Early Memories

Early Memories

My first childhood memories are connected with our home at 1117 Phelon Street in Saginaw.  In 1956 we moved to that home from our little country house and lived there until 1958.  For most of us, any memories from our preschool years are vague, but a few things have stayed in my long term storage – perhaps only because I’ve heard my parents tell those stories.

David in front of 1117 Phelon Street - about 1957
David in front of 1117 Phelon Street - about 1957

I have a fuzzy memory of the front porch of this house.  Did we play there?  Sleep there in the summer?  I can’t recall details, but it’s interesting that the porch is the only part of the house that I remember!  Our landlords were Bea and Murray Muellerweiss who lived around the corner from us, and with whom my parents remained friends for many years after we moved away.  I recall that they had a long, tall wooden stairway leading to the second story of their home.  Maybe they rented the upstairs to another family?

My most significant memory of this house and neighborhood still has an impact on me today.  One day while outside with my mom, a large – maybe German Shepherd – dog came bounding towards me. He was not vicious, just happy, friendly, and looking for a playmate. Because of  his substantial size, my skinny little body was no match for his energy, and he knocked me to the ground in his excitement.  His enthusiasm to play was obvious as he licked my face all the while jumping around and wagging his tail!  I can only imagine my shrieks of terror, but Mother has described them as loud, long, and impressive.  When she was finally able to get to my rescue, in probably only a matter of seconds, she pulled me to safety and assured me that I was fine.  I suffered no cuts, bruises or scrapes – just a little dog slobber on my face!  But to this day I have a “healthy respect” for large dogs and avoid them whenever possible!

As a child in the 1950’s, I spent many  hours playing outside.  Because of my naturally darker skin tone (and the lack of sunscreen), the summer sun tanned my skin to a deep shade of brown.  My elbows and knees were particularly dark, and no amount of scrubbing with Comet cleanser would clean them up!  Mother had to resign herself to the fact that I just looked a little unkempt during the summer.  However, in the mid 1950’s segregation was still an issue, and one of the neighbor girls refused to play with me, because she didn’t want to play with “that little colored girl.”

1117 Phelon Street - Saginaw, Michigan
1117 Phelon Street - Saginaw, Michigan

August, 2010
August, 2010

This house now sits in a run-down and somewhat questionable neighborhood, but after 50+ years I guess that’s to be expected.

Out in the country

Out in the country

5606 Swan Creek Road, Saginaw, Michigan
5606 Swan Creek Road, Saginaw, Michigan

From my dad’s personal history:
“In the spring of 1955 we moved [from 707 Michigan Avenue] to 5606 Swan Creek Road, which was a few miles out in the country.  The rent was cheaper, and we thought we’d like to be out away from the city.”

5606 Swan Creek Road - August, 2010
5606 Swan Creek Road - August, 2010

The little house has aged well - August 2010
The little house has aged well - August 2010

It’s a small, white, cement block house sitting on a large lot.  Even today, 55 years after we lived there it is still “out in the country,” and it almost looks like time has stopped.   The surrounding trees that have grown and matured and the new[er] model car in the driveway are the only outward indications that many years have passed.  To the curious passerby, the house looks very much the same today as it did when we lived there when I was a year old.

Having been raised on a farm in North Ogden, Utah, I am quite certain that Dad loved living in the wide open space out of town.  But as I look at these pictures,  I wonder if Mom loved living out there, or if it was a huge inconvenience.  The surroundings were green and peaceful with no background noise from neighbors or traffic.  I could see plenty of room for rowdy preschoolers to run around.  And surely the pace of life was slower and more relaxed out there.  But my mom has always been a city girl, and maybe she missed the noise and activity of a downtown neighborhood. Maybe she worried about her three little children running out to the road.  Maybe she hated having to drive 5 or 6 miles to the grocery store.  Or maybe it was a toss up . . .

Yvonne - Lynnette - David
Yvonne - Lynnette - David - Fall 1955

Those three little children on the front porch look perfectly happy with their country home.  (But why do I have on a snowsuit and my siblings are just in short sleeves?)  Because I have no memory of our time there, I can simply wonder and imagine about that year.  I picture it as cozy, comfortable, and a great place to chase after a young family.  And I hope my mom did too!

