Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Book of Me - The House Where I Grew Up

A recent photo of 16 and 18 Furnace Street
I lived at 16 Furnace Street in Mineral Ridge from the time I was born until I left for college.  (The address became 1431 Furnace Street sometime during the 1960s when the county changed the street numbers.)  The front of the house faces south.  My parents bought the duplex in about 1939 and lived there their whole lives.  They rented the other side of the house for extra income.

Dad made some structural changes between the time they bought the house and the time I was born.  On the second floor he removed the dividing wall between the two sides so that our side had the whole length of the upper floor.  On the first floor of our side he removed a wall that created two rooms thereby creating one long room at the front of the house which we used as a living room.

My strongest memory of our house is how clean it was.  My mother was nothing if not a cleaner and the house was clean enough to eat off the floors.  Truly, I think it was!  "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," she used to say and went on to dust, scrub, scour, and sweep every surface in our home on an all-too-frequent basis.  (I love clean but I did not inherit her deep love of the cleaning process nor a cleaning gene and am happy with a house that's "clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.")

On the first floor were three rooms:  the kitchen, the long living room (that had been two rooms), and a small room beside the kitchen where my father's desk was.  Upstairs there were four bedrooms off one long hall.  In the basement was a bathroom, the washer and dryer, and the furnace.

Let's see if I can do a photograph tour of at least the first floor. . . .

the back porch
Family nearly always entered the house from the back door.  The driveway was beside the house and a narrow sidewalk led from the driveway to the back porch so it was very convenient to come in that way.  We went up four steps onto the porch, then into the kitchen. 

Both the screen door and the back entry door opened to the right.  Standing just inside the back door, on the right and facing west, were cupboards, counter, sink, refrigerator, and closet, which are more or less shown below.  The refrigerator is just barely visible between the photos of my father and the one of my brother and his wife. 

the west wall of the kitchen with counter, sink, refrigerator, and closet; back door at right faces north
Opposite the wall in the photos above sat the kitchen table.  At first it was an enamel-topped table but later my parents bought a formica-topped, chrome-legged table and chair set.  We used that during the time I lived at home.  For a while my parents had a large chest freezer which stood to the right of the back door.  It cramped the kitchen a little but it was very convenient.

To the left of where my mom is standing in the photo above is a narrow section of wall then a short, narrow hallway.  On the right of that hallway is a door to the cellar and through the hallway is the living room.

Once through the hallway, look right (shown below) and there is the stairway going upstairs, the west-facing window at the bottom of the stairs, and then the wall to the left of the window.

west wall of living room with stairway on the right; corner to south wall is just past the left side of the photo
Going counter-clockwise around the living room from the photos above, there's a corner (and then you're facing south), a narrow window, a section of wall, the front door, a wide window, and the corner (some of which are shown below). 

east wall of living room (on left) and south wall with wide window and door (on right)
Turn the corner after the large window and face east.  In the center of the east wall is a section where the chimney extends slightly into the room.  In the left photo, above, one can't see the end of the couch but there's just a little more to it than is shown and then we're at the end of the living room.

Below continues the view from the living room, around the corner, then facing the back of the house (north).  On the right and left photos below are the end of the living room.  There was a wide doorway between the two rooms.  In the center is the view into the room where my father's desk with his clock repair equipment resided.  In the photo on the left, looking through the wide doorway, you can just see the open door (but not that doorway) that leads back into the kitchen.  You can also see two of my father's grandmother clocks awaiting new homes in the background of that photo.

north wall of living room on left and right, facing into the room with my father's watch repair business
My mother occasionally rearranged the furniture and put up new photographs.  You'll notice the differences in the photos above because they were taken over a number of years (or even decades, in some cases).  She always changed the curtains for summer and winter:  lighter in the summer, heavier in the winter.

front steps & porch
When I was a kid the porches and first floor of the house seemed to be higher than they look in the opening photo of this post.  Was it my perspective or did they regrade the yard and build new steps? 

In the front yard were two large maples trees, one on either side of the steps.  Consequently, the south-facing front porch was shaded from summer's heat and gave joy during autumn's glow.  Mom kept a little table and some chairs on the porch and I often sat there with friends on hot afternoons to play cards or with the rest of the family during summer evenings.  The porch was the very best place to watch a thunderstorm!  It was a joy to sit there and watch the lightening thrusts and the rain hammer down.  The porch during thunderstorms is probably one of the things I miss most about that house.  I've never found its equal.

Mom & Dad facing our house, looking west on Furnace St.
Furnace Street is a narrow Macadam road which was repaved every few years.  One truck would pour or spray tar, another would pour gravel, and then a roller would press the gravel into the tar.  Invariably sections of tar would be left uncovered.  It was very tempting to touch it with my shoe but doing so would bring on a scolding.  I stepped carefully while walking to my grandmother's house.

The second floor of our house had a long hallway with small casement windows on the left side and four bedrooms on the right, one for each of us children and one for my parents.  I have no photos of the hallway or bedrooms.  We slept, stored our clothes, and got dressed there but did little else.

