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My grandparents married in 1920 and purchased their home the same year...for the princely sum of $200.  I discovered that tidbit a few days after that house was brought to the ground, and decided to make a visit to the County Courthouse to find the original deed.

They raised a family of 7 1/2 kids in that house, as well as some 20 grandchildren coming in and out the doors over the course of the next 70 years.  The 1/2 kid comes from a child who died before the age of two from some childhood disease that nowadays would mean a trip to the doctor and a few days of bed rest.  It was not a very impressive house, but it got the job done, and my grandparents lived there their entire lives.  

It no longer stands.  My uncle acquired the property after the grandparents passed way, and eventually he razed it and sold the lot.  I don't blame him...the dirt was wort more than the house which stood upon it.  It was old and small, and way beyond a fixer-upper.  But more than any structure I have ever been inside of, I can remember every square inch of the place.  That's not surprising...it was a small house and I, too, was pretty much raised there.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I walked past a new house being erected down the street.  It is a fascinating process to watch unfold.  Much more uplifting than watching an older home, with all of the memories attached to it, come crashing down.

Not with a bang, as they say...and barely with even a whimper.

The first thing that struck me, upon seeing the house demolished, was how small the footprint was.  It seemed so much larger in my memories.  The second thing I thought about was...how did they raise four girls and three boys in that house?  It never even had a proper bathroom.

When the house was leveled, it uncovered the original "plumbing."  That was a well directly under the house, which used to have a heavy, iron, manual pump attached to it, which used to be located in one of the two front rooms.  For years, after the house had been hooked up to city water and plumbed, that pump stood there...a relic that time had passed by.  They eventually took it out and covered over the space on the floor that it had once protruded from, but I can still remember it, even if I never saw it during its functional days.

Once the house was razed, my uncle poured a bunch of fill dirt into the still existing well shaft, because he was afraid some kid would play around the empty lot and fall into it, causing a liability.  That was probably wise.

My grandparents lived their whole lives there.  In my Grandfather's case, that was until 1988, when he was 90 years old.  He bought the house not long after coming home from a stint in the army during WWI, after marrying my Grandmother.  He was born in 1898.  My Grandmother survived him another 5 years, and lived there until she died.  That's 73 years living in one abode.  I can hardly imagine that.  Can you?

For an initial investment of $200.

The house had many deficiencies.  Size was only the start.  It only had one bedroom, originally.  My Grandparents built out the attic space to make two more bedrooms, and my Grandfather, who was sort of handy, but just sort of, built the stairs that led up to the attic bedrooms.  They were unimaginably steep, due to space limitations, and obviously homespun.  What amazes me most is that they lost only one child to disease, instead of two or three to falling down the staircase.  They were so steep that you climbed them almost as a cross between stairs and a ladder...it wasn't uncommon to use both your hands and your feet.

And my Grandparent's bedroom was right off of the kitchen.  There was no door...just an arch in the wall.  When my Mother and her sibblings were growing up, there was a privy at the end of the lot.  No personal plumbing.  By the time I came along, one of the kids had installed both a toilet and a shower in the basement...because there simply wasn't room for such an addition in the house as it stood.  For as long as I can remember, my Grandparents had to walk outside and around the house to enter the basement, which had one of those double doors that covered the entrance at a 45 degree angle, walk down exactly 5 steps to enter the basement, and there they had their toilet, their shower, their washing machine, and the sink at which my Grandfather shaved every morning.  He used a straight razor, and had a leather strop and lather cup...and that's how he shaved his entire life.  He never switched to more modern shaving technology.

The house had floor heat, which came from a furnace in the basement.  Originally it was coal fired, but they eventually upgraded to gas along the years.  It had asbestos shingles, an insanely steeply pitched roof, which I once helped my uncle recover with tar in the middle of August.  It wasn't shingled, you see.  If you have never tarred a roof in Ohio in August, and if you don't even know what tarring a roof means...believe me, you aren't missing anything.  It is the worst, hottest, suckiest work I can think of.
But it had to be done from time to time.

While they had a washing machine, they didn't have a drier.  But they did have a double clothesline that must have been 60 ft long, and my Grandmother dried everything on those clotheslines.  I mean everything.  Her granny panties, her granny bras (and she was a large woman)...it all hung out there to dry.  But then, everyone else did the same, so nobody really took undo notice of the fact that you could tuck a small watermellon into each cup of her bras...and if they did, they were polite enough not to crack wise about it.

