Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Kindness is Always in Style for Ruth Porter, Who Gifted English Coal Hole Covers to Coronado Neighbors

John and Ruth Porter enjoy living in their Coronado neighborhood.

Kindness goes a long way to brighten someone’s day, and long-time Coronado resident Ruth Porter was a shining example of this when she gave her neighbors a gift from the heart and her collection of coal hole covers procured in London.

“We bought our home here 45 years ago and everyone has been very friendly,” she comments. Last Christmas, she decided to gift coal hole covers to her neighbors, and each placed them as a decoration in their yard. A connected neighborhood, families share bread and produce, and sometimes have celebratory parties. This unexpected gesture meant the world to the neighbors.

“Ruth asked a few neighbors to drop by her house at different times to share this terrific story of her collecting these cast iron coal [hole] covers from England. I learned a bit of history from her and absolutely wanted to accept her offer to bring a part of 19th century England home with me.
“Several of us thought it would be cool to display them out front of each house as if we too have the access cover to drop coal off to our houses. Part of me is waiting for the day someone knows what it is and knocks at my door to inquire about it.
“Each cover has a unique geometric design and here is one.”
 ~ Don Ryan

Ruth says she considers their family “corporation gypsies,” having moved numerous times through the years for her husband John’s job at Solar Turbines, which is now owned by Caterpillar. He travelled the world, including across Europe and Africa, and gathered artifacts from all over the globe. When they first came to Coronado, he commuted to work across the bay in his 18-foot sailboat. For five years, they lived in London, where Ruth collected a variety of interesting items. One day, she noticed workers changing the sidewalks and throwing away the coal hole covers, so she snagged five of them and used them through the years as décor in their lovely historic home.

“The Porters have a shared history with me in that we both resided in London for a number of years and their children and I attended the same private school, although different years. We have fond memories of London, and this little piece of history Ruth has shared with us and our neighbors makes this even more touching and heart warming.”
~ Susy & Duane Weekly

The decorative metal coal hole covers were used in Victorian times and before in London to deliver coal to houses. Ruth points out that each one has a unique design for the sanitation engineers to recognize their customer’s houses. The engineer would simply pull off the cover to pour coal directly into the home’s basement for heat. Vintage ones can still be found in various parts of London.

“The coal covers are a unique connection to London history and to our neighbors. They were a fun gift from the Porters to all of their neighbors. They connect all of us and by displaying them in our front yards they allow us to show our love for the Porters.”
~ Lisa Johnson

Ruth shares an interesting fact that Thomas Crapper, who is said to have developed the pull shaft toilet, was a sanitary engineer with a coal route near Westminster Abbey. When her son Todd and daughter Paige were little, she took them to find one of those distinctive coal hole covers and they made a rubbing of its intricate design, which she proudly displays in her bathroom to this day.

The Thomas Crapper coal hole cover etching from London made by Ruth’s children.

Originally from Philadelphia, Ruth met John at Penn State University. She had a career as a civilian working for the Navy in an array of administrative jobs, until she retired as an education specialist. Both she and John were avid golfers and enjoyed hitting the links in Coronado, Borrego Springs, and San Diego.

“I’m not a very good golfer, but I enjoyed playing with my husband and friends,” she laughs. Although she is left handed, she was trained to play field hockey in high school with her right hand, so she was also taught to golf right handed and feels that might have affected her swing. Another collection that she’s accumulated over more than 20 years is a showcase of figurines and tchotchkes depicting women’s golf.

Ruth enjoys collecting women’s golf-related items.

Nowadays Ruth’s hobbies include putting together puzzles, playing the piano, and doing sudoku. She and John enjoy the amazing concerts at the Coronado Library, and have a penchant for jazz. They were also the proud parents of Charlie, a former Cat City Manager, who coincidentally was the perfect fit, with a “C” marking on his back.

We can all use more examples of kindness, as shown by gracious Ruth, to remind us of what a difference a simple gesture can make.  As Desmond Tutu promoted, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

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Jennifer Velez
Jennifer Velez
Jennifer fell in love with Coronado as a teenager while visiting a college friend. She vowed that someday she would make it her home, and that dream has recently become a reality. Fast forward through completing college with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations and Communications, she then went on to work with a variety of clients. She also taught Journalism and coordinated fundraising for her children’s school, and was a staff writer for San Diego Family Magazine and contributed to other parenting publications. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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