Monday, February 26, 2007

The Homes of my Youth

The topic for the upcoming 'Carnival of Genealogy' is "Shelter from the storm, stories of the home and hearth" so here is what I remember about the homes of my youth.

When my parents were first married in May 1946 they lived for a short time with her father (Vic Phend) in Larwill. This was the house that her parents had purchased in the late 1930's and the same house that my cousin now owns. Then, before my older brother was born in March 1947 Mom and Dad purchased a small concrete block house that was originally built by my uncle Emory Wiseman as a garage. It was a part of the old Wiseman homestead in Tippecanoe Township, Kosciusko County, Indiana - property that my great grandfather Samuel Bray Wiseman had purchased from his father in 1885.

The garage was converted into a home albeit a very small one, perhaps 20 x 30 feet, but it was 2 stories high, with two rooms downstairs - the kitchen/bath room and the living/family room - and two bedrooms upstairs. We lived in this house until I was eight years old and by that time there were four kids in the family. We did have indoor plumbing but just running water in the kitchen and a toilet hidden away in a closet. Baths were taken in a tub with water heated on the oil stove. Believe me, it was awful cold getting up in the morning in the winter. Maybe that's why I'm not a 'morning' person!

We were out in the country, 15 miles to the nearest town, but there was a neighborhood grocery store ½ a mile to the east. Everybody in the neighborhood was related in some way to nearly everyone else. Us kids couldn't get away with anything without Mom finding out about it. And if it was something we shouldn't have been doing, she'd make us go and cut a switch from the big willow tree. If the switch wasn't just right we had to go get another one! After we'd grown up she told us she made us get the switches so she wouldn't swat us when she was mad. It gave her a chance to cool down some so the spankings probably weren't near as bad as we thought they were. The worst part was going after the switches ourselves!

The house was on top of a hill and below the hill was a swamp. Of course, the swamp was off limits. And of course my brothers and I spent some time and had some fun exploring it and the various forms of life it held - snakes, frogs, turtles, etc. We built forts and tree houses in the big trees surrounding the swamp. The large old willow tree had more uses than swatting switches. It was on the side of the hill and was an awesome swing - grab a few drooping branches and let yourself fly! It's a wonder we made it through childhood without any broken bones.

Our 'uncle' Howard Wiseman owned the farm to the south of our house on 80 acres, about half of which was farmland and the other half wooded land. Howard passed away in May of 1956 and his heirs offered to rent Howard's house to us, which was quite a bit larger than ours, but old and not in good shape. We lived there about 2 years. When I was 10 years old we moved into a newer 'Ranch' style house about 10 miles north, on Armstrong Road, that had little personality. Neighbors were just a stone's throw away. There was a separate bedroom for the boys and another for the girls, a full bath with hot and cold running water - all of the modern amenities, even a television!

We lived in the house on Armstrong Road through my high school years. It was about four miles from North Webster. Close enough so us kids could ride our bikes into town or even walk in if we really wanted to, which we did many times. I lived there off and on until I joined the Navy in 1969. My parents had divorced in 1964 and Mom couldn't afford to keep the house on her own so she and my sister, the only child still at home, moved to Larwill to live with her father. Back where she started.

I lived in several different apartments and houses in Fort Wayne during the 3 years between graduation from high school and enlisting in the Navy, but my favorite house was located at 1234 Home Avenue!

If you'd like to get a feel for what it was like to live on a farm in the early 1900's my grandmother wrote a series of stories of her life, one of which vividly describes her memories of the Brubaker farm where she lived from 1910-1916. It is posted on my Kinexxions website at

Also, I recently posted some memories my Aunt Phyllis had of her grandparents and the Phend home in Columbia City.

1 comment:

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Being sent to get my own switch brings back some memories. I grew up in a small ranch too. Luckily my Mom was able to hang onto it after her divorce and still lives there. As a child I always wished we had cousins like everyone else, only my grandparents lived nearby.

Your grandmother's story was so vivid I can picture every building and room; I can almost smell the apple blossoms.