154 Tolman St. Westbrook Me USA. I Grew Up In This House
A few years ago. I found this cool old photo of what appeared to be a strikingly similar version of the big old Victorian house I grew up in in a pile of random old photos in a local flea market. It was quite the surprised to discover it's actually a photo of the very same house I grew up in.
When I brought the photo home and held it up to a mirror, I could see the photo had simply been printed backwards. At the time this photo was taken, negatives were very large and made of glass, so flipping the glass negative upside down would have been the easiest mistake in the world for a printmaker to make.
My parents bought this amazing old, broken down ark of a place back in 1963 when I was five and my middle brother was three. Before us, an old woman named Mrs. Manning had lived there alone for most of her life. In her olden days and she had burned nearly ever stick of household furniture in the fireplace just to stay warm. (She might very well have been the same little girl holding her doll in the photo; I'm not sure.)
In the mid 1960s, the city of Westbrook, Maine had listed this house as one of the next houses to be condemned and demolished. My folks bought it for very little money, mostly the back-taxes owed to the city.
By the time we moved in, our entire neighborhood was of the opinion that it was haunted and they were just terrified of our house, adults included. The old place was seriously disreputable and very very creepy.
It had no insulation, broken pipes everywhere, scary bad wring and it had weathered to a dull slate-gray color that obviously hadn't seen a speck of paint in well over 40 years... not to mention the countless thousands of bats residing in our third floor attic.
Later after we had all settled in, my mother took it upon herself to scape and paint It. and it took nearly eighty gallons of primer and paint to finish the job.
My father's various weekend demolition and reconstruction projects on our lovely broken down old house were an ongoing work in progress for pretty much the duration of my childhood. All of my earliest memories are punctuated by the smell of wet paint, welding flux, plaster dust and sawdust and the sound of banging radiators and Skill saws and my dear old dad off in the background cussing about " #&*^@!!% damned old houses."
When it was all finished, my mom had finally had more than enough old home repair and plaster dust all over our dishes and so we moved to a modern house the next town over...so go figure.
Our house really was the most wonderful place in the entire world to grow up. For real.
My family moved out in 1971 and to this very day I still miss it. The new owners broke it all up into small apartments and just ruined everything.
I still love old houses. My current house of fifteen years is a big old four bedroom Carpenter Gothic with a walk-up attic and a barn built in 1914. Ya know what? If we won the lottery tomorrow, I'd still stay right here. I wouldn't take the gift of a brand new soul-less house for all the tea in China.
I'm also really glad that I stood near my dad watching and helping him with stuff like holding onto "the dumb end" of the measuring tape, because besides learning piles of colorful new vocabulary words, I actually learned quite a bit of handy-dandy useful stuff.