Up until the age of 6 or 7, my Grandparents were my daycare.  My parents both worked, and I was dropped off at the old homestead to pass the day until they came home.  That's why I say I was raised there as well.  It's where my Grandfather first introduced me to Snipe hunting.  They had a long hedgerow of lilacs, and he convinced me that there were birds called snipes which lived, largely out of sight, in the hedges, and were largely flightless.  He convinced me that if I stood at the end of the hedge, with an open sack held at ground level, he could flush the Snipes from the other end of the hedge and they would scamper right into the bag.

Yeah...he was a practical joker.   Just as I am.  The acorn doesn't fall too far from the tree.  I remember getting impatient, and looking up at the house and catching him looking at me from behind the curtains...laughing his ass off.  Ahh Hah!, I said...that's the way it's done.  I laughed with him, and have been a practical joker all my life as a result.

I miss that old house...and I think my Uncle waited longer than he probably should have before tearing it down.  Everyone was attached to the old place, as run down as it was.  When it was leveled, most of my aunts and uncles who were still alive came by separately, on their own time, to pay their respects individually.  My Grandmother wasn't much of a gardener, but my Grandfather was.  Their house was on a corner lot, and was surrounded on both streetsides by a huge hedge of lilacs.  Who knows when they were planted?  They were always just there.

When the house was torn down, every kid dug up a big clump of the old lilac hedges to transplant into their own yards...so, while the house no longer stands, a little piece of it still lives on.

But when I think of the gardens they planted every year, year after year, for probably 60 years...and think of the meals my Grandmother cooked in that kitchen that we all crowded around the table to eat...it's hard to wrap my head around.  All the bushells of beans that she must have cooked at that old gas range...all the heads of cabbage turned into cole slaw, all the potatoes, and onions, and greens...all the quarts of tomatoes canned and the ears of corn that were shucked, the melons, carrots and peppers...if one were to pile them all up right now they would fill a small warehouse.

And the other memories...well, you can't warehouse those.  There was a whole lot of living that went on in that small house.  And when I finally saw the foundation, devoid of the structure it supported, I wondered how such a small house managed to contain so many memories, launch so many families, and provide shelter to so many for so long.

It was sad to see it go.  But I have a lilac right outside my front door, as I write this.  It came from my Grandparent's place.  When I moved to Oregon I dug it up, wrapped the roots in sphagnum moss and damp papers, and babied it.  It is my link to that place.  That time.  And each Spring, when it blooms, I inhale the fragrance deeply.

It smells like home.

Originally posted to Keith930 on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 04:44 PM PDT.

Also republished by Appalachian Journal, Genealogy and Family History Community, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (130+ / 0-)

    Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 04:44:09 PM PDT

  •  Wonderful diary! (24+ / 0-)

    I read every word.

    Fascinating details.

    Can you say more about how the house was designed and built?

    I have a similar story about my grandparents's house on the farm in Missouri that I might write up one day, but it's not as rich as this.

    Good job!

  •  thanks Keith, just been there and did that (13+ / 0-)

    as well...very similar story.

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 05:10:47 PM PDT

  •  The house I grew up in has been razed, too. (12+ / 0-)

    I didn't know this until well after it was gone as my family had long ago moved away. Still, when I heard it was gone, it; was a little bit of a shock and brought a tear to my eye. Like your house, mine was one that was better off razed. Rooms had been added higgledy piggledy and I'm sure nothing was up to code. But lots of memories and stories, one of which is replacing the roof shingles on a hot summer day in August. My gender didn't exempt me from tearing off the old wooden shingles and replacing them - after, as I recall, a good layer of tar had gone down. Such fun.

    Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.

    by Hanging Up My Tusks on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 05:11:11 PM PDT

  •  You have some pretty special memories and they (14+ / 0-)

    will never leave you.  It's always strange to come to see something of your past, as a child, and then see it again as an adult.  The memories and what's physically in front of you don't always match up.

    I've been wanting to go back to Europe and one of my 'fears' is that it won't match my memories.  And they shouldn't, because it's been more than 35 years since we came back to the US.

  •  Lovely diary, Keith. You are so lucky to have so (13+ / 0-)

    many wonderful memories, and to be able to express them so well so that we can all enjoy reading. I loved hearing how the lilac bushes were dug up and transplanted, and how you still have the lilac outside your front door.

  •  Beautiful Diary Keith (15+ / 0-)

    It reminds me of growing up in Southern New Jersey in the 1950's and 60's.

    We had a summer house; (an old house), for a year or two. Very similar to the one you describe. It had this tiny enclosed front porch with stone lions along each side the front steps.

    Although by the time we got it, it did have indoor plumbing.

    I remember honeysuckle growing against a fence. We used to pull the pistils (in the center. I'm pretty sure that's what they're called), out and they tasted like honey.

