Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Our Abode and How it Growed



Two people in Joe's apartment on First Avenue was enough of a crowd, but with my arrival and then baby number two on the way, there was no question that Joe and Janice needed to move.
The "backyard" at 1189 First Ave

In spite of the cramped quarters, they were able to carve out a workshop for Joe and a painting studio for Janice.
Cookie takes a bath in the kitchen.  There was a tub for adults under the counter to the left, as indicated in thh sketch below.
Floor plan of 1189 First Avenue apartment
 But if the living conditions were not bad enough, one day we returned to discover that a corner of the building had fallen off.  Luckily, it did not affect our apartment...but still.  Maybe it was a sign from above.






They had friends who had moved to Long Island and to New Jersey, but they were especially drawn to Dobbs Ferry, where fellow artist, Jon Nielsen, lived.  After searching the area, and considering a variety of options, they came upon some wooded lots on an unpaved road that were to be auctioned off for back taxes.  One of the lots featured a majestic oak tree, which was very appealing.  Below a series of letters and photographs recounting the story of the move to Secor Drive, which at that time was called, "the Dirt Road" by the neighbors.
Jon Neilsen

Through the construction, Joe worked his regular job plus overtime when he could get it, and Janice kept up her schedule of painting, sewing, child rearing, and letter writing to her parents.  They worked on the house weekends and any time off  they could get aided by a group of loyal and devoted friends.  English architect friend, John Glenn-Bott, drew up the plans.  Excerpts from some of the letters which touch on the move to Dobbs Ferry appear below:


April 28, 1950
Wednesday Mr. Bear was too stiff to work, due to work on a roof shaped like this 
and in a way this was most fortunate as I was planning to go to Dobbs Ferry by train with Cookie. We drove up, + the D.F. Town Clerk couldn't help us much. She sent us to Tarrytown. We were told that it would be about four months until Lot 5 would be foreclosed + ready to be auctioned. At least that, maybe more. Bear had an idea that seems logical. We'd planned to wait until 5 was foreclosed, + have them auction 5 + 6 at the same time. But we've decided to try to get Lot 6 right away (that's the oak tree half) because one lot alone wouldn't be much good to anybody + we wouldn't have as much competition as if the two lots came up together. If we should get stuck with one lot only, there are two more across the street, not as glamorous but bigger that are immediately available. The lone lot could eventually be used for a garden, or tree house for Cookie or any member of the family who became intolerable. If we're lucky we may get the basement dug before winter. I don't think Cookie will be at a loss for friends. Just down the hill we saw 5 or 6 little toofers (Toofer, was my dad's nickname for me) digging in a sand pile. The older kids seem to be well-kept + friendly. A number of small boys would hate to see that oak tree go out of circulation.

My first friend in the neighborhood, Sally Walker and her mother, Eleanor

Mon AM 6/19/50
Dear Folks,
Oops – forgot to write for a week. Cookie slept till 10:30 this morning, and I didn't do so bad myself. "Daw Gampa!" Daw Day's Cah! (daddy's car - ac) Daw Cookie!" Guess I'll have to repair to the kitchen. She had a long hard day yesterday, walking around Dobbs Ferry. We left Daddy by "our" oak tree listening to a ball game while we explored the various roads, + picked a Cookie sized bouquet of clover, buttercups, honeysuckle, yarrow, teenie white roses + other interesting items. Most of these winding hilly roads are dead ends, leading to large + lushly landscaped houses. We also discovered that it's no simple matter to "walk around the block". We tried it and were gone nearly half an hour. There is more poison ivy in D.F. than grass. The citizens must be either immune or constantly itching. It grows in front yards + along sidewalks, + to the top of trees, beautifully. B. Duck was mightily impressed last week by all this. The honeysuckle is in full bloom on Secor Drive now. In spite of the P.I., the neighborhood is frighteningly neat + well kept. We had picnic supper with Nielsens, Husbands, + a couple named Lowenfish (sp?). Nielsens want to build a house, as they can't expand where they are + the piece of woods they had borrowed for a play yard has been claimed for a housing project, + the woods, of course, are demolished.

Leona Towner Rem, Janice's childhood friend, called B. Duck, at Iowa State in Ames, IA


Thursday Oct 25, 1950 postcard
Dear Folks,
Tuesday we attended auction of the Oak Tree property, Nobody bid against us + we are waiting for the deed to be arranged. Fooey. This postcard is inadequate – must write a letter.
Love, J


1/24/51
We've lined up a surveyor + John Glen-Bott's landlord is getting rid of several doors. We are to look them over.

Tuesday PM Feb. 23, '51
Dear Folks,
This is the Saturday of the Property Survey. 10:00 A.M. They'll lay out the house location, too. Secor Drive runs roughly east + west, which makes our street-windows face north. The big window will look out over the slope (south) + rose-terrace (ahem). We will try to avoid a view of that (downhill) house. I notice they have a boat in their backyard.
Yes, we would like to hear more about the cement-blocks. Our basement will have to be built of same, naturally.

Wed. PM March 1, 1951
Dear Folks,
Joyce + I just saw “Red Shoes”. Best Picture of the decade.
Saturday we surveyed the property + Sunday we hacked + dragged away brush, just to be doing something. We'll try to see the Bldg. Inspector this Sat. Blueprints look 100% better than before.
It's late.
Love, J

Aunt Joyce and her mother visit our construction site.