Lynnette - 18 months old
Lynnette - 18 months old
“Home is where one starts from” – T.S. Elliot

“Home is where one starts from” – T.S. Elliot

1707 N. Michigan Avenue - side view
1707 N. Michigan Avenue - side view

Even though I have no memory of living there,  I recognized the house almost immediately as we drove down Michigan Avenue in August 2010.  The overgrown yard and faded, peeling paint presented quite a different picture than the one in my mind, which was a composite of old family photos and stories related by my parents.   I envisioned a gray clapboard house surrounded by a well kept yard, and I was disappointed to see “our house” abandoned and neglected.  1707 Michigan Avenue was the address I came home to after being born in Saginaw General Hospital on Mothers’ Day – 9 May 1954.

We were sad to see the neglect - August, 2010
We were sad to see the neglect - August, 2010

Of that house my mom writes in her history:  “We moved to Saginaw, Michigan in the early spring of 1954, into an old house at 707 N. Michigan Avenue which was quite nice.  We had 3 bedrooms and a bath on the second floor with a good sized living room, dining room and kitchen down, along with a big old basement with a huge coal furnace.  It was so much more room than we had been used to having that we felt very lucky.”

Memories for Dad - August, 2010
Memories for Dad - August, 2010

My dad remembers that the rent was $75/month which was 20% of his salary of $375/month or $4500 annually.

David - Lynnette - Yvonne -- Christmas, 1954
David, Lynnette, Yvonne -- Christmas, 1954

And I don’t remember anything, because I was so young.

Garden Update

Garden Update

The strawberries are plentiful.
We even have enough for the birds and *squirrels to sneak a few bites when we’re not looking.

They are delicious!
They are delicious!

The blackberries are blooming

Hundreds - maybe thousands? of blackberry blooms
Hundreds - maybe thousands? of blackberry blooms

The garden is thriving:

mm

Square foot beauty
Square foot beauty

I love the process of growing our own food!

*Don has trapped four squirrels this year.
I think the word is out among the furry rodents.
We haven’t seen any for several days.

Content with my cans

Content with my cans

As part of my personal accountability plan, I have listed on my project page all the rooms of our house that need a deep cleaning.  Okay, so every room in the house is on that list – this whole place needs some attention!  But at least I have a starting point. . .

In an effort to stay on task and clean one room this month, earlier this week I recruited Don to help me bring some order to the food room.  As I finished up today and admired the neatly stocked shelves, I began to muse about this underground room in the far corner of the basement.

Gray walls and blue water jugs - a vision of loveliness!
Gray walls and blue water jugs - a vision of loveliness!

Our food storage room is not a pretty room; the gray cement walls are set off nicely by the gray cement floor covered with orange shag and yellow sculptured carpet pieces left from another decorating era.  Cobwebs collect dirt in the corners, and the ceiling is accented by metal heating ducts.  The only real color comes from the labels on all the canned goods, so of course nothing matches.  And it’s cold in there!  A screened vent to the outside allows the room to be cool in the summer, but really nippy in the winter.

Lining up an apartment?
Making plans to meet a friend?

The shelves sport a little graffiti – phone numbers or addresses engraved with a ball point pen by my youngest brother Tom.   When all the family was home, and his bedroom had been given to a married sibling with children, Tom pulled a roll away bed into the food room and set up housekeeping for the duration of the family visit.

Because of its remote location in the far corner of the basement accessible only through the laundry room, I often neglect or completely ignore regular cleaning and maintenance of the food room.  Flour spills commonly adorn the orange carpet, evidence of restocking the kitchen canister from the big buckets downstairs.  Sacks and boxes of groceries dropped just inside the door may create an obstacle course through which we carefully maneuver to retrieve a can of tomato sauce.  One lone and sprouting potato could be resting on the trunk of Christmas decorations.  It’s very easy for me to pay little attention to a room that we only dash in and out of, one that never hosts a family gathering or sees a visitor.

Tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and beans, oh my!
Tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and beans, oh my!

But in spite of its lowly status, the food room is central to our household.  It is the foundation of many family meals.  “Go get a can of chicken broth from the food room.”  It is cold storage for Christmas goodies.  “The Special K bars are in a Rubbermaid container on the right side, middle shelf.”  It’s our own convenience store, conveniently located in our own basement.  “You forgot green chilies for the enchiladas?  That’s okay.  They’re on the left side, middle shelf.”