    I remember summers especially. Steak with Jersey Beefsteak tomatos, corn on the cob, and strawberries so naturally sweet that they didn't need sugar on them.

    My Father was born in 1893 and he shaved with a straight razor all his life too. He lived until 1987.

    Brought To You By That Crazed Sociologist/Media Fanatic rebel ga Be The Change You Want To See In The World! Gandhi

    by rebel ga on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 05:25:54 PM PDT

  •  I can still navigate the house in total darkness (13+ / 0-)

    where I grew up ... just a touch to each doorway I pass through. There are still pecans on the pecan trees, the irises have run wild, and in the spring the front yard is purple with grape hyacinths where my mom planted a handful of them sixty-five years ago. My youngest brother lives there now.

    It is a wonderful thing to have a house you grew up in.

    •  The strangest..okay, not THE strangest (9+ / 0-)

      but one strange memory I have is taking my wife back to my hometown, where my Mother was still living, in the house I grew up in.  She was a good tourist, but generally unimpressed by a small Midwestern town that didn't, in all reality, have much to brag about.  Still...it was where I was from, and I wanted her to know my roots, and she was a good sport about it.  We could have gone to Key West, or Kaua'i, and had a better time, but that wasn't the point of the trip.  And we did those trips, as well.

      But when we made the pilgrimage to my hometown, and slept in the bed I slept in as a youngster in my old bedroom...it was a strange experience.  For me, anyway...I'm sure she just thought it was muggy and the mattress was hard.  Which it was.

      But I'm really glad I took her there.  She was born in Los Angeles, and who, among us, can refer to LA their "hometown?"  I lived there for 20 years...and it is a great city, but "hometown" it is not.

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 06:28:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Made me smile (11+ / 0-)

    I have similar memories of my grandmother's house.

    May your lilac overflow with secretive, flightless snipes!

  •  My parents still live in their house (19+ / 0-)

    they built and built onto over 50+ years (well, Dad lives there -- Mom can't live at home any more).  I will miss it when it is gone, but it (fortunately) has probably another 50 years in it.

    You make me sad for the little house less than a block away that had been abandoned.  For a couple of summers it had vines growing in and out the door, which didn't really fit the door frame.  One day it was torn down and the ground smoothed over.  There is nothing there now -- just an empty lot.  I was glad to see it go at the time.  But you make me feel sorry for it.  Someone must have loved it once, and lived their lives in it for a while.  Someone will come through town someday and be sorry it is no longer there.  

    I think the best diaries make me see things in a completely new way, and yours has done that tonight.  Thank you.

  •  So well done (5+ / 0-)

    It is longish as such diaries go, but I didn't want it to end and was sad when it did. I hope this is a chapter. Your writing is genuine and unpretentious, a pleasure to read. From Texas, I can smell the lilacs.

    I hope you don't mind if I slip further into copy editor mode and mention that it's "undue notice." (You were talking about your grandmother's bra size. I haven't had a drier for about 30 years, but bras and such get dried indoors. Sunlight is hard on elastic!) And there's only one "b" in sibling.

  •  Lovely diary, lovely memories (8+ / 0-)

    Been going through some old photos after a recent family funeral, and seeing familiar faces from long ago half-remembered rooms triggered lots of memories. At the funeral, I talked with my Mom's youngest half sister -- she had purchased the house she and Mom grew up in, but she has now retired to Florida and sold the place to one of her sons, so one of the old homes still belongs to family.

    My Dad's childhood home passed out of the family decades ago ... old, old white clapboards, gingerbread on the porch ... just found a picture of me as a toddler in front of it ... went by there after a funeral and now it is covered in modern siding, surrounded by modern barns. It is still there, but it is "gone" as we all knew it.

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 06:31:31 PM PDT

  •  Awesome diary, Keith. (11+ / 0-)

    One of the homes I grew up in has been razed. It was wiped out along with many other homes in the Flood of '93 and the property bought by the city. Another house I grew up in, not too far away, is still standing. We built it in '76 so it has lots of years left. The house was sold when my parents divorced. Mom still owns a good chunk of the land surrounding both properties although no one from my family lives in my hometown anymore.

    I grew up in a series of small older homes before my parents built a brand new one when I was a preteen so I've experienced the best of both.

    A significant portion of my hometown was razed after the devastating Flood of '08. I haven't been back to see how it looks today but I know I'll be heartbroken at how much has been destroyed. It's a beautiful small town nestled in a river valley but it will never be the same.

    I design homes so I'm very connected to the importance they have on our lives. I'm blessed to be able to create environments where people can build their own memories of family and home.

    Thank you for sharing your cherished memories of such a wonderful place with us.


