Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gramma's Porches

My parents owned a duplex and my Gramma and Grampa Meinzen owned a triplex. It didn't seem unusual to me that two or three families lived in the same house divided only by a wall between the homes. And it didn't seem the least unusual that there were just two doors and one house between our house and my grandparents' house. We all lived on Furnace Street in Mineral Ridge. I don't know if it was a purposeful choice for my parents to buy a house in the same village on the same street or if it was a carefully debated decision to live so close to in-laws. However they chose, it was a blessing in my life.

In the above right photo are, left to right, my mom's brother-in-law and her sister; my mom and dad, Audrey and Lee Doyle; and my Grampa, Mom's dad, W. C. Robert Meinzen. The two little ones in the front are my brother and sister. Behind them is my Gramma's back porch.

My brother Bob described the proximity between Gramma's house and ours thus: "We lived on the north side of Furnace Street in Mineral Ridge, Ohio, a street that ran east and west on State Route 46. Grandma and Grandpa Meinzen lived on the same side of the street two doors down or east of us. It was not a busy street, in fact it was a MaCadam road, blacktop and gravel. We ... ran back and forth all the time without any concern about traffic or anything else."

While we weren't pests and Mom limited our visit to Gramma's house, we were able to spend quite a lot of time there.

When we went down to Gramma's we nearly always went in through the back door, onto the porch, then into the kitchen. In fact when friends and neighbors came to visit either of our homes they used the back door. The front door was for guests.

You can see in the photo to the left that the back porches were enclosed. Gramma's was the one on the right, which was closest to the driveway. The porch extended from the right side of the house to the left side of the first window to the left of the door. The porch was about 8 feet deep, from back door to kitchen door.

On the porch between the back door and the left window was a built-in closet that stretched from floor to ceiling. The closet was probably only a foot or so deep, but it was packed. I loved it when Gramma had to get something out of the closet while I was there because there was always something interesting to see: a very old curling iron; a huge ball of string 8 or 10 inches across composed of shorter lengths of string from brown-paper-wrapped towels from the laundry; and cans and bottles and boxes and jars of miscellaneous odds and ends. Children were not given the opportunity to rummage in the closet.

The rest of the porch was windows and walls. I think Gramma had a table, some chairs, and maybe her sewing machine there. It was an unheated porch and was never used to sit and visit. It was a work porch. In the summer we would sit there to break beans and hull peas for canning or clean strawberries for jam. In cooler weather we might tear and sew rags into strips for rag rugs. It was a comfortable place to be even though we didn't spend lots of time there.

I don't think any of us have photographs of Gramma's back porch. Who thinks to take photographs of such common, homely places? It lives in our memories only.

Unlike the back porch, Gramma's front porch was a resting porch - but only during the warmer weather. Though the porch was small, there was room for a metal glider and a few chairs.

Gramma worked hard to finish her housework during the daytime. After dinner and dishes were finished on summer evenings she often sat on the front porch, perhaps reading the evening newspaper or visiting with her daughter or neighbors or me (or any other grandchildren who came along).

As I look at these photos, I think the house looks old and tired and just a little rundown. I remember my mom saying that when they bought the house in the 1920s it was in bad shape and needed lots of work and care. I can see that now, but as a child I never noticed the details of the house. It's condition never crossed my mind. It was the love of and interactions with my grandmother that made the house and its porches so wonderful.

Do you have photographs of places you loved as a child and do those places look different than your memory of them? Is your memory of them colored by emotions you felt at an earlier time?

The color photographs in this post were taken as slides years ago and just recently turned into prints. Do you have photographs that were originally slides? If they were in color, did the color of the slides hold up better than early color photographs?

Others will share memories of people and/or places in old photographs at Sepia Saturday. I encourage you to visit.


  1. Nancy, I think it is wonderful that you could grow up with extending family near you. I never experienced it, we visited,but it was always travel involved.

  2. I've just said this in a comment on another post, but it needs saying again. Houses seem to have the ability to soak up history so well and you give such a perfect example of this. Great post.

  3. I love this story about the porches and living so near your Grandma. I lived with my grandparents as a toddler and loved swinging on their front porch swing..even in later years. What wonderful memories. You did a wonderful job sharing this story. Thanks so much! I think I'll have to put the photo of me, my twin brother and 3 of our friends all swinging on my Grandma's porch swing on my blog today!

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post. I loved that as a child you never noticed anything rundown about the house. Children notice the important things..

  5. My Grandma had an attic like your Gramma's porch - full of treasures and assorted interesting things that we rarely got to look at. Love the picture of the front porch - looks so friendly and inviting.

    I noticed one day that my grandparents' house suddenly quit looking like I remembered it... actually it wasn't sudden at all, but I just noticed it suddenly. As a matter of fact, it was one of my first blog posts -

    Thanks for a wonderfully warm and comforting post. Brings back a lot of good memories of my own.

  6. How wonderful to grow up so close to grandparents. Most of my cousins lived in the same town as my mother's parents, but we were five or six hours away by car, so they have lots of memories that I don't have.

  7. What wonderful memories you shared with us along with these photos; children feel and see love not details of a house and you have just proved this again.

  8. I'd have liked having family all close together like that...

  9. FAmily close by...a wonderful thing.
    I love the picture of the tree and front porch.

  10. Very interesting and made me remember that we too never used the front door with family friends, it was only for company. I had forgotten about that! I also wish I had photos of my grandparent's home and even my house where I grew up, but you are right we don't or we didn't take those pictures then, actually cameras were not for everyday things. How fortunate you were to have lived so close. Now today when family is scattered all over the country and even the world it seems so quaint. Then too nowadays as the older kids return home, maybe there will be a resurrection of dual family homes.


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