Wednesday, April 03, 2013


“Who’s sleeping on the cooling board?

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

“Well, somebody is! I think it’s Gail and Sandy’s turn. So let’s get it ready.”

And so went the conversation every evening at my grandmother’s house when we girl cousins were all about eight or nine years old. Truth be told, Sandy (that’s me!) probably never slept on it with one of her cousins. I was such a mama’s baby that I wouldn’t sleep with anyone except my mother. So I imagine she slept with me on the cooling board, and Gail slept somewhere else; or maybe Gail and JoAnn slept on the cooling board, and my mother and I slept in the big double bed right outside the bathroom. Even though the bed was just two feet from the potty, we still had to have a slop jar beside the bed. My grandmother was a firm believer in having the slop jar (called in polite society a chamber pot, but we Kolbs in Logansport, Louisiana, weren’t polite society) handy in case of an emergency. I don’t recall ever using it.

So someone slept on the cooling board, a couch (sofa, divan, davenport) that made down into a bed, albeit a very uncomfortable bed. Now, don’t get the idea of a futon or a trundle bed or some other fancy contraption from the late twentieth century. You had to lift up the seat and back parts until they clicked against each other, then push the back of the couch back flat and pull the front down flat. Since both the back and the front were pillowy, there was a great chasm between the two when they were down. How to remedy that? Fold a blanket long ways, and stuff it down to try to make a somewhat flat bed. Then the sheets were put on as best they could be, then a blanket if all of us cousins were there in the winter. Most of the time, we visited our grandparents in the summer, though, so only a top sheet was needed in the muggy South. Not a very comfortable bed . . . but someone had to sleep there!

So why was it called a cooling board? Beats me! As I began to write this post, I thought I’d see if Google had ever heard of one. Of course, “she” had! It seems that in the old days, back in my childhood, a cooling board was what dead people were laid out on. Why in the world my mother and her family would refer to the fold-down bed as a cooling board is beyond me.

My family is a bit strange in some ways, I must admit, and this designation is just one example of their strangeness. I’ve asked my cousins if they remember the cooling board, but none of them do. Hmmmm . . . maybe it’s Sandy who is strange. Do you think I dreamed this? I don’t think so. There are lots of things from my childhood that I wish I had clarified with my mother while she was alive. She and I will have lots to talk about when we meet again! Surely do hope the Good Lord will let me have a computer so that I can get our stories really right.

Slop jars -- Ours were the speckledy blue kind.

A real cooling board for dead people


The Desert Rocks said...

I love the idea about the good Lord having a computer so we can get our stories straight--won't that be awesome!

Arlee Bird said...

Never heard of a cooling board and thank goodness never had to use a slop jar. Funny stories.

May I suggest you disable Word Verification so you'll invite more comments. If you're worried about spam you can always close out comments to anonymous.

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