    Not this mind and not this heart, I won't rot • Mumford & Sons

    by jayden on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 06:37:16 PM PDT

  •  I had multiple childhood homes (8+ / 0-)

    The home I had during my teens is still there.  It one was already very old when we moved in...the oldest house in the area, actually.

    But, the home from my earlier years was razed.  Not only that, but the entire neighborhood was razed and replaced with a business park.  Even the topography was razed, if you can imagine that.  The woodsy hills where I used to explore and teach myself natural science were leveled and dumped into the stream beds. Neighbors' houses, the shopping strip, the elementary school and even most of the streets are all now gone, as if a tsunami had rushed in and carried it all away.

    Speak the truth, but ride a fast horse.

    by Deep Harm on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 06:51:44 PM PDT

  •  My wife's uncle (11+ / 0-)

    recently witnessed his childhood home being torn down. He didn't take it well. He said it sounded like the house was screaming.

    The Republican Party is now the sworn enemy of the United States of America.

    Listen to All Over The Place - we play all kinds of music!

    by TheGreatLeapForward on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 07:10:23 PM PDT

  •  our old hand dug well is in the basement too... (7+ / 0-)

    directly below the original front entry way.   A very 19th century american analog to ancient asian feng shui, I've thought.

    •  My other grandparents, who lived in the country (9+ / 0-)

      Drilled twice without hitting water, and then turned to a "water witcher", who came out to their property and walked it with the old timey switch.  It bent down, as they told me, and he said "dig here."  They did, and hit water.  They got water from that well up until they had to move in 1968.  

      My great-great grandfather, on the other hand, died while digging a well on his own farm.  It caved in on him while he was digging, and he was trapped.  By the time they were able to haul him back up from the soil and water, he had either suffocated or drowned.  

      People take turning the tap on in the kitchen for granted.  It was much harder than that not all that many years ago.  Depending upon where you lived, it could have been only 65 years ago.

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 08:30:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Witchers are still in use. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Woody, high uintas

        I know a well driller who often has to drill where owners tell him to drill, whether he thinks the spot is good or not, because their witcher told them to.  Sometimes it "works", sometimes they wasted their money, but people like to have something unseen to believe in.

  •  Beautifully written and moving ode (6+ / 0-)

    to your family history. My memories are very different, because I grew up as a military brat and we moved constantly, often nowhere near family. I knew my mother's family better, because my father signed up for tours of duty in Germany, where they lived, and the distances being much shorter, we spent quite a lot of time visiting and spending vacations together.

    So there are lots of memories, too, just very few attached to a particular family "home". The place my German grandparents lived in when I knew them (post WWII, obviously) was an apartment in a palais (Palais Buseck, later renamed Stift Wallenstein) that was built in 1732 and had very, very thick stone walls, and lots of mysterious nooks and crannies to explore. Long story about how they ended up there after fleeing Berlin just before the Russians arrived. The small city it's in was the American sector, which is how my Dad got into the picture. There's a Wiki entry on the building, I just discovered, but only in German. Maybe I'll translate it some day.

    Picture here: http://www.google.de/...
    Wiki entry (German only) : http://de.wikipedia.org/...

    „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

    by translatorpro on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 10:57:52 PM PDT

    •  Addendum: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, Woody, high uintas

      In any case, my grandparents "house" won't be torn down anytime soon, as it has historical value and is a landmark.

      „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

      by translatorpro on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 11:04:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I like your sig line (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        translatorpro, marina, high uintas

        I could understand some of it from the High School German I took, but had to look up verlieren.  Everything else I understood, which is to say I missed the meaning entirely, but got most of the words right.

        Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

        by Keith930 on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 11:10:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marina, Woody, high uintas

          Brecht was a fighter, and in today's politics, we have to keep fighting in order not to lose our freedoms. I never thought it would come to this in the US. I'm an expat and the precipitous deterioration is even more obvious from the outside. Very sad.

          So my sig line says: Those who fight can lose. Those who don't fight have already lost.

          „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

          by translatorpro on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 11:47:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The house in which I was raised... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        translatorpro, Keith930, Woody

        ...also has historical value, but I've heard rumors my grandparent's house in Saratoga Springs, NY, is gone, and replaced with a McMansion of some sort.  I've never gone to look.  Not sure I'd handle it well.  I won't go near it with Google Maps/Satellite.  I'm a pilot and I treat the area like restricted airspace, steering well clear.  I prefer to keep it in memory exactly the way it is...or was.

  •  Thanks to the net (5+ / 0-)

    I can still look up my old address in New York and see a view of the building where I lived for thirteen years, almost the first place I had after I left home, university, and moved as far east as I could get. It really felt like my first home.

