Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From the Ground Up

We had a large family. My final sibling, a little brother, had just been born. We had a little house. There was barely enough room to turn around sometimes. But Daddy had a solution.

One block over and one block down (we lived on top of a hill) there was a lot for sale. We bought it. And we were going to put a house on it. Not just any house. We would build it ourselves.

Mom and Daddy found a company that specialized in pre-cut homes. They were not prefabricated. But each and every piece of wood was cut to specification for the home you wanted to build. My parents chose a ranch style home with three bedrooms.

My father could build anything. He was sort of a jack of all trades and he was a master at most.

First we had to hire someone to level the ground. That is important if you want a level floor I suppose. Daddy marked off the area with posts and string. Then we hired a truck to bring in cement for the floor of the basement. Daddy leveled it and we had to wait for it to dry.

Next Daddy mixed some mortar and began to build the foundation walls using cement blocks. He checked periodically to make sure his blocks were level. Level is so important when building. This foundation would also serve as the walls for the basement. Even though Daddy was doing the bulk of the work we all helped by handing him blocks, trowels, and more mortar. And lots of coffee.

Once the foundation was ready we began on the base of the house which was what would lie below the flooring. Then the skeleton of the structure and the roof. It was beginning to take shape. Daddy showed us how to hammer in the nails to hold everything in place. No holding the hammer "like a girl". Hold it at the end of the handle so you get a more accurate and stronger down stroke.

Then came a flurry of covering the skeleton. Outer walls, inner walls, flooring, ceiling, roof... we were really working now.

Mom liked hardwood floors so that is what we had. It was a lot of work to do that right. Once the wood was fitted into place it had to be sanded, finished, and waxed. But oh my was it nice.

We put up drywall to be painted when the time came. We got to choose the paint colors for our bedrooms. My sister and I chose aqua.

We had the largest bedroom. Young ladies need room you know. It had nothing to do with the fact that my younger brother and youngest sister were also in this room. My sister was not much more than a baby but she was a girl. My brother could not be in the same room with the two older boys... they would have killed him. So we needed room for two double beds as well as the other furniture needed in a bedroom.

The boys had the room next to ours. It was quite a bit smaller but had plenty of room for them.

My parents' room was at the end of the hall. It was spacious. My baby brother's crib was in there.

The bathroom was across the hall. Centrally located. The living room was large and had a huge picture window that looked out toward the street.

The kitchen had room for the stove, refrigerator, and a small table. Being a modern family of the 60's we usually ate in front of the television in the living room. Of course there was the kitchen sink. It was where my sister and I were expected to do the dishes every day. I hate washing dishes every bit as much as I hate outdoor toilets.

Daddy did all the plumbing and electrical installation. He was not licensed to be a plumber or electrician so he had to have everything inspected as he went along so sometimes we had to wait until the inspector could sign off on it. He installed the furnace in the basement. There was an extra space in the basement for an extra room we used as a play room.

The basement also held the washing machine. It was an old wringer washer. In decent weather I would wheel it outside the basement door and do the laundry outside in the sun. I did the family laundry once a week to get out of doing dishes that day. (I also spent another day doing the ironing of said laundry to get one more day of not doing those hated dishes.) In bad weather I just did the laundry inside.

We all feel a bond with that house because we were the ones who built it. I went to that town a few years ago on vacation. Of course one of the first things I wanted to see was the house. It looked exactly the same. I knocked on the door to let the people who lived there know why I was taking pictures but no one was home.

I have since moved back to the area. I drove by the house one day and saw a notice on the door. I thought it was a notice that the house was going to be demolished. I was heart-broken.

Recently I drove by there again to see what had happened. The house was still there. Instead of the beautiful blue we had painted it and it still was after all the years, they had painted it a milk chocolate brown with dark chocolate trim. It's actually very nice. There was a set of swings in the front yard so I know children are living there. I felt much better.

So now you know that when i say we built a house you know we actually built it from the ground up. It was a wonderful accomplishment and it is a tribute to my father that it still stands after 50 years.

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