Hello Folks! Joey (my dad's note in corner - ac)
 Thursday PM
March 9, 1951 postcard
Dear Folks,
We're income-taxing tonite. A breather. Glad you liked the pictures. Pop, I think they could have done better by Cookie.
Thanx for all the research on cement blocks. Looks very good, but of course there would have to be a machine in the vicinity. Will investigate.
We have to sell 7 ft. of our land back to the town for road-widening. Less taxes to pay on land.
love, J

Tues. PM March 16, 1951
Dear Folks,
Yesterday they finished bulldozing our cellar. Hit no big rocks. Tomorrow we go up to survey the damage + argue with the building inspector about our right to live in the basement.
Thought Cookie had chickenpox, but I guess I was mistaken.
Bear worked until 1 AM two nights this week-
Well, it's Friday.
love, J

The tool storage shed.  I do not recognize the boy with the wheelbarrow
Dear Folks,
Enclosed find sample of our clay soil.
By some strange bit of luck – only a few medium rough boulders + small round cobblestones. The man across the street (Mr. Gorrell) had to redesign his whole house when he hit rock. Because of the high sewer, unfortunately not much excavation was done + instead of a one story house we have almost a two-story dwelling + much fill-in material will have to be hauled.
Today, from 1-5, we built half of the tool shack.
Haven't enjoyed anything as much in a long time. Not too accurate – no square or plumb line, but should hold together + keep rain off + people out. Someone passing by asked if it was our house. We've certainly had a couple of nice days to do what we have to do.
Glen-Bott finished the plans + they are beautiful. O.K'd by Building Inspector, with a change or two. G-B has worked very hard, + is a dear. We must reward him somehow. You must meet him when you're down.
It looks as if we'll be using board siding, so if you haven't yet investigated further the cement blocks, It won't be necessary. May thanks for energy expended + information gathered anyway.
That evergreen hedge is a good idea. We're a little closer to that house than before + their backyard is an eyesore. What grows well in clay? Aunt P's place seems to support several types of lush foliage, so I guess we won't worry.
It's an ill wind. If we'd got this property as soon as we applied, we'd have had to shell out $500- in lawyer's fees. Gorrell got there first + had to do this in order to build on a street where heretofore there was no other house. The fact that the street is privately owned complicated matters expensively. We avoided this inadvertently + can profit from Mr. G's various experiences. He's nearly done. They're very nice – newspaper man and 1 ½ children. (actually he was an electrician, for Con-Ed, I believe - ac)
Robins, song sparrows, + tree buds today.
love, J.
A.J. Gorrell and the Gorrell home across the street from our house.

Fri. PM March 31, '51 postcard
Dear Folks,
This rain must stop by tomorrow, else the house can not be laid out. After that we start digging trench for foundation.
Lilies of the Valley a + iris grow next door! Most of our soil will have to be imported.
Love, J.

Dear Moon,
Trench for our plumbing was supposedly dug today. We've bought our aluminum windows. Foundation trench nearly dug. 11 Secor Drive will be the address.
Be firm - love, us all

Fri PM Apr. 24, '51 postcard
Dear Folks,
Thoroly (sic) intended to get a letter off tonite with pictures of basement diggings, but got involved in painting.
Tomorrow we continue putting up boards for concrete foundation. Miraculously, the steam-shovel man, Mr. Bucci, struck no rock when he dug our sewer. Water should be in this weekend. We're hoping that Boogie's (Marjorie) first birthday cards can be mailed to 11 Secor Drive.
I'm gradually starting her on the cup.
Tried curling Cookie's hair today. Mess o' rope.
Rug business sounds fascinating. love, J



Mon PM May 7, '51
Dear Folks,

Another scrawl. Cookie's still pale, as she must keep her clothes on or get banged + scraped. Does more running + falling down than any six kids. Every day she must have her “walk” + yesterday after lunch we took the advice of a neighbor, Mrs. Brown, (very nice) + followed a certain path across the corner of an estate during which rambling I manged to find a gopher-hole and sprain (?) my ankle in same. 'Twas worthwhile , tho the lovely view of the town + river. That's a five minute walk from the house. Had to sit the rest of the day out, but John + Joe finished the footings without my help. Friday we hope to pour. The ankle feels much better today albeit a bit more swollen.
All our neighbors we have met so far have been named either John or Jack, except for one Joe. Women are named Ann. This can't go on. Our nearest neighbors down the hill are characters. The missus seems a very loud, forceful + sociable type. Can be heard + understood over a roaring wind in the fir trees. The Mr. hasn't yet acknowledged our presence, altho we see him often + know that his name is John. The son, Jacky, is a gardener + pigeon-grower + is continually stopping by to exhibit samples of his work. Boogie tried to take a bite of the tame pigeon. He is a simple minded type, but diligent. Eventually I hope we can build the back yard up so that it doesn't run down into theirs.
 Need your advice on plantings for this. Mr. Bucci, our digger, has brought us tons of dirt from his various diggins + promises much more.
Big debate now is whether to try putting up cement blocks ourselves + possibly take all summer or hire it done + pay thru the nose – finish it in a week. I hope there's a happy medium. The man that was going to do it cheap came down with rampant ulcers, an enlarged heart and several other horrible things. He still wants to do it, but his wife says NO + we agree.
Seem to have mislaid your last letter, but it was thoroly (sic) read + absorbed.
Hope you are all healthy.
love, J.

Fri PM. Wed, May 16 '51
Dear Folks,
Hot + sticky. Bear is at the proppity (sic), laying blocks with the help of two local boys. He did the same last night. We're doing it ourselves, not having been able to find anybody to do it reasonably. Those things are back breakers – 75-90 lbs. I can roll 'em end over end, but am a fizzle at lifting + placing. Joe went to the doctor – had his back taped up, making it practically impossible for him to bend. Tonite he's interviewing a man who wants to do the block laying. Hope we can get somebody.
Keep wishing you were here. It's been the longest time since we've had a get-together. Our youngest is getting a little character in her potato face with the addition of several large teeth. We're going thru that horrible stage (as with Cookie) where my leaving the room or even turning my back for a second occasions a loud outbust of heart-rending shrieks. Her yells are more piercing than Cookie's ever were. The longer we have Cookie the nicer she gets, but the reverse seems to be true with little Boogie. Let us hope that after tooth No. 4 makes it's way thru she'll relax. Certainly is a sore-looking lump. She gets blonder all the time + I think her eyes will be brownish gray, rather than pure brown like Cookie's. Hair is definitely straight, even when damp. Now when she rides in the stroller her feet touch the base. Still sleeps well at nite, + eats somewhat. Cookie also eats. Even drinks milk from a cup – even requests it. Am crossing fingers.
We hit the thrift shops last week + got Cookie about 7 summer dresses. Average cost .80, some new, + a plaid raincoat.
The glamorous Regina Reynolds
Regina is now a blue-black brunette + is very gay – with a new boy friend. Did I tell you Alice has a very nice boy coming around steadily + purposefully?
Alice Loubris Wilson
Marjorie Erdman is getting married in June.
Marjorie Erdman
I was gonna tell about the pouring, but it's so late + this is a stopping place, so suffice it to say that we poured, + I'll send details in letter very soon. You'll probably have heard from Shrimp (uncle Harrsion Campbell) by then.
Gotta go paint.
love, J.