    The building and neighborhood seemed extremely ordinary then; now I can see that it had, like the surrounding standard six-story tenements, a sturdy richness unlike any of the new building today.

    I've now lived in this bohemian cabin of a house since 1978 and hope it won't have to be a tear down when I go.

  •  Wow, your old house story (6+ / 0-)

    reminds me of my grandparents' house in a small town in Indiana. My sister and I have memories of that house yet, and we are both over 50.

    Their house had ferns in the front yard, a catalpa tree by the street, allyes on the side and back, a pump off the back porch. There was a fascinating room off my grandparents' bedroom containing the old mangle washer and lots of shelves with jars and things. Two story, one BR down and two up, the second floor contained a small room filled with stuff; my mother's two dolls lived there, extra furniture, etc.
    Heat was gas, provided by two heaters, one in the kitchen and one in the living room. Winter visits my sister and I would sleep in the living room next to the heater.

    Front porch with a swing, for a while a grape arbor in the back, near the apricot tree. Rhubarb (not my favorite, except to use the leaves as hats) and striped grass.

    My grandfather also used a straight razor for shaving.

    Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby

    by riverlover on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 01:03:08 AM PDT

    •  My aunt made rhubard pie (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      high uintas

      She was living in northern mountainous Pennsylvania, and I was visiting from flat South Texas. The rhubarb from a patch in her back yard tasted as exotic as it looked. Wish I'd paid attention when she made the delicious pie.

  •  Very nice diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas

    For some reason it reminded me of this song.

    "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

    by RonV on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 05:05:03 AM PDT

  •  It makes me sad to see old houses get destroyed. (6+ / 0-)

    I grew up in a modern "suburban home" - those cheap houses that lower middle class people buy north of Dallas so they can pretend like they're Mitt Romney's slightly poorer kid brother.  But I was born in a log cabin - one of the first to be built in Lamb County, Texas.  It was modernized in the 1920's to look like a "real house," but still had the floorplan of a classic enclosed dog trot.  My parents hated it, but it's what they could afford.  I loved it.  I LOATHED the suburban home we had when I was growing up - it had no character and the homogeity of the house matched that of the neighborhood and the people in it.  

    As a part of my private business interests I "recycle" old, interesting properties.  I buy them, fix them up, and then lease them at a modest price.  But I don't gut them out - I don't turn them into modernized homes on the inside - I like them to keep their original character.  

    My own house was built in about 1877 and sits near the old York Manufacturing Company in York, PA.  It must have belonged to one of their executives - there's no records.  It's a glorious old Philadelphia-style Victorian and I adore it.  It's in kind of a rough neighborhood, but I don't give a damn.  I love the people and the house and I love the fact I took an interesting property and kept it as a home.  

    I've always felt like, somehow, white flight to suburbia has ruined the character of our nation - it started the process of self-segregation that's made us so divided, that's created solid "blue states and red states."  And, I admit to being a hypocrit - I'd never want to live in a "red" neighborhood again, no matter how nice the home.  It's too unpleasant.  

    A home says a lot about who we are as a people - it's a personification of our values.  

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

    by CrazyHorse on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 05:39:28 AM PDT

    •  The dreaded Fox and Jacobs suburbs! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, high uintas

      These tracts now extend well past Denton, Tx.  

      My dad grew up in a 1905 house in Mart, Tx.  It's gone now but it was a childhood anchor for me and I still have the furnishings, rickety as they are.  There is something important in having an individualized interior to live in - knowing that it's your space and is somewhat unique, like one's thoughts.  It may not have been designed for you but it was designed, not stamped out factory style with maximum economy and minimal character.

      •  Yes. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        high uintas, skwimmer

        We lived in Lewisville in an F&J house and then moved to Flower Mound - rather like roaches fleeing a corpse that's been full dessicated - when the neighborhood turned to crap.  It's my understanding that they now consider "suburban blight" to be the leading cause of their local economic downturn.  Dallas has turned into a megalopolis - every decade the upper middle class moves further out.  Now they're all in Frisco - and commuting into town.  

        It's horrible.  It's unsustainable.  It's a kind of community insanity.  

        No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

        by CrazyHorse on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 12:35:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  We're enjoying screen door living in Maine (6+ / 0-)

    right now, for the week.  

    I grew up in Ohio in a house that was built in 1901.  Granite foundation....basement dug out later, as the Italian family who lived there before we did acquired concrete to finish it out.  The floors were uneven as a result, but it was nice and cool on the hottest day--our retreat when summers in the 1980's reached record highs of 106 degrees.  We never had air conditioning.

    My house, too, was torn down.  Our neighborhood slowly transformed into a light, industrial zone over the years when I grew up.  My mother died and my father sold the house to the factory next door.  They tore the house down, but then the recession hit.  

