The stove is a staple in the Iler home.
Everytime we visit Scott’s mom, there are two things always sitting on the vintage stove- a teapot and a cast iron skillet. I have never batted an eye at this. I thought that Pennie loved hot water and didn’t have enough room for her cast iron cooking ware in her shelves. Little did I know that the stories behind the two items were rooted in family history.
There are some interesting quirks of this stove as well. For instance, The oven doors. You have to hold one down with an oven mitt, while using your other to pull out the delicious baked goods out of the oven. The spring is a little old and doesn’t want to cooperate usually.
When we visit Scott’s family, I know that the O’Keefe and Merritt will be working around the clock. We are showered with delicious baked goods, home cooked meals, and an Arizona version of the Pioneer Woman bringing us home on the farm each day.
It is a comfort to see this beautiful piece of machinery that is 73 years old still doing it’s job, still delivering each day to nourish the ones that stand beside it.
My girls think it is odd that I am so nostalgic for vintage pieces. But in a world where items can be consumed and disregarded each day, I hold tightly to the belongings that have a story. Most of you know that I don’t really have an infinity with new cars, new technology, or the latest gizmos to make my “life easier,” I take pride in simplicity.
So, when I heard that this beautiful old stove was “tired,” I suddenly got emotional.
You see, Pennie Iler (my mother in law) has had this stove in her family for almost an entire lifetime. I knew what I had to do when I heard this. My goal was to bring this stove to life before it was put to a long needed rest.
This post is a joint entry, as Pennie and I retell the birth of the O’Keefe and Merritt.
According to Pennie Iler, “It’s like having communion with my mom each day. I feel connected to her.” So sit back, enjoy a cup of coffee as the history of the stove unfolds.
What is an O’Keefe and Merritt you might ask?
As I did my research I found out the history of this appliance company. . .
Two former Pacific Stove Co. employees (bearing those surnames- O’Keefe and Merritt) started this firm in Los Angeles in the early 20th century. By the mid century, Ohio-based Tappan purchased O&M, however they kept the name of O’Keefe and Merritt.
The stove was considered the top of the line! As people were returning from World War II and the housing market was booming, the O’Keefe and Merritt was considered a Must Have with special simmer burners that spread low heat and oven racks that wouldn’t tilt as you removed baking dishes. It even had a built in timer!
(Retelling by Pennie Iler)
The Fabulous 1948 O'Keefe & Merritt: all I remember, since I was 4 years old, is that it was a Saturday and dad brought in the stove... not remembering "how" or who helped move a 500 pound stove. My dad was maybe a good 5’ 4” but he was considered “The Great Mike!”
So moving this stove into our home had to have been a beast.
Mom was thrilled.... and giggling. It was a surprise and I knew how excited she was to have a top of the line stove.
Then in 1959, my dad bought her another one! He claimed the other needed to go into a rental he had just built.
My Dad was not a demonstrative man, he showed his love by doing things for mom and "the kids" - fixing, giving advice, generous to a fault, and work... The only way he knew how to say I love you.
So, when he brought her another O’Keefe and Merritt it was his way to show his love and appreciation for his wife.
It is said the kitchen is "the heart of the house."
Well, mom spent many hours in that kitchen. She was the heart of the house.
The warmth from those old stoves paled to the warmth of my mom. How many meals? Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners?
Neighbors, friends, and church socials looked forward to her treats... breads, rolls, and lots of baked goods!
After my father passed away, I managed to rescue her very first stove from the rental. The last renters tried their best to destroy that beautiful O'Keefe & Merritt.. kicking, jumping on the oven door as well as the broiler door.
I knew I was bringing it home to safety and in a sense, welcoming my mom home. “
Over the years, the stove served Pennie faithfully... baking some of her mom's recipes but not as good as hers. (I beg to differ.)
[I can still see her with her calico apron with red trim scurrying around the kitchen. Coffee percolating on the stove. Bacon and eggs in the cast iron skillets. The tea kettle whistling to her for that refreshing cup of tea].
Guess what Pennie? I now understand why there is a tea pot and skillet on the 1948 O’Keefe and Merritt.
I see you with your hand sewn apron, busily baking cinnamon rolls, coffee percolating, and the cast iron skillets hard at work on your stove. Your mom is with you. The legacy of your mom, you, and now transferring to my girls with baking is a beautiful tribute to your family history.
The stove was a workhorse for decades, and now it will be admired, and stir up so many poignant memories.
On a personal note. . . I still don’t want to give up the fight for restoration. I think it might have a few more Thanksgiving turkeys, birthday cakes, and your famous meatloaf to bring out of the oven doors.