Monday, January 24, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Home

Week #4 – Home Week 4: Home. Describe the house in which you grew up. Was it big or small? What made it unique? Is it still there today? This challenge runs from Saturday, January 22, 2011 through Friday, January 28, 2011.

This is my Grandmother Clara's house. It was her husband's home too. You can see from my previous post that they had previously separated but they eventually got back together before he died because this was also his address on his death certificate. I had also previously told you that there were eight of us and we shared one bathroom. I'm going to take you on a tour of this home and then a short tour in the neighborhood. First, from the outside and you can see the home is three stories high. Counting the basement that is four. It's hard to tell but there was a window in the basement. See next to the water hose and under that window in the first pic? So the grand tour? Let's go.

Starting from the sidewalk, you can see that we have to go up six steps, about two steps then four more steps to the front porch. We used to have a glider on the porch and really enjoyed especially afternoons and evenings on the front porch. The house faced the north, so evenings we would have shade because we had one of those roll up screens on the west side of the porch to shade us. Going in the front door, you are then in the living room. We used to have a piano on the west wall of the living room and some of us took piano lessons. The east wall had a couch under the window and the north wall had an easy chair in front of the window. During the holidays, the easy chair was rearranged because the Christmas tree always went in front of that window. Continuing on from the living room, go straight to the dining room. Furnished with dining room furniture but also had a console b&w television in the northwest corner. There was some space between the table and the wall so if you wanted to sit on the floor and watch tv or you could sit in a chair at the table and still see tv. Go past the table and hang a right then a quick left, then you are in the kitchen. Wait a minute. Just one step before you go into the kitchen, there was a corner to your left. I didn't make the drawing exactly right to display this corner but that was where you would almost always find grandma. The thing is that the wall that created the corner carried the ventilation from the basement up throughout the house. Therefore that corner was right above the furnace. That's why grandma sat there, because it was warm. Go on into the kitchen. It was a large kitchen. Stove, fridge, table and the kitchen sink was on the far east wall under the window. Lots of counter space and cupboard space and plenty of extra floor space too. When I was little, I had one of those table and chair sets. It was located under the west kitchen window. When my cousins came to visit from Pittsburgh, us younger children would sit there for dinner. Take a left in the kitchen past the kitchen table that was against the south wall and you would be at the back door. Step outside and there was room on the back porch for about three or four to stand out of the rain while we were coming or going.

Backtrack and go back into the dining room. I forgot a couple of things. This dining room was a bit bigger than that. Against the west wall in the dining room was my Aunt Agnes' sewing machine. All of us girls learned to sew on that Singer machine. Later years, Aunt Ag got a serger but she kept that old Singer serviced and it lasted her many years. Well, if we had to eat at separate tables for dinner then how did we do that for holiday dinners? The dining room table had one or two leaves and the table that normally sat six, was forced to seat ten with room enough that we weren't really crowded. The youngest two of us still sat at my little table in the kitchen. After my Aunt Emma passed away and three of their five kids came to live with us, (that's how we got to eight). So then, for Christmas, the dining table would sit all eight of us and Uncle James who came to have Christmas with his children.

While you are still in the dining room, see the door that is on the east wall? Go through that door and turn left you'll be going down to the basement. The basement was not finished so it was pretty much one big open room. So to speak the furnace provided some kind of division because it was just about in the center. This was a converted coal furnace and was I guess an efficient gas furnace. You can't tell, but it there was a coal chute converted to a window on the driveway side of the house. On the northwest corner of the basement you can see there is one divider. It was a small room. We called it the fruit cellar. It had plenty of shelves on all four walls and during canning season, it would be plumb full of tomatoes, beans, corn, jelly, greens and lots of fruit. Before when I said there was one bathroom, I left out the commode in the basement on the south wall at the east corner. I didn't lie, we just didn't use it for the most part. I would use it only in case of emergencies because it was functional. Also if necessary, up until about ten, I could also take a bath in one of the laundry tubs. You know those iron and cement ones. They came in handy when we used to have one of those washing machines with a wringer. Before we got a dryer, all the open space next to the fruit cellar had clotheslines for the winter or rainy days. Outside clotheslines were also available. The first couple of feet on the north wall could only hang short items because there was a deep freezer there. It was a huge freezer, I'm going to guess 20 or 25 cubic feet. Big enough for a couple bodies. Every fall, we would get a pig, a half cow and a bunch of chickens from the slaughter house. We also used to go to the bakery and get dozens of loaves of day old dread. When the freezer was full, I didn't mind much to run the 'what's for dinner' errand to the freezer. If it were near empty, I was scared, fearing to fall in. Who would know I was there?

Continuing the tour, go back to the threshold from the living room to the dining room. Soon as you step into the dining room, you can take a left turn, one step up and a right. You are headed to the second floor. At the top of the stairs, you can see there is a window to your left. At the top of the stairs, turn right and then a quick left, you are in the bathroom. Nothing special, except you can see it has a large linen closet. Spare tp, toothpaste, vacuum cleaner. Come back out of the bathroom and you can take an immediate left from the hallway and you'll be in my cousin JGHM's room. Hers was my Mom's room before that. JGHM was the only one among us who had a room to herself. I was jealous. Back out into the hallway and go all the way to the end. You will be in my room with grandma and another cousin FHNM. Three twin beds, three dressers and a student desk. It was a full room but not overcrowded. Go back into the hallway and immediately turn left. One step up and turn right again going to the third floor. For some reason we didn't call it an attic. Before you go upstairs, you might notice there was what used to be a door in front of you. We almost never used this door but you could go through it and go downstairs from the outside. If you do continue to the third floor, you will find the two boys' room and my Aunt & Uncle's to the front of the house. Both these rooms were a bit smaller because of the sloped ceiling but were finished rooms and again were not overcrowded.

