Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Work Creates Dream Home, New Hanover County, 1952

The following essay, written in 1952 by Mrs. J.W. Hightower, Ogden Home Demonstration Club, New Hanover County, was an entry in a contest entitled "My Rural Home."
A home among the pines that tower so near the heavens and whisper ever so softly to the passing winds and birds; a home away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city and noisy streets with lots of yard for playing; this was the dream of our family: Daddy, Mother, Susie, Jimmie, and Skippy the dog.
Dreams like this just don't happen without work, play, planning and a lot of family cooperation. Then, just seven miles from the small city where Daddy works for a railroad company, we found the beginning of our dreams, located on a paved rural road but not very far from a busy cross-country highway, but, alas! just three rooms--too small for our family but such a good house. The white asbestos siding and the green asphalt shingle roof just nestled in those pines and it had wonderful possibilities for enlarging.
After arrangements to buy were made, we moved in and with pencils, paper, and a scrap-book of pictures cut from magazines that might fit our simple way of living, we drew the plans with each member of the family expressing opinions and desires. Skippy, the dog, chose the tiny back porch and started her family.
Our first step was having the well drilled reaching water at about 40 feet and installing an electric pump. Pipes were run to the various outlets as called for in the plans and into the kitchen.
Then we added the breakfast room. Using the same outside and roof covering, we added to our kitchen making one long slender room. We used knotty pine for the interior walls and ceiling (they're so easy to keep clean), a red asphalt tile covering for the floor, plenty of windows, and an arrangement for clockwise operation for preparing meals, most of which are cooked in a small pressure cooker, a large one being used for canning fruits and vegetables.
Along one wall we have the bottled gas hot water heater and the cook stove, also bottled gas, then the sink in the six-foot work table. The waste water from the sink empties into a grease trap installed according to the Board of Health specifications.
Underneath the work table are two drawers, shelves for cooking utensils and staple groceries, such as flour, sugar and bought canned goods. On the wall above the work table is a large mirror to remind Mother to tidy up before the meal is served, more shelves for the salt, measuring cups, etc., and hooks for the hanging of utensils. At the end is a small cabinet for the toaster, Mix-Master and a place for kitchen linens.
The table occupies the center back wall and overhead are shelves for the dishes. Windows on three sides make this such a nice place to eat and watch the outside world.
Opposite the work-table is the electric refrigerator, and then the electric washing machine, which makes it so handy for carrying clothes out in the yard to be dried in the sunshine, the door to the back porch being next in the wall line-up.
Just over the washer and the refrigerator is a long shelf for the crockery dishes used at the outdoor cooking place with an incinerator combined. Simple plants on the window sills and shelves make this much used room more bright and cheery.
Then we built the pump house, the chicken house, and the dog house.
On two sides of the house to protect the pump we put shelves to hold the home canned fruits and vegetables. The house was covered with plank siding and painted white.
The chicken house was built from Department of Agriculture plans for a flock of about fifteen chickens, enough for our family needs, using the same materials as in the pump house.
Every home needs a dog to spread wholesome diversion and kindly spirit around, and every dog needs a home, so we built one from scrap lumber.
Having completed these things, we started Jimmie's room and a bathroom. The interior of Jimmie's room is the same knotty pine finished clear or the natural color. On the floor is green plastic tile, which extends into the large closet opening into his room.
The bunk beds and the chest of drawers were bought but the work table, book shelves and magazine rack were built at home.
A nail keg with removable padded top serves for a seat at the work table and a place to store tools and small planks. The nylon and linen material used for the curtains have the insignia of almost every railroad in the country hand-painted on them by Father, using a fabric paint and using the special color for each road. Mother designed and hooked a rug, using an old-type locomotive, coal-car and caboose for the design, and old woolen clothes for the material. Jim's electric train is fastened to a large platform so as to fit against the wall when not in use to entertain both Jim and his Daddy. Needless to say, Jimmie, now at the age of eight, plans to be an engineer. A large center light and wall sockets on two opposite walls complete this boy's room as he planned it, with older advice.
The bathroom with its built-in tub, wash basin and commode (water closet) is supplied with hot and cold water, waste being emptied into a septic tank underground in the front yard. The walls and ceiling were furnished pine paneling to make them waterproof, the floor covering in gray, using rubber tile.
A large mirror is screwed to the wall over the basin and beside it are shelves to hold the bathroom necessities. Underneath them is the laundry bag made from a burlap bag fitted on an old basketball hoop. The name plates over the towel racks were sawed from metal by Daddy, and the fish appliqued shrimp net curtains were made by Mother. The one window in the bathroom is placed high with plastic panel curtain.
Then to complete the long front of the house, we built Susie's room. We felt Susie at the age of 12 was able to look ahead and capable of planning her own room and the results were very gratifying. Using the same pine paneling finished in the natural color, she chose green plastic tile for the floors, just a bit darker than Jimmie's room. A large center light and wall sockets on two walls completed the building, except for desk and book shelves in one corner of the room.
The old bed had the footboard sawed off and she painted it forest green, using the same color for the bedside table and a picture frame above it. Using one half of an old dining table, we made her dressing table with a nail keg sanded and finished for the stool. The dresser, whose mirror was used in the kitchen, serves as a low chest of drawers. These old pieces were all refinished.
The bedspread is gray with yellow, purple and pink flowers appliqued and a yellow organdy ruffle. The window curtains are yellow with a gray organdy panel to match the dressing table skirt. The rug by the bed was made from an old yellow coat on a burlap bag with multi-colored felt butterflies of many sizes, all these being made at home. The large closet opening into this room, with its shelves, completes a typical girl's room.
The original two front rooms make the large living room with its stone-faced fireplace. This fireplace, supplemented by a kerosene (coal-oil) heater the end of the hall, furnishes heat for the entire house. The walls of the living room are knotty pine paneling with plastic floor covering. The furniture is simple, livable pieces that withstand the wholesome playing of children. In one corner is the large "hobby" table where Daddy builds model trains and Mother repairs broken dolls. A small portable radio, a telephone and a daily newspaper help keep us in touch with the outside world.
The building of this home has covered a period of less than five years, with only one more bedroom to go, and all the work has been done by those who live there, Daddy, Mother, Susie, Jimmie, and Skippy the dog.
The home is located on one acre of land, ample playing space for the children who ride the school bus to school every day. Most of our social activities are in town, Sunday school and church, Scouts, and an occasional show. Books from the public library are enjoyed by the whole family.
Since the soil is sandy and not very fertile, we have no garden. The shrubs and flowers in the yard are those that seem to enjoy living without too much petting and coaxing. A number of indoor pots of various plants are used to brighten darker spots in the home.
All this, the birds singing in the early morning, the rabbits playing so quietly at dusk, and the realization that dreams can be made to come true add up to a happy, contented family in my rural home.

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