After they got married in 1946, Mom and Dad initially lived in a travel trailer while he looked for work with his two brothers. Eventually he got a job working as a carpenter at the American Can Company in East Rochester. They lived in a small studio apartment over a store, for the next year while they built their house on North Lincoln Road. The deed paperwork indicates that the house was livable in 1949. Since they had spent every penny building the house, they could not afford to have movers move them. At night in the dark, so no one could see them they moved all their furniture one piece at a time on a Radio Flyer children’s wagon. They were too proud to ask the family for help.
After they finally got moved in, the work did not end because my father continued to build onto the house. He added an apartment over the garage. His plan was that the rent on the apartment would pay the state and school taxes when he retired. The house had a driveway leading to the back of the house where there was a parking pad for an RV. My father loved to travel, so he planned on building a large garage in the back to protect their future RV from the elements. He unfortunately took sick and was never able to build the garage.
The house had a fully completed basement, with a workshop, pool room, canning kitchen, wash room with a laundry shoot leading from upstairs, and a second living room for the children to entertain in when they got older. It also had a bedroom. We had a long garage that had a storage room at the back, with a three season screened porch with louvered windows and doors. The main floor had an eat-in kitchen, living room and three bedrooms. We shared the one bathroom on the first floor. There was a second full bathroom in the basement. We had an attic for storage. It was supposed to be insulated and finished off, but my father was unable to complete that project. All the cabinets, bookcases and desks were hand built by my father.
Ronald was the only child not to be born in their dream home. When he was born in 1946, they were still living in their travel trailer. Regena was born soon after they moved into the house in 1949. Robert was born in 1952 and I was born in 1963.
My father built a playhouse in the backyard. Originally, it was built for Regena to play in with her friends but it was passed on to Robert and eventually to myself. My father wanted his children to entertain their friends at home, so he made the house as children-friendly as possible. What teenager had their own living room to entertain in? What teenager had their own billiard room to shoot pool in? The reason that we had so much is that first my father never borrowed anything, he only bought his tools when he could afford them, and that went for everything else in the house. People did not go in debt back then, there were no credit cards. You paid either by check or cash. My mother was very frugal, even though they could afford to buy canned goods at the store, she canned everything herself. What she did not grow in her garden, she either bought at the market or went to the local fields and picked the berries herself. She made most of our clothes, though eventually they were able to afford to buy more clothes.
During family reunions, I would listen to my siblings talk about their childhoods. Never did they complain about wanting for anything. While they were not spoiled, they did have the basic necessities including dolls, wagons, and bicycles when they were growing up. Not only did my siblings have friends that came over to visit, we had a multitude of family members living within a short driving distance from us. It seemed that during the warmer months we had at least one to two family get-togethers a month. You may be wondering why I am glossing over the lives of my siblings? Not to worry, each one of them will get a chapter unto themselves where I will discuss their childhood and eventual families. I will also devote a chapter to my life as well. It will be a synopsis of the details taken from my first book. Remember that I promised that this book would not only be a companion book to the first one, but that it would also be able to stand alone.
Now is a good time to clarify one detail. These activities mainly went on before I was born. Astute readers will remember from my first book that my father was very sickly for a good part of his life. My father in fact died at the age of 47. He died on April 15th, just one month before my parents were to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. It is time for a little more math. I stated that they moved into their new house in 1949. My father spent the next several years adding onto the house which brings us to the mid 1950’s. My father started having heart trouble in the early 1960s. As a matter of fact, he was to suffer seven cardiac events with the final one ending his life. So my poor father did not have much time to really relax and enjoy life. He worked till he could not work anymore, and then he went out on disability. However, my father was never the one to have people feel sorry for him. He lived life the best he could. He never took a handout, and when he passed away his balance sheet was in the black. They say you can judge how a man lived his life based on the size of his funeral and the number of mourners who showed up. Well , I know one thing, my father could have been a rock star, that is how many people showed up to pay their respects. Family and friends alike showed up in droves. Even the evil Mrs. Adayzack paid her respects.