Before we go back outside, I want to take you back to the top of the stairs on the second floor. Right in front of you at the top of the stairs is a full length window. I am going to digress a little bit. I lived in this house until I was twelve. Then I went to live with my dad. When I left to go to basic training, I had to lol when I noticed that there was a full length mirror at the exit to the dormitory. The purpose of both mirrors was to take a good look at yourself when you are fully dressed; no run in your stockings, slip is not hanging below your hemline etc. Except I hope you lol with me when I say that in basic training we also had to salute that mirror every time we passed by it. I guess the point was to salute yourself but more than that for the practice to watch yourself properly salute.

OK, we go back outside on Myrtle Ave and you can see that probably for safety and security reasons, the basement window, coal chute window, second floor door and outside stairs were removed and security lighting added. Probably also for safety and security, there are bars on the first floor doors and windows. All of that would be some occupant after us. When we lived there, the neighborhood was quite secure. We closed the front and back doors but almost never locked them at night. I remember when we used to go to Pittsburgh for the weekend there would be a 'find the front door skeleton key' exercise. I remember when I came back from Youngstown taking these photos, I showed them to one of my coworkers, and he was the one explaining to me that this is called a shotgun house. You can shoot a shot through the front door and it will come out the back door. Well this isn't truly a shotgun house but I get the point.

This street Myrtle Ave is on a city street and a block that is a city block long. I have heard tell that a city block has an accurate measurement and three city blocks are a mile. Grandma's house was about the fourth or fifth house from the corner. The church I was mentioning before was about a half block away from us down the street. I don't want to suggest that we were the most popular kids on the street but is true that in front of our house was where the majority of the kickball games were played. There was a hopscotch drawn on our sidewalk almost all summer long and hide and seek was most often based at the telephone pole you can see to the west in the second pic. I was saying before I lived there until about twelve. The rest of my family moved out about a year or two later. The house stayed in the family for quite awhile. It was rented out for a few years, then my oldest cousin inherited it from grandma. I found out only a few years ago that the same cousin was supposed to have paid the other six of us $200 each as our inheritance. We'll never see it.

Remember I was saying before that grandfather was a barber? There was a barber shop around the corner. If you leave our house and walk the four or five houses east to the corner, turn right or south and walk to Kenmore at the next corner, there is the barber shop. This block from Myrtle to Kenmore was not a full city block, only about two or three hundred feet. According to Steve Morse' One Step pages and the Sanborn maps Kenmore Ave used to be Mckinnie.

During my hunting for roots throughout Youngstown, tracing city directories, I have also tracked other families who lived in this house before my grandparents bought it. This house used to be a front for a business. There used to also be an outbuilding in the back. According to word passed down, this other building was a dairy. These other families include but have not been determined to be limited to:

MN Smith
Mrs E Ackworth
William P Henry
Joseph T Morgan
Lee J Cook
JJ Rudzik

The SMITH family lived there in 1918 so the house is at least that old and the RUDZIKs in 1949-50. My family was on N. Blaine Ave and E. Cherry in 1949-50 but had evidently reconciled, living on Myrtle in 1951-52. I guess I could probably check property deeds to determine exactly when they purchased, but I'm thinking I am not that curious unless I happen to go back to Youngstown and get to the courthouse. I may eventually do that. I do have some unfinished business there that is not urgent. We'll see. So last I checked the old homestead is still there. I cannot check using Google street view because only the main streets in Youngstown are photographed. But I did check using satellite view and it's still there.

Before I close up, I want to tell you a funny. I took these photos during my last visit to Youngstown that happened to be a high school reunion weekend. I took the first photo from the east side then walked over to the west side to take the second one. Just about that time one of the occupants came home. He asked what I was doing, I explained that I used to live there and wanted a couple of photos. His response, "What you want to do that for?".

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History by Amy Coffin are some genealogy blog prompts to document your personal genealogy. There are 52 in all, one for each week of the year. Amy says,
"I hope you like it and do take the time to write down the details of your own life.

Please make this a fun event. Don't get upset if you don't do all 52 weeks. That was never the intention."

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  1. You have an incredible visual memory! And I have to laugh at the fact that people don't understand why we would want pictures of places where we grew up.

  2. Greta, Just about the time he asked me "What you want to do that for?", I decided I better get outta there. In the meantime, I was also glad my cousin was with me just in case. He used to be a linebacker for Bowling Green U. Even though he's no fit anymore, he's still big and intimidating.

  3. Rootdigger & Greta, I was visualizing as I took you all with me. I loved living there. Didn't know how much until I left.

  4. Glad you like it Mavis. I noticed most others have been 'moving furniture around', thought I'd try it too. Although I wasn't dissatisfied with the other template. I was looking for something and still didn't find it. I'll be contacting you in the next week or so.

  5. nice tour. i went around detroit once taking photos of places that i lived in or were in the family. one person came out and he turned out to know the person I was with. he invited us in and took us on a full tour.