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Dokken: Story of the old Coleman camp stove resonates with readers

In this business, one rarely hears from readers unless they’re mad about something — in my experience, at least — but the column I wrote about the refurbished Coleman camp stove and my long-lost

Old single mantle lantern extended for Web.jpg
As camping gear goes, the old, red single-mantle Coleman lantern is a classic. It's known as a "200A" among collectors. Contributed photo
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GRAND FORKS — It’s amazing to me where stories end up sometimes.

Such was the case last week, when I wrote a column about a 50-plus-year-old Coleman camp stove that was rescued from the bowels of a farmhouse basement and almost ended up in the garbage heap.

Long story short, the camp stove, which burned white gas and was inoperable after years of not being used, was refurbished this past spring by a savvy new owner who found replacement parts online. The camp stove, which needed a new fuel tank and generator, worked like a charm during a July trip to Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior and has probably gotten more use already than it got in the previous 50 years.

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In the column, I also wrote about a Coleman camp stove and a red, single-mantle Coleman lantern I owned back in my high school days more than 40 years ago. I even had a fold-up oven that fit across the burners of the stove and got much use in a shack some neighbor kids and I had back in the woods.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take care of the classic camping gear like I should have after leaving home for college and making several moves in the ensuing years. Where the camp stove, the single-mantle lantern and the folding oven ended up, I have no idea.

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In this business, one rarely hears from readers unless they’re mad about something — in my experience, at least — but the column I wrote about the refurbished Coleman camp stove and my long-lost Coleman camping gear definitely seemed to strike a chord.

A few highlights:

  • From Darrell E: “Enjoyed your article about the Coleman stove. I still have my red lantern and green stove.”

  • From colleague Mike McFeely of the Fargo Forum: “My dad (long since passed away) was a hunter/angler back in his day and had both a three-burner Coleman white gas stove from the 1950s, a single-mantle red lantern from the same period and a single-burner stove/heater. I used to use the lantern ice fishing back in the 1980s, but the globe broke and I stuffed it in its case and tucked it away in my garages or sheds wherever I lived. I kept the stove, lantern and single-burner stove all these years ... just hauling them around wherever I lived. They had been in my shed in Moorhead for 20 years, untouched, until I cleaned out the shed a couple of years ago and said, ‘I wonder if these things work?’ I cleaned up the green three-burner stove the best I could, put in some fresh gas and tried to light it. The stove lit up perfectly. Same with the single-burner stove. I didn't try the lantern, but when my sister saw me post a picture of it on Facebook, she called me and asked if she could have it to put in her cabin. I said sure. She went online and actually found another red lantern, bought it for the globe and put the globe on my dad’s old lantern (which has his name scratched on the gas tank) and now it sits on their fireplace mantle at the lake.”

  • From Dave F: “Thanks for the article. We used (a Coleman camp stove) up on Lake of the Woods for about 20 years when it finally gave up the ghost. Lots of walleyes and a few northerns and saugers were cooked on a cast iron skillet, along with corn and beans in the can!! I can still smell them.”

  • From Rex H., who shared a photo of the red Coleman lantern and homemade wooden carrying case he inherited from his uncle: “A couple of years ago, I gave my green white gas stove to a couple in their 20s who still use it. Over the years, I have given away my backpacking and camping gear, including my newer version of the lantern, to people who can use it. … Hope you like the picture and thanks for triggering old camping memories.”

Perhaps the most remarkable letter, though, came from Ian K., a Coleman collector in Zurich, Switzerland, who found my story online through his Google news feed.
As it turns out, there is a sizeable community of Coleman collectors out there, and Ian referred me to two websites — www.colemancollectorsforum.com and www.intlccc.net (the International Coleman Collectors Club) — in which like-minded Coleman enthusiasts exchange information about their shared interests.

He also referred me to a site that sells almost any Coleman spare part. It’s called, naturally enough, www.oldcolemanparts.com .

Upon reading my column, Ian, who had just returned from a meeting in Switzerland with Swiss and German collectors, posted a link to my column on the Coleman Collectors Forum. He also mentioned I was on the hunt for a “200A” — as the old single-mantle lanterns are known in the collectors’ world — and asked if anyone out there had one they might be willing to sell.

Within hours, a collector contacted me to say he had one for sale.

So, that’s the story to this point. Whether I ultimately buy the 200A to replace the old red single-mantle lantern I had all those years ago remains to be seen, but Ian’s email opened doors to a world I never knew existed.

It’s amazing to me where stories end up sometimes.

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Brad Dokken column sig.jpg
Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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