Until my mother remarried and moved to Florida, we had our weekly ritual where we went to visit my father’s gravesite. This kind of devotion only comes about when the deceased was truly a loving and amazing individual. That was my father, he had a heart of gold, even if he was sickly.
My parents were able to squeak a few major trips in during the healthy years. A few years before I was born they took Gramps, Junior and my three siblings on a summer trip out west with their tent trailer. They had long since sold their original trailer to help pay for the building expenses for their house. The road trip out west could best be described as the road trip from Hell Part One. I am labeling it Part One because my oldest brother tried a similar trip with similar results. So you may ask what could go wrong with three teenage males and one teenage female and a cranky grandfather with an independent streak from hell? Don’t forget that they were jammed into a tent trailer and the boys slept in an accompanying tent. So what went wrong you may ask? How about bored young men putting a firecracker in the seat of their sisters shorts. My poor sister suffered second degree burns on her posterior. Which made the road trip even more enjoyable for her. The three boys also had sore bottoms after my father stuck both of his feet up all of their asses. So just when they could all sit down comfortably in the old station wagon, they were now removing sand from all their nooks and crannies. Because they got hit by a sandstorm when they were sleeping in the desert. One positive thing happened on the trip, my father got to fry an egg on the hood of his car in Death Valley because they were their in the middle of the summer and it was so “friggin” hot. Oh, did I forget to mention that their car had no air conditioning. Can anybody say the movie “Vacation”? So, when you factor in the broken hitch, the car breaking down and overheating, they had a great time. But you know what, when you heard them talk about the trip, all the trials and tribulations were marginalized and only the good times they experienced were emphasized. They all had a great time and everyone would do it again if the had been given the opportunity.
They got to do and see a lot of cool things. My father bought his huge petrified stump which today would go for thousands of dollars. They drove through a giant red wood tree. The tree since has died and fallen down. They got to drive along Highway One in California. They saw Old Faithful in Yellowstone NP. The list just goes on.
Every summer my family made at least one trip to Fish Creek Camp Site. We never went alone. I discussed my experiences there in my first book, so I won’t bore you with those stories again.
My parents were to take one more long road trip before my father passed away, and that was the trip to Mexico. This time we had a new travel trailer. Nobody wanted to repeat the sand storm with the tent trailer again, so it was traded in when the trailer was bought. I devoted quite a few pages in my previous book on this trip, so I won’t bore you those stories as well.
Even though the last 10 years of their marriage together was spent with mom caring for our father and time spent in the hospital, my mother would not have changed her decision to marry our father. They had a good life together, they raised four kids together and got to travel some. She, of course, wished that she had more time to spend with him. One thing that did bother her was that she never got to celebrate her landmark anniversaries. Each of the fifty wedding anniversaries that she went to made her think of what might have been.
I just recently came across this wonderful little tidbit of information while talking to my sister on the phone. My mother and father would make routine trips to visit his mother, or Mrs. Landry as she was formally known by my siblings. The problem was that she only spoke French. My father being born and raised in the US never learned how to read and write French and could only speak it. He learned French because that is what they used around the house. My mother took two years of French in high school, so she could read French and understand it a little if it was spoken slowly. So you can gather that conversations were quite laborious and brought little joy to either party. It was done mainly out of obligation. You should be able to infer by the nom de guerre of Mrs. Landry, that she was somewhat reserved and not prone to PDAs. She also did not have a television, so my elder siblings basically sat on the couch and watched the “family show”. They dared not speak because they knew how hard it was for them to communicate.
They would always wrap up the visit with a nice sit-down meal. My sister would help with the clean-up. She told me that this was the best part of the visit because it meant that the visit was almost over. My father would write a letter in English for his mother before he left to discuss anything that was not covered in their visit or was simply too hard to communicate. After my parents left Mrs. Landry’s house, she would have to get a neighbor to translate my father’s letter. She would in turn write another letter for my father for the next visit. Why she did not have the neighbor translate it to English right then and there, I do not know? It seems to me that it would have made things a little easier. It is sad that a wonderful event like visiting a grandparent had become so onerous. It is too bad that she had not learned some English.
I hope you enjoyed this little side note, I found it quite charming.