Footings poured!  Euler's house in the background

Janice with Marjorie and me at the southeast corner.

No playground like a construction site!
Mon PM July hm.... (7/18/51)
Dear folks,
This will be written on the Brighton Beach line of the BMT Subway. Off to Brooklyn to face the red-headed Mrs Guesen.
Hottest day yet. In Dobbs Ferry the nights are never hot. You should see the structure now. All the outside walls are framed, and a few inside. Sunday we had a record turnout of new-found faithful friends. It made eight (8) framers in all, plus Shrimp, who worked on the wiring, plus 2 children + three women: That doesn't count is 3 girls. I made spaghetti + meatballs, which I heated over a fireplace constructed of bricks salvaged from a recent load of fill. We are continually amazed at the way the boys from Murray Hill High School keep coming back. There are two, Robt. Wilson + John Muller who, with able families, come nearly every time. Harry (Harry Lum - ac) the carpenter had a hangover Sunday + after waiting an hour for him, we left. Louie, the carpenter is very good, + he was there, so progress was made. John Glen-Bott has returned sunburned from two weeks in Maine, so we can get our list of specifications off for the bank.
Cookie is in need of repairs – a skinned knee, a scraped calf, a boil on the “bommon”. + a gash on the chin, where she fell from the jungle gym in the park. (Her first bloody-face incident. I thot (sic) she was done for. She's had a lot of fun with the guitar, or is it a banjo. How did you happen to find such an appropriate little-girl card?
Will sign off now, + enclose photos.
love, J.
John Muller sawing and clowning around as always.

Joe and Marjorie - breaktime

Sat. July 7 '51
Dear Folks,
Comes a rose-scented note.
This has been a heavenly day. Cookie is at the proppity + all is fairly calm. Her birthday present came this morning + I could not resist opening it. Am sure she will be most pleased when she finds it - (I shall wrap it back up [such cute paper]) as this will be an ideal accompaniment to “Beautiful Brown Eyes”.
I remember the picnic to which that clipping refers very well.
Our cherry tree has delicious little black cherries, all too high to reach by ladder even. Read your canning account over several times + find it fantastic. Must be some sort of record.
Harry, our carpenter, whom you met briefly in the dusky twilight, is part Chinese, Irish, French, + a million other things. Name is Lum, as in Abner. No ordinary person. Happened to be sitting at the piano 'tother night, so played 'Clair de Lune' much to surprise of all, + in a very professional concert style. Says he can't play anything else, hasn't played in years, but I can't swallow that. One just doesn't
learn only Clair de Lune that well. One fault – he drinks too much.
I believe that is Mr. Wilson on the left and John Muller at the saw

I do not know who did the electrical work


Mon. July 30
Dear Folks
Sorry not to have answered sooner – Pop/s last letter was so very, very nice, and the “untidy” scrawl likewise.
What a week! All the trouble was caused by a little hunk of cast iron pipe that hit my toe, corner down, thoroughly mashing it at the proppity a week ago Sunday. Took it to the docs, along with Cookie's boils, had x-rays (not broken – just chipped slightly) and an anti-tetanus shot that almost was an anti-me shot. By Friday, the toe was okay but there seemed to be an attach of galloping grippe of the hot + cold running variety, fading off on Sat. nite into an allover arrangement of hives. Such itching! Couldn't lie in bed + couldn't navigate very well, but kept trying. Never realized hives were like that. Called the doc at 8:30 AM in a state of semi-delirium + got woofed at for asking too many difficult questions. He prescribed pills, which stopped the itch + I spent Sunday in bed. Luckily the boys went to D.F. And took Cookie. Uncle Vito came up + swept the floor before Boogie had a chance to fill up on old match books + nails, + Aunt Josephine brought ice-cream in the afternoon. Today I'm up + about, with only a stiffness in the lower extremities, a sore arm, + a nasty mouth + lack of mental + physical co-ordination. Next time, I'll take a chance with the lock-jaw. Enough of this hypochondria.
Sunday's work on the house consisted mainly of taking out + redoing various things (Glen-Bott is back from vacation). Harry the carpenter was there. That's interesting about liquor + vitamins. That could explain why, on the morning after, he keeps stopping for tomato juice + finally bought a quart can + drank it wholesale. Can't seem to get enuf.
They did start to put the roof beams up yesterday. Finished tearing down the shack + put stuff in the basement.
Well, Bear's finally taking a bath. I'm next Sunday this can happen more often.
We haven't been up the hill in a month. Those corner stones + roads were remains of a burned out mansion of years past. Probably haunted.
So, keep 'em comin'. Save me some of those canned sweet cherries.
love, J.
South window, undressed view

Wed. PM Aug 8, '51
There is constant sun on our large windows. Don't know how high they'd have to go – 10 or 15 feet maybe. It's terrific – I can hardly believe it + don't dare try. The rooms are framed up + the roof is being framed.
Niece Marjorie + husband from Michigan visited us Monday – went to Coney I.
It's funny – John's word is law, but he doesn't often get up there. Harry has definite ideas, but ditto. Louie is very faithful, but when Harry sees what Louie has done, he is often indignant. “Tear it out” but what would John say? Meanwhile various others are giving knowing advice. Changes are always being made.

love, J.
If I am not mistaken, that us Bob Wilson on the right and his father standing above to the left

