Daily Archives: March 3, 2014

Daily Post: Our House

Daily Prompt: Our HouseWhat are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.

ArcadeRowHouses

©Pullman Historical Society
Row-housing Pullman

My first home was in the now historic Pullman district of Chicago where I lived in a third floor apartment with my parents and three older siblings. My grandfather owned the apartment building after working many years as a painter for the Pullman Company.

The history of Pullman was unique for its time; it was structured to be its own town. Cheap row-housing was provided for the workers as well as the executives with obvious class-segregation.

stairwellAlthough I only lived the first three and a half years of my life in that apartment, I have vivid memories, beginning with that long stairwell up to the third floor.

While my siblings were at school, I assisted my mother with her domestic chores, one of which was doing laundry. The wringer washing machine was in the old basement, where I played with clothespin-people while mom washed the clothes. When a load was sufficiently wrung out, she carried the oil-cloth-lined basket to the backyard where she hung the laundry on the line, then off to Grandma’s apartment we trekked.

Grandma always offered me some kind of “old people” cookies while she chatted with mom in Polish. I did not like Grandma’s cookies they had fruit in them, probably figs. I much preferred chocolate chip or oatmeal and would typically feed my “old people” cookie to Grandma’s dog who covered me with kisses whenever he saw me.

Sounds of my early life in that apartment building were happy sounds of Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents chatting and laughing, my Dad’s accordion music, and neighborhood children at play outside. One of the earliest toys I tried to play with was my brother’s blue scooter. For those who do not know what a scooter is, imagine a skateboard with a ‘handle’. If memory serves correctly, I do believe I was scolded for that, maybe even fell and got a bloody knee.

Grandpa and Grandma’s apartment had a distinctive smell to it, maybe cabbage cooking, maybe cleaning solutions, which back then, were natural things/smells like vinegar or maybe it was the stale smell of Camel cigarettes and cigars, Lifebuoy soap or simply a cacophony of smells particular to that day’s tasks.

To this day, I love the smell of cigars and would even like to have one when all of my breast cancer crap is finished. Yeah, a cigar and a nice glass of Chianti… but, I digress.

Back in the stairwell of my childhood, I now fondly recall singing with all my might, “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes, when she comes…” everytime mom and I returned to our third floor apartment but never when we were leaving. Another favorite from my three-year-old musical repertoire was “The Big Rock Candy Mountain.”

PullmanBurned

©Google Maps, Maryland Avenue, Pullman
The vacant lot is where our apartment building
was located. The neighborhood is shameful now.

Sights, sounds, scents and sentiments line the streets of Pullman in my mind, which sadly seems to be all that remains of a once thriving, hopeful community.

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