very strong man in his own right.  

As a small lad, I too believed every word spoken by grandpa and all his friends. These early potbelly yarn spinners appeared to have a way of mixing in just a little embellishment, by adding a little spice to the truth.  Many a legend were drawn out of those potbelly stove gatherings. And legend has it that whenever a tale was told, which none could top, the gang would immediately clear out.

As is plainly evident, allegorically speaking, there have been more governments straightened out, more families reunited, more theology theories explained, and more "hand shake" loans made, merely sitting by those old fashion "potbelly" stoves, than all the sand in Florida. Not to mention the numerous wild fish tales, and the like, that are too many to talk about in this brief synopsis.

So,  can’t you just smell the aroma as the coffee pot simmers on the cook-lid on top of that old potbelly stove? I’m ready to pull up a chair and pour myself a cup of brew. You see, it’s time to rest for a spell and take a look back. Would you not like to join me as I travel back in time. Just to see those robust country gentleman sitting around the warmth of that old pot belly, filling their pipes or cutting a fresh plug of tobacco. Talking about the "good ole days" Oh just to visit one of the most beloved and recognizable heirlooms of our beloved country- that being the vintage potbelly stove?

 My very first potbelly stove adventure, that I recall, just happened to occur when I was just a small lad attending a small grammar school in South Carolina. Our school lunch room was  heated with an old potbelly stove. When we  became of age, us boys  would draw straws to see who won the prize of stoking up the fire. Our team, comprised of our finesse football players and myself,  would come in early to build the fire  before classes began. This was a real honor as we  received  free lunches for doing so. What a simple way of life back then.

In the 40's and 50's time continued to move on, but  technology was still a little slow catching up, in lean of  the more important schema. Agenda's such as coping with the big war winding down and our soldier boys coming back home received a high priority. The more trivial phonons, as central air and heat, were figuratively put on the back burner.

My pot belly stove memories progressed  into home. Our potbelly stove was centrally located in the dining room, just off the two bedrooms. Each night, before bed time, Dad could be seen stoking the fire by loading up the wood so as to have heat throughout the night. When the fire got good and hot, we kids would back up to the stove, as close as our posterior draped flannel PJ's could stand, then run and jump in bed for the night. However, before this exercise in futilely took place, according to we  kids juvenile judgment, Dad and Mom would gather us all around the old "potbelly, for our nightly devotion. My prayer was always, "Lord don't let the fire go out before we get into bed". 

Where else were those monumental "potbelly" stoves bequeathed ? Well, just about anywhere our public community citizenry gathered, from the barber shop, the general store, the school house, the train station, to our old country church.

One friend of mine, relayed a very interesting "potbelly" stove story, worthily noting.

"It reminded me of a childhood memory about the passing of time: My father and mother owned and operated an old fashioned country store in Blount County that was heated by a pot-bellied heater. In the winter time, during bad weather, the locals would gather 'round that pot-bellied heater to chew 'baker, talk politics, play dominos, etc.

One day not long after Christmas when I was about 5 or 6 years old, one of those old-timers exclaimed: "Whal, I reckon another Christmas has done come and gone a'gin ..." And another feller quickly responded: "It don't matter none ... cause there'll be a nuther'un in just a few days!" 

I thought to myself, "What on earth are you thinking? It will be at least 4 years before the next Christmas comes around!"


I guess some of my fondest memories centered around our old church potbelly stove. This vivid mind-set will forever be fixed in my mind. Our sanctuary was divided, with pews being located on either side of the big potbelly stove sitting in the middle isle. And running across the front of the pews, directly in front of the speakers platform, was that old fashion padded alter, which our older Deacons graciously named the "mercy seat". Stoking the church fire became my lot, as I was well trained in this particular journey of life.  It was there, overhearing the elder Deacons discussing the fundamentals of the faith,  that I received  a well rounded display of doctrinal edification.

Now, I realize the physical make up of that old alter was no different than any other construction. However, that old fashioned alter was very special for me, for that old alter was where I was first introduced to the Living God. I still remember that strong, but simple, evangelistic teaching, which preceded the alter call that night, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no one should boast". (Ephesians 2:8-9) To that I still shout "Amen."

Once, while stoking the old church potbelly stove, I overheard one of our Deacons pray, "Oh Lord, let something happen today that's not in the church bulletin. Is that not an example of our "old time religion" ? 

At another time, I listened  attentively as  one of the Deacons told of the experience of giving his boy a home spun education, at the old wood shed "mercy seat". Ouch, I could just feel the pain of that  religions indignation.

I can't help but believe, if the Apostle Paul would have had the advantage of the old potbelly stove pulpit, he would have certainly used it for the glory of God (Acts 17:16-21).


Many a highly charged board games, were won, lost, or debated, sitting by that old potbelly stove. I can still see Marshall Dillon and Chester Goode, of "Gun Smoke", playing checkers by the jail house old potbelly stove, with Doc Adams looking on as the referee. Often times, one would throw a hissy  right on the TV screen, and accuse the other of moving  a checker out of turn.

And don't forget  those marathon checker games , played in Floyd's Barber shop in Mayberry USA. Goober and Deputy Fyffe would get in a ruffle every time. Especially, when Fyffe happen to be  losing  and his knee just happened to accidently turn over the checker board.


Yes, this old he potbelly strove was indeed a welcome friend during those long  cold winter months. Its belly of radiating heat ( whereby it got its name potbelly)  gave us all the charismatic warming heat of an  old country parsons sermon. Folks from miles around would gather to gossip, spin tales, or perhaps join in on a friendly game of checkers. Some of these spontaneous tales seemed to be true and some apparently were not...you'll have to decide!

Now. the passing of time, along with that old potbelly, stove is relative to the age of many of us "old timers". Call me a dinosaur, if you must, but I still see a resemblance between that old potbelly stove and the more simpler life style, including that "old time religion". I can't help but ponder those old "brush-arbor" revival meetings where the "Amen's" and the "Hallelujah's" echoed, as the spirit led. There, I rest my case.

Although it was fun while it lasted, the old potbelly stove time has come and gone. However, that "old time religion" never changes (Hebrews 13:8). And since God never changes, the revelation we have from Him, recorded in the Scriptures (Hebrews 2:1-4), does not change. God’s Word never needs to be edited or updated (2 Peter 1:21) because of changing times ( 2 Timothy 3:16).

Author's Post Script

The potbelly stove is a cast-iron wood-burning stove, round with a bulge in the middle. The name is derived from the resemblance of the stove to that of a fat man's pot belly (present company excepted). They were designed to heat large spaces and were often found in railroad stations or one-room schoolhouses. The flat top of the fireplace allowed for cooking of food, or the heating of water.





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