Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stories From The Road- Childhood Home & House Plans

As stated in an earlier post of mine (Changes they a coming), one of my new regular features is going to be "Stories From the Road." This is going to cover ancestral homes and businesses, as well as places that played a role in the social history fabric of my family. Stories From The Road is also meant to cover some of our adventures while traveling in the pursuit of further exploration of the family.

Today this road leads to the front door of my childhood home. I couldn't really imagine starting any other place, since due to that home and all the memories that came with it, so began my earliest forays into the exploration of our family history. Ironically, at the time I had not dug enough into all the crooks and crannies of this home to  find the treasure of a 1911 history of part of the family written by my great-grandfather nor the earliest example of a scrapbook that my grandmother had done as a gift for her daughter to show the family history in photos. Those great finds came a few years later.

My childhood had had the distinction of being the family home on my maternal side of the family for three generations of the family for over 40 years! My maternal grandparents purchased the home newly built on a double lot in what was a growing part of Evansville at the time and actually now is only a few miles from the Ohio River in  many would consider to be part of the near Downtown area of Evansville. My mother grew up in this home, and with the exception of a few months in the beginning of their marriage, this was the home that my parents raised their children in, surrounded by our grandmother, and for my siblings for several years, an elder pair of great aunts of my grandmother.

Our home was 3 stories when you consider that we had a full basement that contained a fruit cellar, a converted laundry room that once was full of the coal that heated our home, and a large area for parties with a bar that I once converted into a paying haunted house for the neighborhood, but was used much more by my older siblings for their parties (which I enjoyed sneaking down and watching from the steps).

The upstairs held 3 bedrooms, a bathroom and 2 attics. My brother's room was in the middle in the hallway and I always thought the upstairs was spooky. Tthere was more than once that I took off in a dead run down that hallway to get to my parents, convinced a monster would grab me from my brother's doorway as I ran back. During the war years when there was so much building of war materials in Evansville (another story), my grandmother rented out the upstairs to boarders and also part of the main floor, which I've been told has been rearranged more times than my living room ever will.Getting to the main floor could only be done for me by sliding down the stairs as though they were my own playground.

Once I arrived downstairs my first focus was usually to the kitchen that ran across the back of the house, and to this day the memories and smells from my grandmothers special Christmas cookies and other recipes come flooding right back. From there I could either walk back towards the stairs and go into what was my playroom as a child and down the hall towards the front of the home, passing a sewing room and a small office/kitchen on the way to what ended up being my grandmother's bedroom once all the boarders and others had moved on. The other doorway took me into the family living room where we watched tv, and I can vividly remember where every one was sitting when we watched the first moon landing as well as the resignation of Nixon a few years later. The front room was the "formal living room" (you know, the one with the furniture we children weren't allowed to sit on except for Christmas Day, and even then I actually wound up on the floor.

We moved from this home as I was getting close to entering high school, and at the time I was full of anger and feelings too strong to be able to handle in all the right ways because it meant a new school and all the changes that came with it. My father knew what I didn't understand- that the neighborhood was changing and we needed to move while we could get the best prices for our home, but we sure made it hard for him.

I have recently reconnected with many of those friends and am grateful for that. A few months after we left I decided to draw a very detailed house plan for myself of the home because I was afraid I would forget all the little parts as time went on- wise beyond my years for that one. I am actually in the process of having my parents help me draw some house plans (not like an architect) of a few homes that have played such important roles in their lives. This includes the home in Maunie my father spent every summer at, the place by railroad he lived in as a child, and the first home his father ever bought for the family.

Why not do the same for yourself? Use some graph paper, place some photos on the table with you if you have any, and start with a very rough block the first time. Scale is not what is important. Turn on a recorder if you are doing this with others (or even on your on) because memories may come up that you don't want to miss, and these may also assist with further development of the plans as time goes on.

For our childhood home, my sister commissioned an artist she knew to paint the house twice- once as it looked during her childhood, and then again for my parents as it looked at the time we moved, and gave it to them for Christmas that year. What a treasure!

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