Monday, October 21, 2013

The Book of Me, Written by You - Prompt 5 My Childhood Home

Julie Gaucher's series of blog prompts continues with Prompt 5 My Childhood Home.

When did you leave home?
Where was it?
Where did you move to?
Was it rented or owned? – with parents/Grandparents
Was it inherited
What was it like – describe it – each room.
Were there a favourite room?
Is there anything you particularly remember from the house?
The road & area

In the Fall of 1948 my dad was looking for a house for his growing family of six.  As a realtor himself, Dad wanted to move his family from the city of Chicago to the quieter western suburbs.

119 Virginia St.  Elmhurst
photo held by Paul J Hansen, private, brother of the author.

This photo of the house dad found is dated 9/22/48 in his own hand.  I suspect it was taken as a preview shot to get mom's approval.  She must have approved as we moved into the house in December of 1948.  It was a large white two story house with a large front porch.  When I first saw the house there was a large double wide door opening between the living and dining room and the same opening into the living room from the hall. These openings were framed by dark red velvet drapes that were very dusty.  It soon became a game to run in circles from the hall to living room to dining room to hall.  Soon one of the archways was blocked off and turned into a bookshelf in the living room and a closet in the hall when the original first floor office became my parents bedroom.

Upstairs there were 4 bedrooms and a bathroom.  Two of the bedrooms were very large and at times they both held 3 occupants.  The smallest bedroom at the top of the stairs housed a succession of live-in helpers for my mother.  By the time of dad's death in 1959, there were eleven people in the house.  

Mom and her sister painted the ceiling in the downstairs powder room a deep blue and glued silver stars to the ceiling in the shape of the constellations.  It was an effort to teach us some astronomy.  I don't know if it worked but I can still picture that tiny room with it's blue ceiling and large and small silver stars scattered there.  The upstairs bathroom had no shower until my parents added one.  The water pipes to the shower head were concealed by a shelf unit that was also used for storage.  Can you imagine nine children growing up today in a house with a single shower and only one telephone?  Today our house has three showers and everyone has their own phone in addition to the house phone (or land line) and that is for six people.

You can see the front yard in the picture but the backyard was even larger.  There were two fruit trees for climbing and eating from.  The cherry tree yielded wonderful pies but pitting them was no fun.  In addition we could freely eat the pears off the pear tree.  The cherry tree was spreading and a good place to hide and read a book.  The pear tree was as high as the telephone wires and a special challenge to climb.  The previous owners of the house must have been gardeners since the backyard also had lillys of the valley, peony bushes, tiger lillys, lilac bushes as well as a bed of rhubarb.  In addition to making rhubarb sauce every year some times we would break off a stalk and, after rinsing it off with the hose, eat it like a stalk of celery.  I don't remember having a swing set in the backyard but I do remember the slide.  It was magnificent!  It was at least six of seven feet tall.  At one point all of us were arranged on and around the slide for a local newspaper story about how the mother of 8 does it all.  In this picture the slide appears to be close to 10 ft high.  Later we also had a playhouse in the back yard.  The playhouse was built by my Uncle Tom for his daughter Pat and given to us after Pat out grew it.  It was a real source of delight with real windows and doors!

circa 1955 Elmhurst Press Publications original clipping held by author

As in Real Estate, location is everything in a family home.  This house was in an ideal location for our family.  It was one city block from grade school, high school, church, park, library, train station, (mom didn't drive until the 1960's) drug store, grocery and butcher store, and laundry.  For big shopping trips, mom would walk to the A&P or Kroger store and dad would pick her up on the way home from work.

After dad's death in 1959 mom and the younger children remained in the house until 1971 when mom moved to Florida for her health.  The house is gone now, demolished in favor of condos close to the commuter train station, but I will always remember it fondly as I hope my siblings do.