When I was a little kid, we lived in the thriving metropolis of Altoona, Pennsylvania – right down Fourth Street from the Pennsylvania Railroad shops. (I remember my dad saying that Altoona was the only place where you could go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning with an etching of your head on the pillow. Everything around your head was soot from the railroad.) I don’t think it was quite that bad, but it wasn’t the cleanest place on earth either.
My dad had grown up in the country (although right outside of New York City) and since my parents had married they had lived both in the country and town – but they truly wanted to move away from the city street that was close enough to the railroad shops to hear the lunch and going-home whistles. Our front porch was about two feet from semi-busy Fourth Street and we were backed up to a gas station. Even though we were friends with the owner and I used to hang out over there talking to the guys (how times have changed), my parents focused on buying their own home.
Oh, did I mention we didn’t live IN a house? We lived in a small apartment in the church. My playground was the Sunday School rooms. My tricycle was crammed in the back porch amidst VBS supplies and I spent a lot of time following the high-school aged janitor around. Annoying him, I’m sure.
But buying their own home wasn’t easy for my parents. The people in the church were kind and generous, but not exactly rich and my dad didn’t get paid all that much when we first moved there. So, patiently, my parents put away $10.00 a week in their house fund.
And then when I was in first grade – they found it.
This wasn’t just any house, this was six acres of beautiful country with a farmhouse dating to the 1800s. The house was kind of run down, so they hired a man at church to fix it up. (I think he actually lived there for awhile.) Meanwhile, we still lived in town, but would go down to “the house” every chance we got.
The house itself was typical of an old farmhouse. The porch led to a sprawling kitchen with back stairs leading to the second floor. We made the dining room into a living room and had all the printing equipment for our church on a ping pong table in the room formerly known as the living room or parlor. Mom wallpapered the now living room in toile and four sunny windows looked out over our property. The front door opened to an entrance hall with stairs to the second floor and a 1/2 bath under the steps. (Or maybe that was a 1/4 bath – I think it was just a toilet.)
The upstairs had a landing with a set of steps going in each direction. One side had the master bedroom and two smaller bedrooms. I decorated mine in blue and pink. My large window looked over our side yard, a shed and a barn that at one time belonged to the house. The other side of the landing opened up into a small room with an old pump organ. Only three chords remained, but that was enough to fascinate a 6yo. I loved to play it. Three other bedrooms made up the rest of that side of the second floor. Thankfully, one of those bedrooms had been converted into a bathroom.
The basement was dark, gloomy and damp – with a coal furnace which had to be stoked each winter morning. (Now, THAT would be fun. I think I’m glad I was the kid and and not an adult living there.)
For a year or two we owned the house without living in it – but then came the day we actually moved “down to the valley.”
I’ve told you about the inside of the house, but it was the land surrounding the house that made this a kid’s dream.
To be continued.