Tues. PM Sept. 11, 1951
Dear Folks,
A hot, summerish nite. Cookie is chirping away, tho it is nearly midnite.
The news of the decade has been officially released. Our friend B. Duck is to marry Adolph (Rem – ac) in October. She hasn't told her mother yet, or hadn't yesterday, + fears disapproval from this source. Mrs. T thinks he is not the one for her. Ridiculous idea this, as I could tell right away he is just the type. I am very glad. Can hardly believe this has actually come about. They are both extraordinary + deserving of each other.
When will the Hollyhock seeds come up? I put 'em in last weekend, some along the east side of the property, some by the cherry tree, + some across the road where there's always sun. The house now begins to look like the sketches I made. Diagonal sheathing is more than half on + roof is covered with 2 layers of roofing. Two more flat tops are to go up to the East of us, facing Briary road, probably. It is getting too crowded for Mrs Euler + she wants to move. We met the prospective builder of the neighboring houses. He looks like a gangster + tried to talk Bear into joining the volunteer fire department. Has 2 kids, 7 + 19. His sister is building next to us, a brick veneer house. His will be stucco.
We've been seriously considering your very kind offer of financial assistance. As I said when I saw you last, the loan is ours, but not until the house is almost done do we get ¼ of the $6,000. We talked to the bank + they backed down on a few points – for example, landscaping doesn't have to be complete before final payment. Bear started to write you both a note last nite, but bogged down after two pages + I guess this paragraph has it boiled down. We are most appreciative, + would return with interest. It says in our building book that even a loan from members of the family should be in writing, a matter about which you probably know more than I do.


Mon. PM Sept 24 '51
Dear Folks,
Various long + interesting letters + card from you on hand + I'll do my best -
Let us launch into the discussion of this business first while we are strong +able....We certainly never expected to have to borrow from you kind souls, but things have turned out peculiarly, in true Dobbs Ferry fashion. Hastings, that is. Anyway, this will be quite a short term investment + will be repaid probably before we move in. We haven't heard any more from the bank, so the loan is still ours.
Pressing matters are these:
Work Plumber has done $500
Block laid $500
Glass $500
Kitchen equipment $500
Sears heating equipment $1000
The diagonal sheathing is on + two big windows + one small one are framed. It should be closed in by winter + if we can get the heating system in, we can work in the interior evenings + weekends. The loan will be in four $1500 installments, which would bring in the accumulation of $4500, at which time we will pay you back with 3% interest. The bank charges 5%. Probably we can draw up some kind of agreement giving you a mortgage on the joint. We are going to work like beavers instead of bears to get it livable by Spring. The Wilson's were up Sunday + shoveled quite a bit of dirt into the basement for floor leveling. We have fenced off a room for Boogie + took up a bunch of fractured + house worn toys. Barbara Gorrell visited her there one day. Those two should eventually be playmates.

Tar paper, windows...then clapboards
Rolls of roofing material await installation
Oct 5, '51
Dear Pop,
As you may or may not have gathered from the hasty note on our last card, the check came. Many, many thanks. Sears will probably be the recipient. Would it be possible next time to certify it? Our account is somewhat depleted, + they'll have it cleared for us in a week, quicker than sending it back to you.
Clapboards are on the north wall + primed. Windows are being framed. We'll send photos in next letter. We're up there every day, + are just about to leave now. Hope your cold is better.
Love, J.

Sunday Oct 7, '51
Dear Moon,
Your tremendous check appeared yesterday + has gladdened our hearts. Now things can really start to roll.
It has been an extremely dismal + drenching day, but we worked in the basement leveling off dirt + framing windows. Kept a very smoky fire going + Boogie toasted her toes quite contentedly in her swing. Yellow leaves kept swirling in on sudden gusts. It's exciting to see the distant scenery gradually emerge thru the trees. Tomorrow is our last working day before next weekend. Not a bad week, considering. Clapboards on northernmost side, upstairs windows all framed + set in (unglazed + temporarily) except one, + downstairs windows should be framed tomorrow. John Glen (he has dropped the -Bott) went up yesterday + they put fascia boards around the roof edge, + aluminum flashing around the chimney + most of roof edge. Workshop floor filled in with dirt. Not bad. Mr. Guliano, the block-layer is letting me work off some of his bill in a portrait. The army cot is most handy for napping the baby. She can't roll off by accident.
We finally heard from the H. Campbells just as I was mailing a “wha-hoppen?” card. Their friend Pat Wilson hasn't heard yet. She's going to pay me a visit Saturday.
I'm in a paper-doll making mood. Nothing will come of it, I'm sure. A Cookie-doll in her own wardrobe?!
Guess I'll retire. Thanks again for doing all this for us + promptly!

Love, J.
Mon. PM Oct 30
Dear Folks,
Showed the bank letter to an official, be read it, raised one eyebrow + made no comment except to ask me what kind of check it was. The cashier must have been at fault. I assumed he knew all about it. We looked at it long enuf. Well everybody's paid + what a relief! They used to keep bothering us all weekend. Two Bucci brothers emerged on us yesterday, arriving simultaneously from opposite directions, unbeknownst to each other. They're the bulldozer + dirt boys.
I now carry the keys to our front door. A pleasant sensation. The door is up + on.
We three girls have colds in various stages. Boogie's seems to have settled in her intestines. She walks all over now.
Am anxious to ear of outcome of Waverly game. Must mention it to Max Coots.
Yes, Mr. Chas. H. Poit resides at 30 Bellwood Ave in Dobbs Ferry.
What fun I'm having at rummage sales. Need anything? I've a lovely pair of almost new custom-made shoes very comfy -.25 .
Must go paint.
love, J.


Tuesday PM Nov 8, '51
Us girls didn't go up last weekend. It was snowing up there + nobody came to help but good ole Glen-Bott. They've put in quite a bit of glass. Broke quite a few panes on the way up. Both front + back doors up. The kitchen door is Dutch.

Mon PM Nov 20 '51
Dear Folks,
It looks as if we'll spend Thanksgiving here putting in windows. Alice is coming up with us + afterwards we'll work on a large chicken, etc. I hope to achieve the day before.
The house may get painted dark brown or green instead of white. An exciting idea. Too many white houses about, (no offense intended)
Two girls well + able in spite of getting nearly froze yesterday. We spent a lot of time at Gorrell's. She's expecting.