    The lot is still vacant.

    My dad told the demolition crew to take their time with the demo--there was a lot there to be salvaged.  They ended up having to take his advice because the house had been built out of  timbers--and didn't easily succumb to the small wrecking ball they used.  They salvaged the copper plumbing, every granite block and even the bar that my father built out of maple in the basement.  

    The Italians who lived there before we did planted grapes.  The demo guys asked my father about how to dig them up and transplant them.  He asked me and I researched it for him.  Those were salvaged, too.

  •  Such an eloquent diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, JeffW, high uintas, MKSinSA

    I'm not surprised this diary has such an effect on readers since most adults left their childhood hometown and never returned to live.  Our society is such a transitory bunch...but not everyone.

    A (2009) Pew Social & Demographic Trends survey finds that most Americans have moved to a new community at least once in their lives, although a notable number — nearly four-in-ten — have never left the place in which they were born.
    ....
    The survey also posed questions to U.S.-born movers about the “place in your heart you consider to be home,”...

    Home means different things to different people. Among U.S.-born adults who have lived in more than one community, nearly four-in-ten (38%) say the place they consider home isn’t where they’re living now. But there’s a wide range of definitions of “home” among Americans who have lived in at least one place besides their original hometown: 26% say it’s where they were born or raised; 22% say it’s where they live now; 18% say it’s where they have lived the longest; 15% say it’s where their family comes from; and 4% say it’s where they went to high school.

    One reason your diary strikes a chord with me is that my parents 1950s era house recently was sold out of the family.  A very modest house that I grew up in.  I did a farewell and goodbye tour on closing day, and it was the small details that evoked the strongest memories.  Like the very worn and sagging kitchen cupboard above the stove where my mom, an avid and voracious cook, stored her most-used ingredients as she fed her family of six, and then the extended family of 18 grandchildren when they visited.   My father puttered around the house, and his jury-rigged and low-cost repairs were more evident sans furniture--like the bent nails used to hold closet rods in place instead of using a store-bought bracket.

    The house is such poor shape that I expect it will be torn down, but I wasn't sad about that.  As I stood alone in yard, dozens of memories came to me of family gatherings and photographs taken in that front yard during significant family events as we all grew older--baptisms, first communions, girlfriends on prom night, graduations, fiancees, our own kids visiting grandma and grandpa for the first time, my parents' 40th, 50th, and 60th wedding anniversaries, etc.

    Nothing lasts forever.  The bricks-and-mortar house performed its role and served my family very well, in a similar manner that Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree gave of itself.  

    David Suziki has a wonderful two-minute talk speech on the factors that make a home worth far more than its "property market value."   His larger point is that we can't place a price on that which is truly invaluable..

  •  wonderful! sounds so much like my grandpa's (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, high uintas

    sounds so much like my grandpa's farmhouse in York, NY - except maybe 10 years before.
    I have the rake head from the double seater before they got indoor plumbing and long after the little wood outhouse rotted away.

    And the yoke he used on the plow horses when first starting out early 20s. I found an old newspaper article online yesterday morning when he bought the place. He still kept a horse into the 40s and rode in a sulky.

    Then there is the big heavy horsehair coat his father used in a sleigh. That is being donated to the Jello Museum in Le Roy.

    And the homemade shelf I rescued that he hung his hat on everyday and the 1870-80s rope bed with the beautiful wood protected for decades by ugly green paint.

    and the thrifty Scotsman's 3 blue white dotted hankies -- 1 threadbare from daily use, 1 for going to church, and 1 never used.

    The modern GOP -- Big noise on the stairs, nothing coming down. 

    by PHScott on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 09:29:41 AM PDT

  •  Lovely piece of your heart (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, high uintas

    and heritage you shared here!  Thx!  

    The watermelon-granny bras remark had me lol!  

    I would rather spend my life searching for truth than live a single day within the comfort of a lie. ~ John Victor Ramses

    by KayCeSF on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 09:57:45 AM PDT

  •  I'm hoping our new house will get started... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas

    ...next month (the shell kit is being delivered on September 14th). Our old house is worn out. Fully paid off, but feeling it's 90+ years. I would prefer that it be scavenged and torn down, though it could be gutted and restored, with a lot of expensive work. It's apparently wider than the newer Chicago bungalows in our neighborhood, and overwhelms and overhangs the raised ranch to the east that occupies what once was part of the 50'-wide lot that it was built on. The people we bought it from did a lot of stuff on the cheap, and its been showing for the last 10 years. The raised ranch next door has been getting a ton of rehabbing, the owner having had her brother live there, and he died a couple of months ago. I hope she gets something out of all the work.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 11:13:47 AM PDT

  •  Nice, really nice. Thanks. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas


    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 12:11:04 PM PDT

  •  There is so much positive to be said about modest (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas, llywrch

    lives,  good family and a childhood of simple but elegant memories that last beyond a lifetime.    Well written and much enjoyed.   Such memories can never be replaced by things.  Thanks.