When my parents moved to the house there were only outhouses.  In the 1950s my father added a bathroom (and tore down the outhouses).   Either because my parents did not want to give up living space or because of my father's abilities and/or finances, the bathroom was put in the basement.  It was a small space with toilet, sink, and bathtub.  I didn't realize the inconvenience it was to have the bathroom in the basement but I remember counting the steps from second floor to first and from first floor to basement so that I wouldn't fall when I walked downstairs at night.  When I was a kid with little experience of the world, I accepted things as they were.  I never gave a thought to the strangeness of a bathroom in the basement. 

For many years water was purchased by the truckload and stored in a cistern.  Mom called to order a load of water, it arrived, and the man took the cover off the cistern and transferred the water through a large tube.  I remember occasionally running out of water before the water man came.  Once we collected snow and let it melt.  My parents were very frugal when it came to water use and the excitement of getting "city water" in the Ridge.  It cost less and we weren't limited to an inch of water in the bathtub for a bath!

At first there was a coal furnace in the basement.  Coal was purchased by the truckload, hauled, and shoveled into a coal room at the bottom of the basement stairs.  I remember my parents carefully tending the fire in the furnace to be sure it didn't go out during the night.  There must have been other intricacies involved with a coal furnace that escaped my young understanding.  I think it was a juggle to keep the house warm enough but not too warm.  It seems that the heat just rose but I think there were several heat ducts to the first floor, but I know there were none to the second floor.  We used plenty of blankets on the beds to stay warm in the winter.  The favorite and warmest heat duct was claimed by my sister.  It was in the kitchen near the top of the basement stairs.  I remember her bringing her clothes down, sitting in front of the duct, and then getting dressed there on winter mornings.

You can guess that with a coal furnace there was no air conditioning in our home.  The upstairs was as hot in summer as it was cold in winter.  Fans were our only recourse for summer's heat.

My father eventually removed the coal furnace and installed baseboard radiators.  I don't ever remember being cold in our house (except in the bedrooms), so the radiators must have provided effective heat.

My father passed away in 1987.  My mother remained in the house until the last few months of her life when her health prevented it, sometime in the late 1990s.  The house was sold in about 1996 to a man who, we understand, intended to remodel it.  I haven't been inside since a month or so before it was sold.  I hope he's taking good care of the house where I grew up.

This is the fifth post in The Book of Me, Written By You series, created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.



  1. I love the way you describe your house Nancy. I've lived in too many different houses to have that detailed a memory of any of them.

    1. Thanks, Jimmie. I think it's a blessing to have been able to live in the same home for all of my childhood. I think our family's roots grew deep in the house on Furnace Street. But I can imagine there would be blessings from having lived in many homes, too. One would learn to adjust and adapt to change probably more easily and there would be so many opportunities to learn about new people and places. I appreciate your comment.

  2. What a great post! I love how you found all the photos as illustration, too. We moved around so I lived in an apartment and 4 houses until I left home. (We lived in the apartment until I was 2, so I don't remember it.) I can still remember the address of my first house, though. It was (and you "have" to say it with the proper emphasis--which is how I learned it as a small child, so I'm capitalizing the accepted syllables) NINE ten NINETH avenue NORTH east. The other day at quilt bee we were talking about phone numbers. I can still remember my grandparents, even though I can't remember any others except ours when I was in high school. My grandma got a new number in the 80s, but I don't remember it, just the original. Of course, she's been gone for a while. I'm really enjoying these posts. I have a book that I should write in and your stories are inspiring mine (as you may notice.) I get what you mentioned about privacy in the first post, too. Thanks for the stories!

    1. Thank you, JoAnne. It was a challenge to find enough photographs to fill in the spaces. I was surprised to realize that I had views of most of the rooms.

      That's funny about the address of your first house. It looks like they capitalized on the alliteration by emphasizing the "N" words.

      I forgot to write about phone numbers and telephones in this post. It would be an interesting addition. I remember our phone number but not my grandmother's. Until I was about 10 our phone numbers started with a word plus 5 digits. When we dialed, we used only the first two letters of the word plus the 5 digits. Our number was OLympic 2-7979.

      I'm thrilled to know that you've been inspired to write about your own childhood and youth. I hope you fill your book!

      Thanks for your kind words about the post. I appreciate them.

  3. Excellent post! I enjoyed this tour. I remember too walking on freshly poured tar to pop the bubbles.

    1. Thank you, Wendy. Yes, that tar was so very tempting!

  4. Great post. My mother passed away earlier this year so we are in the process of selling her house (hopefully closing this week), which was really the only home I knew since we moved there when I was 3. I'm sad to think that I'll never be going back to that house but try to remind myself that the memories will always be with me even if the house isn't. Thanks for the inspiration to document my memories.

    1. Thank you, Debi. I'm so sorry for your loss. I found clearing out my parents' home one of the most stressful things I've ever done, especially emotionally. I hope it's an easier experience for you. You'll probably be glad to have photographs of your childhood home, either now as it stands (even though it's empty) or a collection from the years you and your family lived there. Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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