Mrs Gorrell with Barbara and me

Back to the brushes.
love,
J

Tues AM Nov. 27, '51
Windows are all in now, except the 3 biggest panes + a couple of casements. We moved our kerosene stove up, which gives me more painting room. Halleluiah! The kitchen oven heats this place nicely
Well, Happy snow shoveling.
love, J

An EXTREMELY rare letter from my father:
Joe's letter

Nov 28, '51
Folks,
This is my scratch pad. So here I am putting down a few lines. I do want to thank you for the generous help. The house is really making progress. I am hoping to have the rest of the glass in to have it all closed in. We did want to get in by Christmas, but it looks like Spring. We now have our heating unit and our kitchen up there. So as soon as I get the windows in I shall put up the heating unit.
Love, Joey
Mon PM Dec 9, '51
Richard came up with us Sunday, for the first time + welded the broken led on the heater. The thing was then set up + assembled. It's a lovely piece of furniture, shiny gray + American beauty rose – a shame it's not in the living room. Will close now. Keep up the chins, etc.
love, J
Back in the early '50's people still occasionally drove cars like this.
Jan 8, 1951 postcard
Well, yesterday we got our first loan payment, Found we couldn't wait any longer. Very soon we'll be ready for the second, + the third + fourth will pay off you. The rooms are more or less closed off now, + insulation abounds.
Keep the slides. They're extras.
The Jean Rogers Solenstens are expecting in March.
Thanx for listening.
love, J.
Sun PM Jan 13, '52
The furnace is working! They found the right button.

Wed PM, Jan 30 '52
Ye house is galloping along. The inside is ready for plastering, but we have to finish the clapboards + undersides of the eaves first. Are having a bit of trouble with the wiring. Six violations, the underwriter said. Tain't easy to find out what they are but when we do, Gorell will correct them. The living room is vast.
Bear is in Brooklyn tonite, doing something to John's car. John is supposedly boning for his architect's exam next month, but seems to be feeling no strain. Has been seeing a lot of a new girlfriend named Muriel, he finally admits. Hope he makes the exam this time, as he flunked the first try + it is very expensive to take. Poor soul, flunked his driving exam, but I guess I told you that. Wrong side of the street, delayed braking, defective signaling, + others. Finally finished those drapes, + he says they look good.
Spent most of the day puttering in kitchen. Tried to make a chocolate cake by package mix for the boys to eat on the job tomorrow, but it overflew the pan all over the oven + fell apart coming out of the tin. I made a batch of the good old pink foodoo (aka Jello-floof , a specialty of my grandmother made with Jello and condensed milk in a Graham Cracker crust- ac)+ plopped the remains of the cake into the middle of it. Terrific!  Put coffee in it recently for a pie, roasted a chicken for them + made ham casserole from a smoked butt for us.

Feb. 12, '51 postcard
Dear Folks, (line of hearts.....)
A two-minute scribble to let you know all is well + progressing. Our colds are summering down. The eave boards are going up, as are the clapboards. John + girlfriend were up.  Six portraits waiting. New Jersey job okay. Hope you're well.
love, J

Fri PM Feb. 15 '51
Harry + Louie are working to get the exterior finished. Then we can apply for our second payment.
John's girlfriend is named Natalie, not Muriel. I found out the hard way, after meeting her downstairs in her apt. building + greeting her with, “You are Muriel, aren't you?” Bear got it twisted over the phone, somehow. She's very nice + most handy with kids. Wears a brace on one leg, but gets around as well as anybody.

Mon PM Feb 19, '52
Big News!!! John + Natalie are engaged for June. Trip to England postponed till October. This Sunday he goes to Phila. To meet the in-laws
House looks terrific. We're staining some of the exterior boards.

Feb. 29, 1952
Dear Folks,
Well----------------time marches on.
Tomorrow the plastering begins. The boys are leaving at 7:00 AM.
Glen-Bott is calling. He has failed his drivers test again.
Bear has a delightful tall adjustable tripod for cameras from an abandoned photo supply store they're remodeling. I'm gonna take some shots of this joint before we leave, at it's worst. Not to show off of course.
Must make a squillion sandwiches tonite, so will desist.
Love, J

March 9, '52 postcard
Dear Folks,
Letter welcomely received.
Plastering proceeds they tell me. Have been keeping the baby home for the safety of all.
Nick, the plasterer, working in the dining room,  In the background Janice's studio, which later became my parents bedroom when more children arrived..

Mon PM, Mar. 24 '52
Dear Folks,
Heard a song-sparrow Sunday afternoon at the property, in the woods across the road. The meadow lilies (?) are greening up on the south slope. Two more weekends will finish the plastering. Then we start the floor.
Jean Rogers Solensten has been around lately. Quit work. We rummaged today. She's expecting in May. So was Mrs. Gorrell, but Saturday nite in one hour + she didn't even make it to the delivery room. She had a 4 ½ lb. Boy. Just the day before, I had shopped around + found her a second hand crib. Back to the brushes.
Much love, J
Nick and Marjorie

Sat PM Apr. 6 postcard
Dear Folks,
The bathroom is tiled, light blue with black trim. Plastering all done. Floor to be laid next. Scrubbing + scraping I did today, more of same tomorrow. Basement bathroom tile will be color of your new note paper. Am making a scale model of walls, in color.
Marjorie and Cookie in the blue tiled bathroom
April 10, '52
The boys are to lay the bathroom floor tonight. med. blue, I hope. The wall is all tiled. The finishing of the wood floor has been started. The interior trim is applied. The east porch steps are poured. Someday we will be sending you a repayment. You are most patient. Afraid we won't be able to send it all at once as previously planned, but 'twill be along.
We're going to the John-Natalie wedding in Phila May 31. Should be in by that time.


April 18 '52
The flooring is going down right along – dining room, kitchen, hall, bedroom hall, + half of the living room done. They have pushed rocks over from next door + a wall must be built. Eulers, down the hill, are irate at the mud that keeps seeping down from us. We've brought brown paint for the outside.
Here's something amusing – Visitors to the house often remark “How nice that houses are being built near you. You'll have neighbors + you won't be lonely”. HAH!
Mama Muller in background, Theresa and Nino Badalamente.  Nino built the retaining wall behind our house. 

