Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Old Farm House

I have started writing my personal history (guess you can call it an autobiography). As the mood strikes me, I add to the stories.  These stories (recollections) are a work in progress.  Just wanted to solicit comments about my work.  I have found some of my old slides helping to illustrate the articles.  My mom's autobiography has been very helpful for details (just wish he had kept the original photos she has in her book).  Thanks to my cousin Dale who furnished many family history photographs.

Here's what I wrote about "The Old Farm House".

I grew up in an old farm house owned my the paternal grandfather. It (and the grandparent's house) were on the land of 240 acres (give or take) which my grandparents owned.

Typical old farmsteads, there was a barn, milk house, machine shed, and house. The well was usually at/near the milk house. Constant cold water from the well was needed to keep the fresh milk cool. Water was piped underground to the barn and house.

From what I remember, there were 4 sections of the house. There were the 2 rooms and hall (closet) in the back, almost fashions as a “lean-to”. The main (1 ½ story) house was in front of the bedrooms became the living room. These sections of the house had a stone foundation.

The “closet” had access to both of the first floor bedrooms. It was also a very narrow hall – at least us kids would use it as such at times. With the dining room and living room, they make a loop in the house to chase each other. You know how children can't avoid running and chasing through a loop of rooms in a building!

The dining room and kitchen were on a concrete foundation (from what I remember) and concrete floor. Two or three different distinct basement floors. The final addition was made adding a bathroom. Yes, the house had an outhouse until of age 10 (almost 11)!

In the Winter, we did not dally – did our business and hurry back into the house. Of course, us men would make a “short-cut” to urinate just outside out of the back door during those bitter cold Winter nights. Toilet paper was a luxury. Mostly we used newspaper. When there was no newsprint – there was the Sears & Roebuck catalog. Newsprint was preferred because the catalog paper was not as absorbent. I know it sounds like a joke, but we used what we had.

This was about the same time that I start remembering major items. Perhaps it is because of the changed made during that year.

1958 was a big year. That year, my little brother (Kenny) got sick and died of leukemia. During that year, trying to make the house more comfortable for Kenny and the rest of the family, dad made major changes to the house.

The old big coal fired furnace was removed and replaces with forced air propane furnace. Previously, the house was heated with one large register right on top of the furnace. Once I was old enough it was my job to bank the fire in the furnace before going to bed. It was cold in the house until the furnace was stoked and hear radiated through the house. Many Winter mornings my sister, brother, and I would get dressed in front of the open oven door.

There was no forced air (other than possibly a fan) to distribute the heat. My bedroom was in the upstairs, right under the roof. Finally, I had a heat register in my room.

With the removal of the old furnace, the flooring in the dining room was replaced with hardwood flooring. The other big change was addition of a bathroom in the house. Before the bathroom addition, we had the outhouse and a shower in the basement. Shower just attached to the chimney. No curtain or such --- just the open shower in the basement.

For the early years of my life, the bedroom off the dining room was mine, and then one I shared with my sister. Eventually, I needed my own bedroom. I got the upstairs room (over the dining room). For a short period, little brother Kenny shared that bedroom with me. Being right under the roof (the room was more like a finished attic) the room was cold in the Winter and Hot in the summer.

But that upstairs room was a social gathering space. Friends and neighbors visiting gathered in the dining room. Us “kids” went up to my room. Seems I had lots of interesting items to play with and entertain our friends. My cousin Don Gillmore tells that I used to tell ghost stories in my room and the stairs to the room. Lights were turned off and there was often a flashlight for surreal lighting. We used to scare the younger cousins.

The room housed my radio gear, including amateur radio station. One of the kits assembled was a broadcast band transmitter. We would spend hours broadcasting a radio “show” to whomever happened to drive near the house. Favorite was the commentary about “Dot's Marble Cake”. The “show” was a running joke by Wilfred Meier. His sister and I were in the same class in high school. As a joke, my mom backed a marble cake, including actual marbles backed into the cake.

My parents purchase early (if not the first) TV in the family. It was a B&W 13” RCA table model. When they traded up to a larger set, the old TV went into my upstairs bedroom. Another reason the room was social central. Anyway – with the TV and my radios, I spend many late nights in the room. Ofter watched the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. My room was on the other end of the house – so my late night TV/Radio did not bother the rest of the family. The only problem was the loss of sleep, which at times I paid for dearly! I still have the TV.

In the mid 70s, my parents started talking about building a new house to replace the old farm house. My sister and I were both well established in our own right. We supported them in the decision. After all, there were not getting older and should enjoy life. In the 1976 they moved into their new house, built behind the old house. The old house was razed. Some of the lumber (4/5th oak flooring) was sold as salvage. When the old house as torn down, construction deficiencies in the house came to light. Much of the house had a layer of newsprint as the only “insulation” in the exterior walls.

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