My life is littered with houses, less than some, more than others. I have no memory of where I first lived; my infancy is mostly a blur. I know only that it was somewhere in the city of my birth.
I remember the second home because I continued to visit it during my childhood. It was an old two-story farmhouse built sometime in the 1800’s with no electricity or running water. My stay there was also brief, as was my stay at the next residence which was an apartment built over a garage.
From there, I moved in with my grandparents. I was stuck with them until third grade. My father had made a promise that he wouldn’t keep. He said that I could move in with him and attend a different school. As was often the case, he had lied. In the end, it all worked out for the better.
I ended up living in a house that had running water and electricity. An old two-story farmhouse located at the center of a small rural township. The house had a dirt floored basement where the coal furnace was located, along with the coal. Part of the basement was dedicated to storing preserves and potatoes. It was the centerpiece of a working dairy farm. There was always fresh milk in the refrigerator and fresh eggs in baskets on the kitchen floor.
The first floor kitchen held an old cast-iron coal burning stove, a cast iron sink and a kitchen table. Various cupboards held the spices and other cooking supplies. And it was where the black and white television was located. Next to the kitchen was a formal dining room that was used more as a sewing room than anything else. The Singer machine in this house was a step up from the old treadle machine that my grandmother owned; this sewing machine was electric!
The warmest room of the house was the living room. It was where the furnace vent was located next to the stairs to the second floor. In the winter, the heat would waft up the stairs after the furnace had been fed and then die down overnight. It was always a chilly morning until after the furnace fire had been stoked. The job of shoveling coal into that old beast was a mean task. It took several heavy shovelfuls to keep it fed for several hours. It was nice to not have to deal with the beast in the summer time. The living room was also where the house betrayed it age as portions of the lathe and plaster ceiling would occasionally fall. There were places in the room that you just didn’t sit!
Just off the living room was an office where the only phone in the house was located. There were several very old desks and at least one antique typewriter. And then there was the storage room which might have served as the dining room at one time but now only held unused things.
Upstairs were three bedrooms and a bathroom. The master bedroom shared its closet with the guest bedroom across the hall from it. I slept in the small room next to the bathroom. My room barely held a double bed and dresser. My clothes were hung on the back of the door as there was no closet.
The bathroom was filled with a pedestal sink, a flush toilet and an old fashioned footed bathtub fitted with a shower curtain for privacy. There was also a dresser full of towels and bathroom supplies. It was a definite step up from the sheet steel tub that I used to have a bath in and the trips to the outhouse were not missed.
I lived in that house until 1971. My foster father was killed in a farming accident in 1970; my foster mom was looking at retirement and decided that it was time to move. We didn’t move far. She had a new house built on the same lot very close to where the old house stood. It was a house she had designed herself. The lower level was a two car garage and “rec” room. The rec room had a fireplace and a kitchen and would serve as a meeting spot for many of the local teens. There was also a small bathroom at the bottom of the stairs which she insisted would be an absolute necessity in her later years; it was.
The upper level was the house proper. It was a three bedroom ranch with an L-shaped living room/dining room. The living room had a large “picture” window that looked out at the corners and a fireplace made of pink brick. She had a study with built in bookshelves just off the dining area. The laundry was near the kitchen which had a small table for breakfast. There was a powder room (now called a half-bath) by the front door for guests. The main bathroom was quite spacious with two sinks separated by an area to apply makeup. It also held a full size tub/shower combo. My only complaint was the terribly low ceiling above the tub.
I watched her dream house being built. I came home from school one day to discover a large portion of the backyard had been removed. There were two men working to build a wooden frame that would later hold the concrete foundation. The house went up quickly from there and all the work was done by hand. The carpenters hammered each nail home with a single blow and a lot of nails went into the house. Handsaws were used to cut the boards and brick hammers were used to cut the bricks that went into the two fireplaces. The fireplaces were actually capable of providing heat should the electricity be out during the winter. Most fireplaces don’t throw that much heat but these were designed for it.
For about a month we had two houses as we slowly moved into the new one and emptied out the old. Anything salvageable from the old house was sold and everything else ended up buried in the front yard of our new house.