    Much of the good stuff has been replaced by TV reality shows that typically bring out the worst instead of the best of society.   It brings out an envy of things and of others instead of appreciating that which we have,  which is truly good and which are our experiences.  
    example:  http://www.mtv.com/...

    Those who think they have it all and have their $500,000 coming of age parties at the country club,  with headliner entertainment and are a gift of a Lexus convertible for trips to private school (wrong color though),   grow up selfish and always wanting more (and there always will be more stuff) instead of an appreciation of a simpler but honest life.      

    Victims of bigotry are the poorest, least influential members of society.......never the wealthiest, most educated, most overrepresented in high levels, and most influential. Bigotry hurts the least influential. To claim or say otherwise is absurd.

    by dailykozzer on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 12:41:36 PM PDT

  •  I can so relate. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas, llywrch, Keith930, Floja Roja

    I'm glad someone else has had similar feelings about their old home. I grew up in an old farmhouse. It was decent sized at 8 rooms and 1 bathroom and a root cellar type basement. But it had started out smaller and been added on to. My parents found square nails in the older part of the house so it was assumed the house was built at the turn of the 20th century. When you looked at the front the two living room windows were at different levels. The floors sagged and the walls weren't straight. There was inadequate electrical or just plain no electrical outlets. The upstairs had no central heating or cooling. But it had a big porch with gingerbread and fancy porch posts. And it set on a big expanse of lawn with a lot of outbuildings including a detached garage, a smoke house, a brooder house, a chicken coop, a large barn and many other small sheds. I was brought home from the hospital to it and left for college from it. It was home until my parents moved into the city when I was nearing college graduation. All my young years I longed to move because I was lonely and isolated out there. I didn't have a real closet or a door or outlets in my room! Eventually my folks sold the place and I went years without seeing it.

    I remember the last time I saw it. I was taking someone here during a Christmas break to show them where I had grown up. Last I had heard someone was renting the place. But when I pulled up I was so shocked I cried. The lawn had been neglected for at least a year. The front door stood wide open. The end of the living room, the bay window had been torn out and someone was storing lawn mowers in it. I was given permission to walk through it but I cried the whole time. Some things were the same, like the wallpaper in the kitchen and medicine cabinet in the laundry room. A lot had been pulled out for salvage. I looked at my old bedroom still with the wall paper my Mom and I picked out and cried more. When I left I closed the door and said I'll never go back.

    It was an old, old, old house that was falling down for a lot of the years we lived there. I remember some of the last nights I slept there hearing the rodents run between the walls. I knew that its days were numbered and that it wouldn't last for very long. It was not meant to stay as long as it did. But I think I would have been less shocked if I had pulled up and seen it completely gone. I hope it is gone now. It was a lovely spot though and I hope it hosts another home again. Though, knowing where I come from, more than likely someone put a trailer there. In my mind I can still see it all as it was and feel how it felt in summer and on cozy holidays and hear the frogs and crickets through my bedroom window. It's home in my mind.

    Thanks for the diary.

    "Even in the wizarding world, hearing voices isn't good."

    by SnoKat on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 02:50:01 PM PDT

  •  A truly lovely diary. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas, Keith930, Floja Roja

    That house will live in your memory and your imagination forever.

    Life is fluid. We leave, we go home, but home is never the same as when we left. We are not the same people. Our homes are not the same homes. We're rather like a flower bush: every year sees different blooms. At once so different, but our roots remain firmly planted.

    My parents' home -- the home I grew up in -- burned to the ground a few years ago. Everything was lost. And I've realized that what that funky little house that my parents built bit by bit, year by year, for decades provided -- family, tradition, a sense of place -- can never be lost.

    And I still dream now and then that I am still in my old bedroom. The old house isn't gone. It just changed forms. It lives forever where it matters:  in our hearts.

    I'm so glad that you were able to take the lilac bush with you.  May its fragrance always envelop you  with love, joy and warm memories of your childhood.

    © grover


    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 03:53:09 PM PDT

  •  Thanks, Keith, for sharing! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas, Keith930, Floja Roja

    Mine is a slightly different story, but slid into the future about 20 years.  My maternal grandparents built (literally) the house in which my mother and her siblings were raised in 1940.  My mother's father was quite handy in the areas which mattered most in building a home, and he had a best friend whose business it was to build homes.

