The house on Highland Avenuee

This was our home

Our house was a Dutch Colonial 2 story white house with a “sun” porch. On the 1st floor were a kitchen, pantry, dining room, living room, sun porch (Dad’s office). There was a center stair that went to a landing and then did a U turn to continue up a few more steps. On the second floor was the bathroom, a walk-in closet, a very small bedroom, and 3 other bedrooms - one on the back corner, one on the opposite front corner and the biggest which ran across 2/3rds of the front of the house. The steps led to a center hall. In the center hall was a telephone stand with a phone. We also had a downstairs phone which initially stood on the Newel post of the stairway. There was a coat closet near the base of the stairs too. In the basement (cellar) we had 2 coal bins as well as a coal fired furnace for hot water radiator heating and a water heater, also coal fired. They were later converted to gas. Dad took care of shoveling the coal into the furnaces and emptying out the ashes into buckets which were carried out for the trash man to collect. It was a big event when the coal delivery took place. A big truck would back into the driveway and run a metal chute into one of the basement windows. The driver would open a gate and the coal would slide from the truck down into the basement coal bins where it would be spread evenly around. Of course it made a lot of dust in the basement but it soon settled. My mother had wooden shelves in the basement for storing canned goods including home canned stuff. There was also a work bench and some tools. Sometimes on rainy days we would play in the basement and often roller skated there. Later on, I used it as a workshop when I was into building radios. The kitchen was a central point of the house.

Just inside the door was a hot water radiator which stood vertically. It was a great thing to stand against when you came in out of the cold. We had a table big enough for most of the family to eat at. Mother always cooked a hot meal for supper. She used plenty of butter and made great sauces and gravies. The concept of “lo-fat” was unheard of. During the war, we used margarine which came in white bricks to which color was added by kneading. The butter producers didn’t want people to buy margarine. As kids, we thought it was a treat to be able to take the little color pill and knead it into the white margarine. As a small child, we took baths on Saturday nights (and other nights too I guess). In the winter, the bathroom was on the chilly side so we had a kerosene heater lit when we were taking a bath. At one time Roger and I had twin beds in the big front bedroom. Later on, I had the front corner room for my own. When Grandma and Granddad where living with us they had the rear corner bedroom which we were not allowed to go into without permission. The living room had the “front” door as well as an arch to the dining room, a door to the kitchen and 2 wide doors to the sun porch. It had a working brick fireplace with a wood mantle though we seldom used the fireplace.

There was a step down to the sun porch or dad’s office where he had a desk, a file cabinet a bookcase and an old Victrola case which he used for storage. Though we were not supposed to, we loved to poke through his desk drawers and the Victrola to find various hidden treasures like an architects ruler, a map measuring tool , drafting instruments etc. Dad was fastidious about his appearance and after his morning bath usually powdered himself with Mennen's Baby powder (I think). To keep the bathroom clean, he did this in the walk in bathroom closet which consequently always smelled like bath powder. That closet was also used to store the linens and towels. Initially (from my point of view), the back kitchen door opened into a small wooden shed which was covered by wisteria vines.

This was later replaced with a large screened in porch which served as a great entertainment spot during the warmer months. The side lawn had a large Willow tree and a flag pole (rarely used for flags). The back yard had several willows and maples and a London Plane tree. In one hurricane in the early 40’s, the willow trees in the back yard got blown over. After the hurricane, Dad and we kids used a block and tackle to haul the willow trees upright again. Originally we had large maple trees on the front lawn but during an invasion of tent caterpillars, mother (or someone) banded them with kerosene soaked cloths. This did stop the caterpillars but it also killed the trees. On the side of the lawn we planted arborvitae which were only 24 inches high or so They are still there but are 24 feet high now. The driveway went along side the sun porch to the back where it spread out enough to allow access to a 6 car garage. We never had 6 cars but we did use several garages when we had the tar trucks. Later, we reduced it to 3 garages. We used the garages to store lawn chairs and garden tools during the winter. We generally had Adorondack type lawn chairs on the back lawn. We repainted them every spring. As mentioned earlier, the lots on either side were vacant and generally weed filled -Indian grass mostly. When granddad lived with us he started cutting grass and developing a lawn on the front of the lot leading over to Thompson’s. Granddad did most of that grass cutting. Roger and I both had gardens in the vacant lot. Roger grew vegetables and I grew flowers (gladiolas mostly).