Fri AM
The weird house that's being built diagonally down the hill from us (La Spina's – ac) is nearly done. If our type of architecture is daring, this one is absolutely wicked. Their big window is twice the size of ours. The floor plan must look something like this. (sketch)  The builders are pretty well padded + are sparing no expenses. Can't wait to see how they will decorate the interior. Might get some ideas. The house next door should be on the same order.

View from the southwest corner


Thurs PM Apr. 25, '52 postcard
Dear Folks,
Delightful letter rec'd today. Glad Uncle Than is holding his own.
Our floor is on, sanded + almost ready to varnish + wax. Beautiful! Rock wall being built down the hill. Outside paint will start Saturday.


Tues. PM April 28, '52
Dear Folks,
I'll snatch a quickie in the park. The five-day rainy spell seems to have abated + the sun was even shining a while ago.
We just went down to Bloomingdale's to look at kitchen linoleum. Armstrong makes just the pattern I want, gray with narrow red stripe, but there would be too much waste, so I guess we'll order tiles from Sears + lay it ourselves.
The floors are all waxed + slippery + the kids were flummoxing around on 'em Sunday. They keep piling up the scatter rugs I put down.
The living room scheme seems to have drifted back to the tan-rust turquoise, with browns + tan predominant. Bob Solensten is getting us a washing machine thru the store he's connected with. A semi-automatic Thor or Bendix.
I kept busy all day Sunday puttying nail-holes in the woodwork.

Thurs PM April 30, '52
Dear Folks,
We are having a somewhat quieter week than last, altho I don't think the little girls know this is be-good-to-little-girls-week. I'm doin' my best considering.
We all went up to the house Mon + Wed nights to paint. The grey + the brown + one white ceiling are on + the zowie red partition is started. Our conservative friends are shocked. You don't see the red until you enter the living room. Its a rust red, a little deeper + richer than the coffee brown walls. The gray is lighter than I had visioned it, but nice. Cookie keeps going outdoors, even in the dark, + ringing the doorbells.
Al Scala was just here, with a girl friend. The nicest one I've met, + he's had her for some time.
When I told Bear about the Shrimp's bed, he pointed out that it is too big for Cookie's room, + he is right. So I guess we'll have to give your kind offer a miss. Over stuffed baloney will be welcome, + another item I want is the ping-pong table. Also there was a magazine rack, or was. Is it still about? I called the guy I bought the piano from + he says the market is glutted right now + if I hang onto it for a while I might get $50 for it. So I guess we'll take it along. I hate to leave it at the mercy of the landlord + shine it up + look for a buyer. So if you will, keep the offer open + we will all keep the eyes open for a small organ, a swapping may be arranged. Minnie would indeed look lovely with our brown walls. (she is referring to the art deco Mini Piano that belonged to grandma - ac)
Shrimp may spend the weekend with us, here or there!!!
We still aren't entirely sure about moving Saturday. The phone has been arranged for, the mailbox is lettered + up. Oh yes – I ordered a set of bunk beds that can be divided into twin beds. Nothing fancy – but better than present conditions. That means we can comfortably sleep 2 adults, 3 in fact, if Cookie sleeps on the love seat.
Alice called tonite. She's back at work. They went to Atlantic City for a while + now they are living in their separate apartments temporarily. An extended honeymoon will come later.
Afraid we won't be able to make John's wedding after all. A little too much.
You're right. You never gave Joe back his change. You gave it to me. That's okay, as what's his is mine + what's mine is my own anyway.
Portrait business is certainly slow.
Our washing machine supposedly came today.
Your visit was just what we needed. When you both come I hope it'll be for a week or two. Bring your green thumbs (4).
Well, I do some mending.
Love, J.


Friday May 25th postcard
Dear Folks,
Any cards you receive from now on will doubtless be written as I watch the washer. It does a wonderful job. My main problem is what to with Boogie while I hang out the clothes. The thing fascinates me.
Bear is priming the kitchen. I've been working furiously all week + haven't much to show for it. Washed + scraped some windows today. Could certainly use a couple of baby-sitters. How about early in June? Wish we could make it sooner.
Words, of course, cannot describe the terrificness of the situation. You can well imagine. Sunshine, sweet smells -love, J.


May 26th postcard
Dear Folks,
Groggy Monday morning. We painted the kitchen last nite.
Janice was so excited that they had finally moved in, and with no postcards at hand, she made one from a scrap of cardboard, and mailed it to Athens, PA

May 28, '52 (postcard made from a piece of corrugated cardboard - ac)
We're in!
Can't find my postcards.
It's 5:30 AM + the kids are harmonizing.
The Gorrells have our old piano.
Bear is off to work.
Much love, J.


Sun PM '52
Dear Folks,
11:15 + I am in bed already. Quite wintry tonite.
The poor Bear managed to pick up a bad cold as soon as he recovered from the runs, but has rested aplenty this weekend + is doing better. Better enough, in fact, to turn out a very nice night table for beside the bed from scrap lumber. All shipments received in good order. The postal delivery truck is a familiar visitor to our site.
The over thermometer works fine. We had a time deciding what that round thing was, then ditto how to stand the thermometer up, but it dawned e'er too long.
The lilac bushes are reset out along the east line, from the corner half-way up the hill. Surprisingly, they seem healthy.
Gorrells gave us some strawberry plants that I put in the southwest corner + keep forgetting to water.
Fond regards to one + all.
I enclose clippings.
Love, J.

June 4, 1952 postcard
Dear Folks,
Rain has at last subsided, leaving us rutted +gutted.
Cookie decided she likes it here after all. She's out watching the house next door go up.
love, J.

Wed AM July 22, '52
Dear Folks,
We're at the village swimming hole. This one is a little deeper than the city pool + Cookie is just sitting on the edge sucking her thumb.
Our new refrigerator came last night – delivered by Bear in Boucher's truck. It's a vast Norge, of recent vintage. It has made ice cubes, so I guess it's working. The motor is very quiet. Several things are in need of repair, the big plastic drawers are cracked, the catch on the ice cube compartment is broken, + today the outside door-handle conked out. It's a beautiful object tho + makes our old one look like a garbage can. There's a clock on the door that times the defrosting. It's like the one Boucher got himself for free; except that this one was $150. There's a light inside + the stuff that was jam-packed into the old one is lost here.
We're getting some dirt in to cover up the rocks. Our big evergreen will have to come down to make room for the garage. All those young oak trees will then have a chance. The evergreen is half-dead anyway. John brought the garage + breezeway blueprint + laid it out with stakes.


