Saturday, August 05, 2006

Six on Saturday

Thought I'd write a '5 on Friday'..but I didn't get to it, so I'll add one for penance ;)

6 of the most unusual places I lived as a kid::

1) My earliest memories are near a beach, close to a subdivision but nevertheless leading a rural life. There were puppies and seagulls, goats and tourists. You saw people from everywhere on the boardwalk, and this being the late 60's- early 70's, many were eccentric in dress and mindset. Mostly they were pretty nice.


2) From there, my Mom and I moved into the country so she could take care of her sick friend & four daughters. The house her husband had paid for (He was in the military & rarely home) was a spacious & fairly gracious 19thC establishment, with a double porch fenced below & above with decorative, but functional, 'gingerbread.' A few rooms had electric light, but others needed oil. Heating was from an inadequate wood stove, but the plumbing was modern enough. The front yard looked into a small village were you could literally play in the streets, the backyard was actually a small farm, with a mid-sized barn where Mom & Carolyn kept a large garden, goats, chickens, & a few pets. Beyond that was the forest's new line, as it had swallowed the outlying houses in the old town. (We weren't suppose to sneak into those but...) Right next door was an old-fashioned post office with its wood cubbyholes and worn brass slots, weights, and plaques. They gave us penny candy or sold us M&M's when we picked up the post. It was a lovely place to form your first fancies, but it could have used some repair. (I am happy to say it has been restored since.)



After my Mom remarried, my Mom & Stepfather got this idea of restoring another cool old house. Which led to us living in.....

3) a turn-of-the-century apartment over an old general store. I really enjoyed going downstairs and getting my favorite drink of the time, Tropicana orange juice. The old building had been modernized, probably around the 30's or 40's. Ancient soda advertisements, milk bottles, and sample catalogs were still on some of their shelves. The register was the old 'typewriter' & bell kind, with a change slot on the side where the coins would come out. The building itself was quaint enough too, with its colored-glass windows & big pull chains everywhere. You used the handled chains to turn on & off fans, open windows, close shutters, and use the w.c. hehe

and later...

4) We moved to a log-cabin mill with moving waterwheel, kerosene lamps for lighting, and an unusually complex pipe system attached to a Franklin/German stove. The place stayed snug in cold weather, and was cooled by the water on warm days. It was wwwaaaayyy out in the country with only livestock for neighbors, but the old, sturdy fences kept the curious herds and flocks out of the garden area surrounding the building. I wouldn't mind finding something like it now that I am grown. I bet Atrus would have loved it.

and then......

4) We lived in a half-ruined real-not-reproduction Scarlett O'Hara-style ante-bellum mansion. really. It was haunted. It was VERY haunted, and it wasn't modernized a bit. There was even a classic well like you see in all the old children's books, with a handpump right next to it. (We rarely used the bucket.) Most of the outbuildings had been buried in kudzu and other bracken. We ended up getting a few goats just to cut down on the excess greenery.

Exactly half of the mansion remained, and I very nearly fell once chasing a ghost child through an upper door. I probably would have fallen had I not been warned by another spirit to quit following her so closely up the old trees & through the house. There really were secret panels & a cut-through passageway in it, a creepy basement, and rather a lot of ruined grandeur (Moth-eaten, heavy velvet curtains; the torn ornate wallpaper still clung to its gilded threads. There was plenty to look at in the long hours spent there, though not many books. This place also depended on wood heat and kerosene & oil lamps for light, but they had trouble truly warming or illuminating the rooms. Still, they were better than what you went through to reach the old outhouse at night! After a few rounds of 'what was that??" with the flashlight on the old path, we rediscovered the handiness of 'chamberpots.'

At night, the old chandelier cast frightening shadows in the main room, but we had to use it anyway because this was where the big stove had been installed. When the winds kicked up, they roared and whistled. When the weather was right (that means storming & lightening!) you'd hear muffled voices...and violins.

The only modern thing in the whole shebang were the ethics of the mice. All that wonderful press Disney gave 'em and they'd still ruin any food that they couldn't immediately eat. I came to really appreciate our cats. That was the place I caught pneumonia & like to turned into a ghost myself. My mom had to work to afford to care for me and I ended staying for awhile with some neat folks down the road.

5) The farm down the road was a slice from the past too. The farmhouse itself was standard enough, and though not modernized either (they also used an outside water pump/well & an outhouse), the sweet elderly couple who maintained it were nearly as snug in it as the mill had been. It wasn't hard to imagine an Abe writing out his sums on a slate near their barn's cistern or Tom Sawyer hanging on an apple tree in the orchard.

But the most unusual part of their farm was the barnstormer plane & mechanics garage out in their biggest big barn! It could still fly too! I was there the day he got it going. Actually I was the reason he got it going. I was completely fascinated. Sadly I didn't get a turn when it was in the air. They had some doubts about the strength of the canvas. (He just went once around & then over the meadow)


6) Then there was a bad spell when my stepfather had been injured and some friends let us live with them up in their nice old farmouse in the mountains. They lived right next door to 1) a rather large apple orchard on one side and 2) a farm that grew mostly beans, potatoes, & carrots on the other. Both neighbors were very generous with their crops. I lived on fresh pressed apple cider, at least partly because I loved to watch them make it. Autumn still makes me think of that fresh, crisp apple smell and the sound of the old press....

I lived in all of these places before I was 10.


One of the main things all these 'living history' dwellings did for me was to explode the notion that any place, action, thought process, or implement is necessarily tied to an actual moment in time. Plumbing is a lot easier than manual pumps. Pumps are faster than buckets & pulleys. Pulleys are much easier than pulling a bucket with pure muscle. Wells are more reliable than chasing streams. So that's progress, right? Yes, but only of tools. When the power goes off around here, we seem to be one of the few people who understand that a manual tool beats no tool all to bits.

People say often that something or someone is a 'holdover' or 'ahead of their time.'

t'ain't necessarily so.




3 comments:

pb said...

Thank you! These descriptions are breathtaking. I adore old houses and hope to finish restoring our turn of the last century "dump" someday.

Your prose is descriptive enough to put me there, and there..., and there (three more times!).

Thanks again.

PopTart Mom said...

Wow! You moved around quite a bit didn't you? Sounds like to some pretty fascinating places! *Grin*

Anonymous said...

know what you mean. Liz