Our home was a white, two story house with a basement. It had twelve rooms with an attic along one side of the house. The attic was very dark and we imagined all kinds of bad creatures lived in there. When my folks sold the house, the man who bought it found a cache of twenty dollar gold pieces in the attic when remodeling. The former owner, a women, must have forgotten where she had put them. To reach our first floor there were several steps up to a porch which extended across the front and sides of the house. The front door opened into a hallway that had a stairway with a lovely walnut banister coming from the second floor. Many times, with a rope, my friends and I would play Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair. Often we would slide down the banister.
We had a nice porch around the front and side of the house with a decorative iron fence. Between our house and my father’s hospital the Bromley Sanitarium, there was a fountain surrounded by a pool with goldfish in it. In the Summer we used to clean it. We would put on our bathing suits and jump in. It was messy because of decaying leaves, etc. but the goldfish didn’t mind because they grew big and fat. Some were two feet long. We would catch them and put them in a bucket. I don’t know if they liked their lean home or not. There was no privacy no place to hide. Since I didn’t speak fish language I never knew; but we had fun.
I loved our parlour. To me it was very gorgeous. To modern eyes quite a little overdone but that was the style of the 1890’s and the early 1900’s. The floor was covered all over with pink rose design carpet with a red background. The wallpaper in the room had pink roses, green leaves with burnished gold and red background. There were five 10 foot windows all the way to the floor and the curtains were beautiful imported lace. A marble fireplace was on the side opposite the windows. I never remember it being used.
Above the fireplace was a large painting in a gold frame about 3′ x 2′. It was of Mother’s great uncle Major General Joseph King Mansfield. He was killed in the battle of Antietam in the Civil War. I was very impressed having that stern face looking down at me.
On the hall side was another big painting with a gold leafed frame. It extended along the wall above the piano. It must have been 5′ x 3′. It had been painted by Ben Sears. It was of a brilliant sun setting over a very turbulent, stormy sea on a dark, desolate rocky coast. When I was quite young I would go in the parlour by myself and play to that picture, running my fingers along the base to make thunder, and lightly staccato on the treble for the rain. The piano top cover was a green and red velvet runner with gold tasseled fringes.
There were some nice matching furniture pieces of cherry wood – a platform rocker, settee, chair, table and a small round table with delicate legs that went almost to a point, like a toe dancer. Thee was a pretty brass table with an onyx top, a big soft red chair, a little gold chair and a blue satin tufted seat and lots of nice bric-a-brac. No nice comfortable big sofa, the settee (or love seat) was straight-backed, and just for two people.
We entered the dining room through the side door, around the porch. There was a big oak table in the center where we ate our meals and did our homework.
My dad tried to teach us to be very proper at our meals. The rules were:
- Wait until everyone is served before you begin your meal.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full
- Don’t interrupt if someone is speaking
- If you leave the table say “May I be excused”.
- Eat all your dinner.
If any of these rules were broken we were reprimanded or if otherwise naughty we had to stand in the corner with our faces to the wall.
We had a little silver bell to cal Rosie when we finished the main dinner. Before dessert was brought in, Rosie would clear the dishes off the table with what looked like a silver dust pan. She would brush off all the crumbs with a small brush with a silver handle. We waited with our hands on our laps.
Behind the dining room was the kitchen. It had two big windows with shades; no curtains. I guess curtains would get in the way on wash day when tubs and tables had to be by them. Near the sink was a pantry door. I know because once I was kept in there for a little while for some naughty thing I did like writing on the wall or peeling off the wainscoting. This wainscoting was a very heavy paper with a compressed design usually in a walnut color that was put on the walls extending three feet from the floor. When there was just a little place where it had come loose the temptation was to see how much more would come off.
On one side of the stove was the fireless cooker. It was made like a long low chest with three well-insulated metal-lined holes. Aluminum kettles with tight covers fitted in these holes. Every night mother would heat stones that also were the size to fit the holes. She would then put the kettle of bubbling cream of wheat into one of the holes. That was our breakfast ready for the next morning. On Sunday morning we always had hot cakes cooked in a big iron frying pan on the top of the stove.
We had an ice box in the hall near the kitchen. Once or twice a week, depending on the weather, the ice man from Hales and Symons would come and put a big block of ice in a galvanized box in the top of the upright chest about five feet high. It had a drain under it that emptied into a galvanized tray under the ice box. This had to be emptied quite often in Summer. The ice man was a strong man who would chip out a block to fit the box and with tongs would put it on his shoulders to carry it in the house. We liked to see him come because we would get the chips as he worked to get the right size. Hales and Symons had the only ice plant in the county. In the very early days they would cut ice blocks form the high mountains, lakes and rivers and haul them long distances for the saloons.
Upstairs there were six rooms. All were bedrooms except one room where Dad had all his collections. Those included stuffed birds with their eggs and nests, case after case of butterflies and bugs of all kinds. He had many lovely sea shells, a shark’s egg and a whale’s tooth which was a feather-like bone that strained the food it ate. There was also a bear’s skull and a human skeleton and a host of more interesting things. One time I got up at night, sleepily wandering into the wrong room and found myself in front of the skeleton. I got out of there quickly.
We had no heat in the house except in the dining room and kitchen. Upstairs it would get very cold in Winter and very hot in Summer. In Winter I would jump out of bed, grab my clothes and run downstairs to be close to the stove and burned my little rear. I yelled out and Rosie came in and smacked my brother before I could tell her what happened. He was a big tease. Sometimes the water pipes froze in the toilet and wash basin in the little closet bathroom upstairs.