Thursday, February 21, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge Day 21 - The House in Elmhurst

In 1948, Donald and Betty Hansen moved their growing family out of the city of Chicago to the western suburb of Elmhurst.  There were four children when they moved into the four bedroom, two story house.  The location of the house was ideal for the family since it was only one block to Immaculate Conception school and church.  The Northwestern Railroad was a block in the opposite direction.  The house had a large front porch that would soon be screened in to serve as an outdoor “playroom” for the toddlers as they would come along.  And they would come.  That’s dad’s handwriting on the photo.  I’m guessing that he scouted out the house and took the picture so Betty could see if it was a possibility before arranging for a babysitter so that they could check it out in peace.
The date on the picture is September but we moved into the house in either late November or early December.  Moving day was spoiled by the trip dad took at the end of the sidewalk leading up to the house.  It isn’t shown in the picture but where the public sidewalk meets the walk to the house, there is about a four inch step up.  As dad was moving a box of their crystal stemware to the house he tripped over this step.  He was not hurt but the same cannot be said for the crystal.  A few pieces did remain intact to reside in the china cabinet in the dining room.  Entering the front door you were in a small vestibule with a second door leading into a long hallway.  On the right there was a small office or library while on the left there was a large archway with dusty ruby red velvet floor length draperies that led to the living room.  Entering the living room through the archway on the right was another archway with the same dusty draperies which led to the dining room.  Back in the hall passing the library you would pass the stairway and continue to another shorter hallway which ran between the kitchen and dining room.  There was also a small powder room.  In all there were three ways to enter the dining room: from the living room archway, from the kitchen and from the long hall that went past the stairs.  The children quickly realized how much fun they could have running in circles between the dining room and the hallways.  In those days of leather shoes with hard leather soles and heels running on hardwood floors produced no small amount of noise!
Upstairs the house had four bedrooms and a full bathroom.  There was a small area in the center of the second floor which was used a reading area of practice room if someone was taking lessons.  In the beginning Mom and Dad had an upstairs bedroom, I think it was the one with two closets. The boys, Tom and Paul were in the largest of the front bedrooms and Suzy and I were in the smaller front bedroom.  The smallest bedroom at the top of the stairs is where mom’s helper or housekeeper stayed.
Later, as new children joined the family, the bedrooms were re-assigned.  Dad and mom remodeled the downstairs library/office to use as their bedroom and closed off the archway into the living room to provide a closet for the new bedroom.  The entrance at the front door was re-configured to enter directly into the living room and on the living room side of the archway bookshelves were added. 
That is also where the door to the attic on the third floor was located.  The attic was kept locked with a skeleton key.  But, the key was left in the lock in the door.  In the attic Mom kept clothes that were not currently in use were kept in the attic.  This could be out of season clothing as well as hand-me-downs waiting for someone to fit into them.
By 1957, with the birth of Donald, there were nine children ( five girls and four boys) and two adults living in the house with a single telephone and one and a half bathrooms.  It was a challenge but then we didn’t know the difference.
Easter 1958
One of the very few pictures of the entire family.  This was taken at Aunt Pauline and Uncle Bill Ryan's apartment at 152 N Menard Ave in Chicago.


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