Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Grandparents' House

This is a picture of my grandparents' (Mamaw and Papaw Sweat) house, taken, most likely, during the 1937 flood. In that flood, the water actually rose up to the second floor of the house.

The house no longer exists. It was torn down not too many years after my grandfather died because . . . it kept flooding.

The house wasn't a huge house: kitchen, dining room, living room, one bedroom downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. There was the Boys room and the Girls room. There were 10 children in all - five boys and five girls. So, two beds per room and . . . you get the picture. 

Until 1954 . . . there wasn't a bathroom in the house. There was never a clothes dryer, though there was a washing machine. Mamaw would wash the clothes in the washing machine and then hang them out to dry on the clothes line. My mother would do the same when we came to visit, and my siblings and I would help hang up the clothes and take them down once they were dry.

There was no dish washer either. After supper - dinner was the lunch time meal, supper was the evening meal - we would make an assembly line in the kitchen and . . .

. . . Mom would wash the dishes, one of my sisters would rinse, one would dry, and my brother and I would put the dried dishes up.

In the dining room was a large table - Mamaw and Papaw had 10 children after all, and a total of 36 grandchildren - and two rocking chairs: one for Papaw and one for Mamaw. There was a small table as well on which sat the radio Papaw would listen to the baseball games on, and a glass dish which always had candy.

My Aunt Juanita tells the story of how she and Aunt Lucille would listen to the radio when it was free. Lucille liked country music and Juanita what most people might call pop music now, though . . . you're talking about late 40s and early 50s most likely. The family was Catholic so they went to Catholic school and had uniforms. One day after school, Juanita and Lucille were fighting over which station to listen to and . . .

. . . the fight got a bit physical and Lucille grabbed Juanita by the shirt and yanked and . . .

. . . all the buttons came flying off. Mamaw was not a happy camper at all.

We would all gather in the dining room area, sitting at the big table, playing cards, reading, coloring, mom crocheting, Papaw listening to some baseball game, and Mamaw - when she rested for a minute - saying the rosary.

The house was heated by an oil stove located in the dining room area. It was the warmest room in the house. There wasn't such a thing as central heat/air. Let me tell you, it was cold in the spring in Lebanon Junction, KY. At night, we'd pile under the quilts and an electric blanket and pray we didn't have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. The floors were icy cold. In the morning, we'd hurriedly dress and rush downstairs to stand in front of the oil stove.

When the entire family - aunts, uncles, cousins, and whatnot - would gather there wasn't enough room in the house for everyone, so we'd spill outside on to the front, back, and side porches. 

The priority when eating was: children first, then the men, and the women got whatever was leftover. Not fair by any means, but that's how it was done back in the day!

I remember sitting on the front porch - Papaw in one rocker, Mamaw in the other, mom and dad in lawn chairs, and the rest of us sitting on the porch or the steps - and helping Mamaw shuck corn or snap beans. 

Mamaw was a devout Catholic. There was a crucifix in every room, one over each bed, and a holy water receptacle at the bottom of the stairs.

The stairs went up to a small landing, turned, and up another few stairs to the top floor. There was a bedroom to the right and to the left. The banister was a good sized wooden banister, great for sliding down and going . . . 

. . . whhhhhhheeeeeeeeee!!!!!

There was a large tree in the backyard with a big stone slab, cracked if I remember correctly, that we used to sit on.

There was a narrow back porch and then a big slab of concrete which the oil tank sat on. We used to dare each other to jump from the back porch to the oil tank slab. There was a good space between the two, and a fair drop off.

Fort Knox was a fair distance from my grandparents' house, but . . . on rainy days, there would be target practice at Fort Knox and . . .

. . . the whole house would shake each time the big guns were fired. 

Then, there was the train. 

The train tracks weren't far from the house at all and, when the trains went by, there was a heck of a lot of noise, which . . .

. . . my father, a signal engineer for the railroad, could sleep through every single time, while my brother and I would wake up. Geesh!

Now, where the house once stood, where laughter and sorrow occurred, where the children of Mary Willie (Boone) and William Oscar Sweat grew up, and where their grandchildren came to visit, is an empty lot. But to me, the lot is not empty. I can still see the house and remember all the good times I had there.