Cutting trees to make room for the garage.  In the background our new neighbor's houses, Cosentino's to the left and LaSpina's house to the right

The garage is framed in


Gotta go to the A+P now + buy meat.
Am constantly amazed by the accounts of continuous + energetic activities in E. Athens + vicinity. No wonder you can't remember what you wore.
love, J.

Sun PM Aug 4, '52 postcard
Dear Folks,
Your joint letter received + read with great interest. This card is long overdue.
Friday nite the H. Campbells rolled in + stayed over. Sunburned pair. Last nite Uncle Vito + Aunt Josephine were fetched up + spent the nite here. Richard + Margie appeared for dinner + Bear took them all home after supper.
Katydids abound, inside out. I have a new automatic iron. Am painting Barbara Gorrell. Have had an easy week.
There must be more, but it eludes me. Keep up the good work.
love, J.
Janice with the garage in the background

Between the house and the garage, Janice constructed an impressive rock garden with two flights of stone steps meandering down.  Here, Cookie and Punchy take in the sun.

Thurs PM Aug 7, '52
Dear Folks,
Don't feel like sailing into any window-cleaning or floor dusting, so—--
We have a snazzy yellow, silver + white striped plastic shower + window curtain set. I dyed the lavender bath mat orange-yellow in an effort to achieve a golden brown. One more shot should do it.
Remember the little oak tree near the road on our west property line? It was growing happily by itself, shooting up new leaves on top, a little lopsided from being pushed by the wild cherry trees, but improving. Sunday PM I chanced to look out that way, + there was our honored guest, Uncle Vito, hacking branches off it. I rushed over to my interpreter, who was washing the car, after getting no satisfaction from Uncle V, + he said, “what can I do? He used to trim trees in the old country”. I suspect they were olive trees. He has dismembered + tied up the poor thing. What is your expert opinion on this matter? He may have done the right thing, but it seems to me nature does a pretty decent job shaping an oak with no help at all.
Please excuse this none-too-cheery letter. There is plenty here to be cherry about – I just ran out of paper.
love, J
Uncle Vito, under the breezeway that connects the house with the garage

Mon PM Aug 12, '52 postcard
Dear Folks,
Spent the day in the big city buying drapes for all our windows.
The Bear has been most vigorous + effective with help, he has cut down the evergreen tree + by himself made a nice end table from scrap lumber.
Must tackle one of 4 new painting commissions. love, J.

Wed PM – Sept 25, '52 postcard
Dear Folks,
We still abide at the same address, all in good health, no news of importance. This week I've been on a binge. Caught up on portraits. Am making blankets for kids beds from wool scraps – one crazy in red, green, brown, gold, etc. + one slightly daft in blue, rose, purple, gray, etc.
We're putting up ducts downstairs. Boogie has new shoes. I must wake up the Bear + chase him to bed.
Love, J

Tuesday PM Oct 2, '52
Dear Folks,
See how nicely lil Cookie cuts things out? Spends a lot of time now cutting little girls out of the Sears catalog + dresses to fit over them, to say nothing of bedspreads, kitchen cabinets, doorknobs, + shoes. We're snowed under by snips.
The Solenstens visited us Sunday + Bob sawed various limbs off the oak tree. Mr. Gorrell is struggling valiantly to cut it up for his fireplace. Mostly I have been thoroly immersed in draperies + bedspreads. The dining room + half of the living room windows are draped + Cookie's bedspread complete with dust ruffle is practically done. I do all this in the corner behind the piano, usually with the dubious assistance of Mr. Kitty Kat. (He didn't come home tonite, + I fear he has adopted the Gorrells, where he took refuge from the storm tonite). Mrs. G. attracts cats, she says.
Louie has started our bookshelf-cabinet wall!!!!
Must retire. The kids never went back on Standard time + are up at 6:00.
love, J

Thurs PM Oct 20, '52 postcard
Dear Folks,
Bear is building the bookshelves, our friend Louie having disappeared.
Bear is working in White Plains for Boucher next week.
Love, J.
Janice's favorite view - from the road below

Sun, Oct 27, '52
Dear Folks,
Scene is the basement. I am “helping” put up ducts, meaning that every few minutes I hold something up to the ceiling while he nails it.
Cookie + I just came back from a very nice walk. Remember the walk we all took down thru the woods + up the back-yard stone steps? Instead of going up these steps, we kept going down + back + forth until we came out in a rural section of Ardlsey where some people were building their own houses. The leaves are very scuffable right now. It's the most exciting time of year. Fortunately the leaves come off the tree outside our big window first of all + we see far + wide. It gets more interesting every day.
Bear has almost finished the bookcase + cabinet wall.
We have beat-up venetian blinds on our basement windows now.
I'm afraid I've lost that letter in which you told me how much our interest amounts to. Could you play it back again. Plz? Will try to send next mo.
The leaves on our small oak tree are red instead of brown as the big one.
So to bed,
love, J.



Sat. Nov 1 '52
Dear Folks,
Am trying to decide whether to start supper. Bear is putting knobs on the cabinets. They look like this  china closet is not in yet. The (vertical supports) are bricks. The whole thing will be stained gray.
A sketch of the bookshelf-cabinet wall in the dining room
Behind Janice is the finished cabinet/bookshelf.  In this picture she is posing for one of Jon Nielsen's book illustrations.  We all would pose for him, and he'd pay us 25 cents.
What a perfect nite for spooks last was. We had between 15 + 20 ghostly visitors witches, skeletons, animals, men from Mars. I had made chocolate cookies, which disappeared immediately, butterscotch that went farther + filled in with candy that was on hand. One bunch came all the way from Ardsley. I had dressed Cookie up slam-bang as a witch with whatever I could lay my hands on + she went to the school parade with Sally + family in the afternoon. Barbie had a party for the four of them.

