This weeks prompt is “the old homestead”. I decided to share a picture of the home in which I grew up. Just looking at an old picture of the house where I grew up makes the memories of childhood and a loving family life come flooding back! My children would remember Grandma and Grampa’s house much differently than I. By time they came around, the house was remodeled with large picture windows, a small enclosed front porch and a yard with mature trees – a very different house. But this is the house I remember!
My parents, LaFon Camlyn Lyons and Elma Marie Knihtila Lyons first purchased two lots on Woolsey Street in Bessemer, Michigan in the very early 1950’s. After finding a house to buy – it was after World War II and houses were rather hard to find- they decided on this one. This was a house already built by the mining company and for sale, but the only problem was that it was several miles away from their lot! This was an area of iron ore mines and hills and valleys. This house was on a lot at the top of a huge hill called Puritan Hill – no way it could be moved down that very steep hill.
My parents bought the house for about $1500 and had a basement built to fit on their lot. They hired someone to move the house but the electric lines had to be raised to get the house out of its original lot. They waited until another house was being moved near it and the lines were raised. The house had to be hauled on all the back roads a very long way to avoid the big hill and this was a huge undertaking but it worked. The house was settled on the foundation and we moved in.
I remember the downstairs was 3 rooms with a kitchen, dining room, living room and a pantry/washroom. The windows in the dining and living room were tall as in the picture. The floors had floral print linoleum. My dad installed white metal cabinets in the kitchen for my mom and a counter. Our kitchen table had a white porcelain top and shiny metal legs. The front porch with painted railings was my play area and I loved it. My dolls and I spent many, many hours there! We had a back enclosed porch, too, off the kitchen. Upstairs were 2 bedrooms separated by a hall and a bathroom with a tub that had fancy feet. The kids bedroom was later separated by a wall and closets down the middle making three bedrooms instead of two.
In the living room corner was a big oil heater at first and on the cold mornings, we would scurry downstairs to warm up by the heater. It was a great place to dry snowy mittens and such, too! Soon after, a coal furnace was installed in the basement to heat the house. My brother and I would open the metal coal chute door in the back of the house outside and slide down into the coal bin despite warnings from my mom. Years later, the furnace was converted to oil heat.
My dad planted trees all around the perimeter of the yard and they were so small, we could jump over them. The street was a gravel road and when I fell off my scooter or bike, I would be picking small pebbles out of my knees! There were no houses across the street from us as it was a big field with bushes in front of a woods. Wild flowers grew everywhere there, mostly in spring, and I picked dozens and dozens for my mom. We were three houses from the end of the location and a farm was nearby. A long walk down the road at the end brought us to the Powdermill Creek where we fished and played. Yes, there really was a powder mill on the creek at one time!
They were no shortage of kids to play with – a real neighborhood gang. We didn’t have a television until I was about 10 or 11. It seems we were always outside playing. We played games in the yards like “Kick the Can” and many more. Our school for first through sixth grade was down the street and had a huge school yard for playing baseball and other games. In the winter, we skied and skated on the rink in the school yard.
Most of the dads worked in the iron ore mines in the area like my dad did in those early year. It was a hard and dangerous job in the mines. My parents were not rich financially but we never thought about it as everyone else in the neighborhood was in the same boat. But we were rich in other ways – fresh air, good friends, and, most of all, a loving family. It was a great place to grow up!
Yes, just seeing the picture brings back these and many more memories! When we went back to Michigan a couple years ago, we went to revisit the house but it was gone – just a pile of rubble, bulldozed down by the city. I couldn’t help but cry as it was so sad. It had been sold when my parents had passed and the house wasn’t cared for. The hard winters and frost caused the basement to cave in and collapsed the house as it sat empty without heat. But in my memories, the house is still there and full of life and love.