The First Rule is….

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Well, maybe not the FIRST rule, but high on the list of rules for writing a Welcome Column is “Don’t try to top Jeanie Ramos!”.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but Jeanie’s words seem to turn that around. So I have to jump in with some thoughts provoked by her recent column on “The Old Home Place”.

I recently sold my parents’ house, which we moved into in 1950. I didn’t raise kids in the place, my brother, sister and I were the kids. But some of the observations made by Jeanie and others are pretty much universal, I guess.

Several folks mentioned the kids’ “growth charts”, which my Mom did right on the dining room wall. Years after we left home I think it got painted over. It wouldn’t have lasted forever anyway because it couldn’t be removed and saved. Besides, the last time I remember looking, it was pretty hard to read!

Not being a mother (or any other kind of parent) my memories may have a different slant.

When we moved in, my Dad and his father went to work on the back yard, terracing the yard and digging a big hole for a 2-car garage, most of which was five feet below ground level. Now, our place was on a hillside which was devastated by a flood back in the ‘30s and we unearthed some rocks the size of Volkswagens. We beat them with hammers and heated them with a blowtorch, then turned the hose on them to get them to crack, then hammered some more. There was a block wall at the back of the place and the property on the other side was higher than ours. The owner wanted to fill in his yard, so when we got the rocks down to throwing size, my brother and I spent our afternoons throwing them over the wall.

When the garage was built, Dad and Grampa, a master cabinetmaker, built in some cabinets and a big workbench with a lot of drawers which, sixty years later, still worked fine, even full of heavy tools.

Then Dad started inside the house. This was a weekend project, so it happened over a long period of time. I think one of the high points of Mom’s life when she finally got the doors on her kitchen cupboards!

The bathroom cabinetry sported a medicine chest on either side of the sink with mirrored doors, so when you opened them both you had a three-way look at yourself (like those you see in clothing stores).

After we boys left home, Dad converted our bedroom into a den, removing the closet doors and building in a chest of drawers and putting in bookshelves on one wall.

The place wasn’t a palace, and I now wonder how five of us (I’ve got a younger sister, too) got along with one bathroom, but my parents, children of the depression, always seemed satisfied. They had it the way they wanted it and it was comfortable.

As I said earlier, I recently sold the place. A week after escrow closed I went back to get some items out of the garage. It was stripped to the walls. The cabinets and workbench were lying in a heap of broken lumber in the middle of the floor. A concrete block planter, which had been home to a large camellia outside the kitchen window, was gone (“to allow better access to the garage” – hell, it never had a car in it, anyway). I walked in the house to give the new owner my key and you could stand in the middle of it and shoot a shotgun in any direction and not do any damage. Everything was gone, right down to the bare studs!

It’s his now, but it seems to me the guy would have been better off to buy a vacant lot and build a house from scratch!

Anyway, I guess I won’t be going back there and reminiscing like some of you. Enjoy it if you can.

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