Hit the rummage sales last week, They're bigger + better than ever. Got mostly winter things for kids but did find a swanky pair of genuine cowgirl boots in my size for .75.
got also some plastic (pinkish tan) to cover the loveseat + some more curtain material.
Lots of fires hereabouts. We have a good view of same sometimes.
We're having the Wilsons over for dinner tomorrow. Pot roast.
I'm finally painting the little son of the man who laid the blocks.
Must now write to my friend Dot (Conrad), who has had a girl. Her 4th try, oldest just Cookie's age. love, J.
 
Aunt Joyce and Uncle Harry come to visit

Tues PM Nov 25 '52
Dear Folks,
Received the news today that the H.S. Campbells will dine with you. Wish we could be there. At first we planned to have Harry the Carpenter here for dinner, but he never answered our invitation, so we'll go down to Uncle Vito's. They're having a big chicken + I'm bringing a chocolate cake with 7-minute frosting made with brown sugar + chocolate over the top. Hope Harry doesn't decide to come up without letting us know. I'm mad at him.
We are all choking, snuffling, recovering + re-succoring to colds. School children are responsible.
Had to remove a sizable hunk from my dining room curtains in order to finish off the living room ones. Should complete it tomorrow. We desperately need curtains on that huge window, as our activities are visible from far + wide, I guess. Will have to make a nocturnal trip down to Shady Lane sometime to check on this.
Cookie went to Sally's fourth yr. Birthday party Saturday. Barbie was also invited but she threw fits of screaming when she got there, “I wanna go home” + nothing we tried would calm her down. So she went home. They invited the wrong little girl. Margie would have been in her glory (and everybody else's hair). Cookie has another new friend Janie Kocur, 1 ½ years her senior.
Bear worked until 9:30 last nite. All his overtime now is on a store Boucher is building for himself to sell. He'll be paid for the time in a lump sum when Boucher sells it.
Our coca-cola clock an electric thing 20” diameter from a restaurant keeps perfect time in Daddy's “shorkwop” as Margie calls it (workshop – ac)
I'm leading a leisurely life, clipping recipes + things for my file.
Would surely like to see the clan again. It's been ages. Don't forget to consider coming down, here for Christmas. Love, J.
The Campbells come to visit, Joyce and Harry with Bruce and Alan.  Hanging behind them the curtains Janice made for the living room and dining room

6:30 Wed AM Dec 3, '52 postcard
Dear Folks,
We are practically snowbound. Joe is sweeping about two feet of snow off the car. The hill on Briary Road is impassable. Today I shall help the girls make a snowman.
* I guess it's only one foot. love, J.



Wed, end of '52
Dear Folks,
It's snowing. I made my bike trip to the A+P just in time. I'm really rusty. Must have given the impression of one learning to ride. I decide to pump briskly to the top of a slight rise, stand up, + almost lose the velocipede off to the left (sketch) I really did lose my shoe in front of the Lutheran Church + had to back up for it. The whole trip took only half an hour tho + next time I have to go to the bank in Hastings shall use this method. With bus connections it takes all morning.
The squirrels are playing peek-a-boo round + round an oak tree up on the hill. Did I tell you we found deer tracks around the house last time it snowed? 

Barbara Gorrell, Cookie and Marjorie at the Gorrell's house

Cookie + Betsy have gone out to play + I'm hoping that Margie will finally subside. She's been up since 7:00 + could use some shut-eye.
Cookie and Betsy Fasulo sitting on the back steps
The Sunday before Christmas, right after the H. Campbells left, I went with Mrs. Gorrell + her friend Hilda, + her mother, Gertie, to the Christmas pageant at the Presbyterian church in D.F. Afterwards we all went over to Hilda's house + I met her father, Gordon Guthrie, a retired stained-glass window artist, who is now doing just as he pleases, except when he he's redecorating the house, which has been going on for ages, they tell me. Furniture piled in one room + all that. Anyway, this unique character (he must be near 80) has been making windows since he was 16 in Scotland. Has been written up in Life a couple of times. Now that he is retired, he paints landscapes in oil + watercolor that looks like oil + oil that looks like watercolor. He is also an enthusiast proponent of the free pen sketch. Hates erasers. We met again at the Gorrell's Christmas party. He bends a good ear. I get the impression that he has himself a lot of fun.
Our trees come town tomorrow. Doesn't seem as if they've been up very long. We have one ceiling height, by the big window, + a little one on the roof over it to give the impression from below of part of the same tree. It almost does. Lights on both. Leftover branches I have stacked by the kitchen door, to about a foot from the ceiling + decorated with Christmas cards + odds + ends. Whole thing is held up by my ironing board. We have had that unpressed look lately.
Gaspard had a catnip mouse on Xmas morn. He dissected it + scattered it far + wide. I must plant him some catnip somewhere.
We took several pictures of the tree + one of the kids with Lulus.
How many times a day did we go out in the snow when we were kids? Getting them on + off + in + out over + over takes all my time. Cookie managed to get one boot all full of mud.
Regina had Christmas dinner with us. Couldn't stay very long. She called today + says to wish you both a Happy New Year, which goes for me, too.
love, J.
We did send some abode pictures out as cards. Some as “our domain's growing pains”.

The finished house before landscaping
Aerial view of Eleven Secor Drive


4 comments:

Marc Ziner said...

Cookie, this is the BEST! What a treasure....
i will read this completely and with great interest. Excellent work on this.

Marc Ziner

Toby T Papageorge said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your newest addition about the "Abode". It brought back so many fun memories of our neighborhood. Now we can add talented photographer and writer to your especially gifted Artist Mom!
Thanks for sharing this!

Toby Trustman Papageorge

Marcy said...

Hello Angela,
Your mother painted some portraits of me and my sister and my parents in Dobbs Ferry. I notice that there are some additional paintings of my father on your site, possibly watercolors prior to an oil painting? He's wearing the same outfit in the oil painting we have. I wonder if you still have these if they're available for purchase. Is there a way to add photos to your blog?

Angela Candela said...

Marcy, you can find me on Facebook and we can have a conversation. I feel certain that we still have the paintings too mentioned.