When House of Heat started in Kenneth and Lois King’s basement and garage 50 years ago, Lois King took on extra work. An early high school grad who came to Chicago to work as a secretary for the FBI, Lois became an answering service, short-order cook, bookkeeper, secretary, treasurer, to name a few of her jobs. In the early days, she would help cut sheet metal used for ductwork down in the family basement.

“I haven’t done that in a long time,” Lois said recently. She comes to work most days, and delivers job estimates to clients’ homes. She’s 80 and had hip replacement surgery last month?#34;two facts impossible to guess.

Lois grew up in Paw Paw, pop. 852 in rural north central Illinois, before coming to an Aurora business college at age 16. She had graduated high school early thanks in part to her mother’s being a teacher and starting her learning at an early age. The FBI wouldn’t hire Lois until she turned 18, but once she had she moved to Chicago for a secretary job in the agency.

Those were war times. And Lois didn’t know a soul in Chicago except a pastor and his wife, who she knew from Paw Paw. His church was on the West Side. So was Kenneth King’s family.

Kenneth, who died in 2000, had survived rheumatic fever as a young man?#34;something that may have saved his life by keeping him out of the Armed Forces. His contribution to the war effort was making B-29 Bomber engines at a South Side plant.

The couple married in 1945. Kenneth worked at GE X-ray, then at a heating company, where he learned the trade. In September 1955, he went on his own, establishing House of Heat at 336 Harrison St., the only location it’s ever had.

“Back then, my dad worked crazy hours,” said David King, 45, who now runs the company. “He just worked and worked and worked.”

Kenneth would fall behind schedule talking to people and being friendly, David said. “I just think he really enjoyed people.”

David went to work for the company at age 6. Not full-time, of course, but he helped. Lois jokes about his birth: “We needed some more help!”

At college age, David went to the University of Hawaii, something Lois was grateful for, it having given her the opportunity to visit the tropical 50th state. But he didn’t finish there, returning home to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago. But after being in Hawaii, taking the el in January to school turned David’s mind to other possibilities. He never finished college.

Kenneth’s health was declining, so at age 25 “or so,” David King took over the family business. He hired more staff, developed a logo and a uniform look for the work vans. He advertised more.

About a decade ago, David added Roger Parker to the team. Parker had been in heating and cooling unit wholesale, and brought technology to a company that, until the mid-1990s, had prepared its documents with a typewriter. The advance allowed the company to triple its business, David King said.

From the days of Mom and Dad and a few guys running the business, House of Heat now employs about 15 people. A few work trucks has turned into 10. King now owns and operates another business, too, Roaring Belly Glass Werks at 334 Harrison.

After years of interrupted holidays, the Kings now have employees who rotate for the undesirable night, weekend and holiday shifts.

They celebrated the company’s 50th anniversary earlier this month at Art on Harrison with a raffle. “We haven’t really gone wild or anything,” David King said.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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