If you read my blog you know how excited I was about the quilt walk that took place in Collinsville this past weekend. It was more than the quilt walk, for me it was about seeing the former family home restored. This is the home that my mother grew up in with her 3 brothers. her mother, my grandmother also grew up in this home. It was the place where so many cousins came to Mama Ida's for Sunday supper's. There are so many memories held under it's roof and between the walls.
The home was built in 1910. F Stevens was the original owner with J Barlett holding the mortgage. After foreclosure, J Barlett became the owner. In October, 1923, J S and Ida P A. (my great grandparents) purchased the home. The house remained in the A/W family until 2001 when it was purchased by Steven J.
In 1940 the A's added a bathroom, back bedroom, and back porch (what the A's referred to the "cat porch" because of the abundance of stray cats that would take up residence and prefer the porch). On the west side of the house a room was added for a kitchen and the old kitchen became the dining room.
J.S. A is remembered by his family as a Christian Mason. Grandson John S A said, "He inquired regularly concerning my attendance at Sunday School and church." He also said, "His quick wit and dry humor always accompanied by an ever so slight grin and twinkle in his eyes enabled him to overcome almost any adverse situation. He often told John that "a little mirth in any situation was relished by the best of men."
"My grandfather was a man of several vocations. He was a farmer, school teacher, undertaker, and funeral director, cotton merchant, fertilizer and seed merchant, highway department employee and grocer. He taught me that any work or vocation , as long as it was honest, was also honorable.", said grandson John. JSA served his community as school trustee, town councilman and cemetery trustee.
The A family was known for being master gardeners. In addition to fruit trees and flowers in the yard around the house, they had two additional lots just up the street known as the garden lots. Here JS Arther cultivated a big and wonderful garden and is remembered for his giant strawberries.
Steven J set to work restoring and remodeling the 100 year old home and has yet to stop. New wiring, plumbing, and Sheetrock were needed. In the kitchen he has reworked the cabinets, floors and counter tops and the bathroom has been enlarged. The original house consisted f three bedrooms on the west side of the house and three large rooms ob the east side with a hall running north and south.
The large front porch is original. Many family memories have been made on the porch and in the porch swing. Aside from the kitchen, it was the hub of the house. For years without air conditioning and television in the early years, this is where the family would go to socialize with their neighbors, family and friends. I know that I myself (even after the arrival of air and TV) swung on the porch swing (which now swings at my cousin Beckie's home). I would relish listening to the crickets chirp. I would draw in the summer air, that was filled with the smells of honeysuckle and privet. J has added a white picket fence around the property, which I thought was beautiful. He also added carpeting and fresh paint.
Walking into the home the other day conjured up so many memories for each one in my family. Many were seen with tear filled eyes from the memories it stirred to walk the hallway again.
I did notice that the bedrooms do not have the fireplace's they used to (each room had one). I was happy that prior to selling the home I insisted upon getting on of the original mantels. I have yet to use it but plan to one of these days. I have thought of using it for a faux fireplace for my own bedroom or using it as a headboard for a bed.
In the middle bedroom my dear and great uncle Jack (my grandmothers brother) shared stories of his youth. He was born in that bedroom and shared many stories from his youth as he stood in the room once again. A fireplace used to be on the wall directly behind him. Uncle Jack shared that his mother, Idabelle used to prepare hoe cakes over the fireplace for morning breakfast. The hearth was still warm and it saved time rather than going into the kitchen to warm the oven. She could warm herself and cook the hoe cakes at the same time.
Earlier I mentioned memories being within the walls. I meant that in the literal sense. I think every child that has been in the family has been infatuated with a closet that has a passageway linking it to the closet in the back bedroom. It was a secret chamber, a secret room for all of the children and each of us took delight in opening the closet door to see it was still intact. This view is taken from one closet door, you can see the other closet door on the other side.
In the kitchen each of us shared the remembrance of the wonderful meals that my great grandmother and my grandmother prepared with loving hands. Favorites mentioned were homemade fried chicken (using a chicken from the yard..ewww.), fresh vegetables, mashed potatoes, green beans, homemade biscuits were rolled out on the hoosier cabinet in the kitchen. And least anyone forget the scrumptious desserts like the yellow sheet cake with homemade chocolate icing.
Outside, we meandered beneath the black walnut trees. Again, recalling tales. I recall playing "MASH" in the yard with my cousins. We used the walnuts as grenades. The old shed was the mess hall.
My mother recalled the walnuts shells staining her hands, which the new owner also warned us of. My uncle Jack led us to a spot in the yard where a rock peeks out from the earth to show us his initials carved in the rock.
He did it when he was about 15 years of age (over 70 years ago). It was still visible.
It was an honor for each of us to walk through the old home again. It made the trip for each of us. We had come to see a member of the family. It was a wonderful homecoming, in the literal sense.I am certain that the memories and traditions made in the old home will be passed down to future generations.