I’m certain that our kids have their own memories of that cold, simple room.  When they were younger, I know they used to sneak treats out of an infrequent stash of junk food.  Occasionally the room was stocked with cases of soda or candy bars that had been on sale, and I would find evidence of their not so discreet pilfering in abandoned wrappers on the shelves or floor.  Brittney tells about talking to Peter on the phone while they were in high school and hearing him ponder what canned food would taste best cold, right off the shelf as he anticipated an evening snack!

Buckets of flour and
Buckets of flour and sugar supply some of the basics.

Although the kids have left home and our choices of food have changed in the last 20 years, our food room continues to provide peace of mind and encourages us to heed the counsel often repeated by our prophet.  Because of its design for a specific purpose (my parents were genius to include a cold storage room when building this house), with shelves lining those gray cement walls, we are able to buy in bulk and maintain a supply of food right here in our own home.

“. . . I wish to urge again the importance of self-reliance on the part of every individual Church member and family.

None of us knows when a catastrophe might strike. Sickness, injury, unemployment may affect any of us.

We [the Church] have a great welfare program with facilities for such things as grain storage in various areas. It is important that we do this. But the best place to have some food set aside is within our homes, together with a little money in savings. The best welfare program is our own welfare program. Five or six cans of wheat in the home are better than a bushel in the welfare granary.” Gordon B. Hinckley, October 2002 –  complete talk here

Our inventory revealed that we’re doing okay on vitamins,

Can't forget the vitamins
Can't forget the vitamins

but we’re a little short on toilet paper.

Absolute necessities
Absolute necessities

Home to lots of good food, plenty of memories, and (unfortunately) a rare mouse, our now clean and organized food room is a little corner of happiness to me!

An insider's view
An insider's view


My fabulous find – a furniture makeover

My fabulous find – a furniture makeover

Anticipating the delivery of Don’s birthday TV, and realizing that it would never fit into the old entertainment center, I knew that I had to find some kind of stand for the new Samsung – and fast!  Because I had spent plenty on the television itself, I was feeling kind of frugal (actually very cheap), but I knew that laminated pressed board from Wal-Mart was not going to go over well with my consultants (kids and spouses) even though it might fit my budget.

So with Don gone for the day on a Church youth activity, Emily and I set out for the thrift store, hoping the perfect piece would simply present itself.  Half price Saturdays at the local Arc are wildly popular with Greeleyites, because let’s face it – 50% off at the thrift store is frugal living at its finest.  The store was crowded with bargain hunters, and the checkout lines were long as patient customers waited to purchase jeans, dishes, school clothes – and even lingerie.

But we were two on a mission and (once Emily made peace with the thrift store smell), we made a beeline for the back of the store.  Because we weren’t sure what we wanted, we weren’t sure we’d recognize IT when we saw it.  Our first look around the furniture department identified a couple of possibilities – not ideal, but worth consideration.    But after Emily talked me out of a couple of false positives, and she had gone to check on the kids who were delightedly perusing the toy department, I spotted a piece that I thought had great potential.  I couldn’t go find her, because furniture is a hot item on half-price day, and I couldn’t risk somebody else staking a claim on what could be our piece of promise.

Shortly they all returned to check on my progress, and Jack proudly showed me their fabulous find – Don’t Break the Ice” game for $1.00.  Emily thoughtfully examined the old dresser I was hovering over, and agreed that it was a great find and would fix up well.  And for $25 how wrong could we go?

We decided to go for it, and quickly paid (watching closely that the helpful employee tagged my piece with a SOLD sign), made arrangements to pick it up later and hurried to the car.  Emily had just about reached her limit on the Arc ambiance and she passed disinfecting hand wipes all around.

Raw potential
Raw potential

A quick trip in and out of Home Depot yielded sandpaper, primer, black paint and polyurethane finish and we were ready to get to work.  Taking confidence from our success with the Great China Hutch Makeover of  2002, Emily and I set up shop in the garage.  We sanded, primed, painted and finished and then suggested Don spray paint the drawer pulls – tricky, huh!

Cheap labor
The grandkids were cheap labor.
It wasn't too hard to get rid of the lovely gold trimmed doors
It wasn't too hard to get rid of the lovely gold trimmed doors

About three days and several tall tales later (most of which Don probably didn’t believe, but was too polite to challenge) we finished in time for the paint to be dry before the television arrived.

The transformation is complete
The transformation is complete

Now I wonder if I can do a make over on a couch . . .