Thursday, December 27, 2007

Memories of the Big House - Upstairs

Sorry I haven't continued this for awhile, but Christmas really takes a lot of time. I will address Christmas memories at some point in the future.

This installation will address memories I have of the physical layout of my Grandmother's upstairs. It was a wonderful house, and I miss it a lot.

One little note I forgot about the downstairs: there was a small anteroom between the living room and the kitchen. You turned left to go down in the basement. To the right was a shelf and this was where the telephone was. Telephoning wasn't really meant for long conversations back then, so you mostly stood and talked. There may have been a stool there, but I honestly don't remember. I DO remember that her phone number was WAlbridge 0035. My father told me that the low number was due to the fact that theirs was one of the first phones in the area. I'm not sure when they got hooked up but it was way before I was born. It was a black utilitarian phone with the number on the front of the dial. Phones were dial-only then. I do not think my grandparents had a party line. It cost extra to have a private line, but they had a bit of money so this was an obvious convenience.

There was a beautiful oak stairway leading upstairs. There was a landing halfway up the stairs. The swirly carpeting covered the stairway all the way to the top. At the top of the stairs was the marble-top table that mom owns now. There was a large hallway and atop the table was another black telephone. I believe there was a chair next to the table so that you could sit down and talk. There was a calendar/datebook on the table that grandpa got from one of his customers every year. I used to like to draw on it.

To the left was the bathroom. It had those neat old fashioned octagonal white tiles. The sink was directly to the left of the door. It was a large sink with metal legs. There was a large claw-foot tub with a shower curtain rigged around it. I do believe they used it to make gin during Prohibition! The little white stool that grandma has in her bathroom now was in that bathroom. On the right hand wall was a nice built-in linen closet and drawers, and I believe there was an opening to a clothes chute that went all the way to the basement. The toilet was between the sink and the tub. The medicine cabinet had lots of neat things in it, including an eye cup (weird), my grandpa's Schick (of course) injectable razor. It may have had his initials on it. He had a shaving brush with shaving soap, too. There was a radiator on the wall opposite the sink, which made for nice toasty warm towels. I remember taking a bath there a couple of times when I was older. Grandma was paranoid of my getting some sort of foot fungus so she always admonished me to dry well between my toes.

If you walked straight through the bathroom there was another room back of the bathroom. This was the sleeping porch. Houses do not have these any more, but in the olden days, before air conditioning, these were a wonderful plus for hot steamy nights. I'm assuming the wealthier you were, the greater the chance you had one of these luxury rooms. There were windows on three sides so that you could open all the windows and get a cross breeze. This room was kept closed off in the winter for obvious reasons, although I think grandma hid Christmas presents here. There was a walk-through closet to the right that went into another bedroom. The bed on the sleeping porch wasn't fancy. I think it was a white enamel metal bedstead. It was a double bed. Queens were not invented yet. I have no idea what tall people did in those days. There wasn't much else in the room. There may have been some furniture but I do not remember what it was. I'm not sure I ever slept out there.

If one went back into the hallway and continued straight across from the stairway you went into a large bedroom. This is the room I usually slept in when I stayed over. The birds-eye maple dresser I used to own was in this room. I think there was an Oriental rug on the floor and some sort of printed wallpaper. My impression is that it was of some greenish hue (and old). I think there was a cedar chest on the wall, but I'm not sure. The bed had a large curved headboard of dark wood. There was a big satin comforter - possibly filled with feathers (pre-polyester) that I loved in the winter. You could prop it up with your feed and make tunnels in it. There was a nice picture of my dad as a kid up above the bed. I still have the picture, but the neat frame got ruined long ago. It was curved glass. There were other family pics in there also.

When I came to stay I had a little suitcase that my grandfather always called my "grip." Apparently they called small suitcases that back then. I must have put my grip on the cedar chest with my night gown and other clothes. Grandma was big on prayers before bed. Since we never did this at home, I was very uncomfortable with this ritual. Many times she would try to get me to say "Now I lay me down to sleep..." but I hardly ever did it. I was just not comfortable with the whole prayer thing, even as a 3-4 year old child, and always wondered who I was talking to. Guess that's why I'm still so skeptical. Anyway, she tried. I do remember one night that I was being particularly obstinate. She gave up and went through the closet to the sleeping porch and slept in there that night (must have been summer). I remember her saying the Lord's Prayer before she went to bed. I felt bad I had been so bullheaded but I never let on. I don't think she ever tried again after that.

The next bedroom over was the one grandma used, I believe. I don't think grandma and grandpa ever slept together while I was alive. I know they had had a falling out and separation when my dad was a baby, but had gone back together. More on that some other time.

Grandma used this bedroom to sleep, I think (although she may have used the one that I used - I'm not sure). I do know she got dressed in here, because that's where all the makeup and jewelry was. She was very OCD in her dressing rituals (and had other manifestations of it, too). She always wore hose daily and used little nylon gloves to pull them on so she wouldn't snag them. She always wore a girdle with garters, even when it was hot out (I think). She always wore a dress and those old lady thick-heeled shoes. Ladies of her era never wore pants. It just was not done. She was born in 1886. She would have been in her late 60's in the early 1950's. This was not unusual, as Bob's paternal grandmother, of similar upper class stature, dressed the same way. She always wore "rouge", powder, and lipstick, and always put on earrings and a watch. She did NOT like me to sit on her fancy bedspread. She was afraid I would snag it or otherwise get it dirty, so I never did. I remember her closet had one of those old-fashioned light bulbs with a pointy end. It must have been ancient. You had to turn it on by hand - there was no wall switch. It hung down from a cord. It seemed to take forever for her to get dressed in all this stuff.

Grandpa's bedroom was next door. It faced the east and was full of light in the morning. It had the big four poster bed and dresser in it that Barb owns now. It had a white bedspread with one of those little knobby patterns embossed on it. The little desk that Barb has was also in this bedroom. Grandpa had a neat sand timer there that I used to like to turn over. I have a couple of the things that were on the dresser, and Barb probably has others. I do remember she had a shoe button hook in there, which was probably from when she was a girl. Grandma didn't spend much time in here, but I loved this room the most and liked to wander in there and look around.

The door to the attic was next to this bedroom. The attic was huge and had flooring over the entire surface. There were lots of old things up there, but I didn't get to go up there much. Grandpa said there had been bats up there so they were always loathe to let me go up there. He had shot them with his BB gun! I do remember that the old trunk we had over on Tully was up there. We lost it in the flood of 1969. Grandma had lots of old music in it, and we got it after they moved in 1960. I'm not sure what else was up there, but it was a great attic.

This completes the tour of the upstairs. Hope you enjoyed it.