    Together, they built a modified A-frame home which was then copied a few more times in the surrounding neighborhood.  The basement was unfinished, as well as the second floor, but over time both areas were improved for housing a family in far South-suburban Chicago.

    Roughly twenty years afterwards, it was time for my mother to raise a family and the occupants at that time were only her mother and baby brother (her father had passed on just a few months before I was born).  I have never discovered how much the house cost originally, but a princely sum of $2,000 was borrowed from the bank to "buy" the home from my grandmother.  A few thousand more was borrowed for an addition onto the back of the original house and another generation of our family (six kids) passed their formative years under that same roof.

    That house is now just over 72 years old with three generations under that same roof -- mother, daughter and grandson -- and while some of my mother's children have moved on to farther destinations, it is always a sort of pilgrimage in December to have as many living family members under that same roof at the same time as possible.

    Fortunately, there does not appear to be an imminent demise in this house's near future, but there are generations of memories enclosed within the roof there for a family who has been that building's sole owners.  

    -8.88, -7.77 Social Security as is will be solvent until 2037, and the measures required to extend solvency beyond that are minor. -- Joe Conanson

    by wordene on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 04:48:14 PM PDT

    •  How the house was built to begin with matters (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wordene, Floja Roja

      One of the most enchanting vacations I've taken over the years was a winter trip through New Hampshire and Vermont.  We drove through many small towns with nice, older homes.  I mean really older homes.  Still painted nicely, kept up, and, from the outside at least...they looked as though they had another 75 years or more of life to them.

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 06:03:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This one, fortunately, is a full brick home, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Floja Roja

        except for the roof, of course.  Due to the fact that each generation in the house has been quite handy in the carpentry and electrical realms, I daresay that it could still be there in 70+ more years, unless a monster tornado runs through the area and wipes out the neighborhood.

        I will totally agree, that if build well to start and then maintained properly, many more years and generations will be able to call it home.

        -8.88, -7.77 Social Security as is will be solvent until 2037, and the measures required to extend solvency beyond that are minor. -- Joe Conanson

        by wordene on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 06:38:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Keith (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Keith930, Floja Roja, PHScott

    I can so relate to this diary! My maternal grandparents home was bought in the late 20s, my mom and her brothers were raised there. My dad left when I was about 5 and mom had a real hard time dealing with it, I was pretty much raised by her parents in that house.

    In the late 70s grandma could no longer live by herself and she wanted me, mr.u, and our daughter to live in the house   after she went into the nursing home. We used to joke about the fact that she really didn't have to go anywhere because the house was just up from the hospital, the nursing home was next door to the hosp. and the cemetery was right behind the house.

    I raised my daughter in the old house with the metal kitchen cabinets and the old Estate Heatrola space heater warmed mom, then me, then my girl on cold mornings getting ready for school.

    In 1990 the city bought my house and tore it down to expand the cemetery, my old place is now full of graves. Gone are the lilacs and grandpa's old garage. I was able to get the Heatrola tho'. It sits in teh dining room and I saved the old wild yellow roses :)

    Photobucket

    "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

    by high uintas on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 05:27:01 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Keith930, high uintas, Floja Roja

    I rarely read comments, and pretty much never log in, but I had to so I could rec this diary & give you a tip.

    The house I was raised in was also torn down recently.  Not quite the history your family has in your grandparent's house, but great memories for my siblings & I.

    I miss being able to stop by just about any time & talk to Ma & eat something. She's been gone 9 years, but seeing that empty lot brought back a lot of memories.

    The size of the lot stood out for me too!  There was a house, their driveway, then our house, our driveway, & the other neighbor's garage.  It doesn't even look like the house would have fit in between the house & garage, but it did.  The house sure seemed bigger.

    Thanks for bringing back more memories for me.

  •  My mother-in-law has lived in the same home for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Floja Roja, PHScott

    82 years - since she was four years old.  When she married, her husband moved in (her mother was still alive but not her father), and they raised my husband and sister there.  There may be a few people in San Francisco who have been in the same home longer than that... but not many.

    My aunt - my father's older sister - has lived in the same home in Dayton, OH her entire life.  She's about 88 years old now, and the neighborhood has changed a lot over her lifetime, from a very proper and prosperous place to a somewhat rougher area.  Some of the other family members worry about her being alone there, but she seems to be doing okay.  I think their worries about crime are exaggerated, and the neighbors seem to look out for her.

  •  If these old walls could speak... (0+ / 0-)

    As much of a fan of the songwriter as I am, Amy Grant does it better than Jimmy Webb. IMHO, of course.

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