New House - Not Much Improvement

In a previous section I described and furnished a drawing of our original house at the farm.  In 1939, using lumber and window shingles cut from timber on the land, a new house was built across the road from the old one.

While the entire family was thrilled at the prospect of a new house, except for having four rooms instead of two, the new one afforded little in the way of improvement.  The new house had no planned drawing.  It was a box about twenty-eight feet wide and thirty-two feet long.  This was divided into four rooms by a partition down the center.  The front two rooms were each about fourteen feet by twelve feet with a single chimney in the center.  The chimney provided a fireplace in each room.  There was not a single closet and no hallway.  The remainder of the house was divided into two identical rooms, each being approximately fourteen by eighteen feet.  The room on the left was the kitchen/dining room which housed the wood burning kitchen stove, dining room table, and wash stand.  The wash stand provided a place for the water bucket, dipper, wash pan, and towel.  At the kitchen table there was still the bench with a couple of chairs and a nail keg to sit on.  There was also what we called a safe.  It was a cabinet in which the metal plates, dishes, and pans were kept.

The front room on the right was called the living room.  It contained a baby bed and our collection of straight chairs.  This provided enough space for our family to gather to share heat from the chimney and light from our single kerosene lamp.  One of my great memories is our family together in the living room with my mother reading a story aloud for all of us to enjoy.  If you do not have a radio, television, or other entertainment, reading or games are a delight.  We especially enjoyed playing checkers and the card game Rook.

Basically the only improvement the new house offered was that my two sisters had a room of their own.  There was also a sitting room with only the baby bed.  However, there were still two beds and four people sharing the other room.  This was down from five people in one room in the old house.  There was not a single closet, with no privacy for my parents, my brother, and me.

While our apparently crowded situation seems unacceptable by today's standards it did not seem unusual at the time.  In similar housing our next door neighbor had seven people, the next house also seven, all of them sharing four room houses.  I remember my mother saying that as a child seven people shared two beds in their main room.  There were enough resources to build to keep out the cold, wind, and rain but not enough to build for comfort and beauty.

Beginning at Friday's Crossing and coming to our house (three miles) there was not a single painted house.  Later one family received some sort of bonus for providing a soldier to World War 1 and used it to paint their house.

The absence of electricity was terrible for the entire area.

Perhaps I should mention the new house had an open front porch which was about eight feet deep and almost the width of the house.  Despite the obvious drawbacks of our housing, it was equal to or better than any enjoyed by our relatives (except one) and neighbors.

NEXT: Rolling Store and a Confession