Tuesday, March 14, 2023

This old house: after 50 plus years, I think I’m finally ready to move on

Can I share something a bit long, a bit odd?  Back in mid-February I’d written about going to visit my old apartment here in the city.  My friend Robin emailed me a day or so later and said that after reading my post, she had a dream where she got to revisit her childhood home.

Wow—I thanked her for passing that along, then thanked her for reminding me to do the same.  Y’see, since Google Maps began photographing the planet in February 2005, I’ve been waiting patiently for them to capture MY childhood home.  Every so often I’d go on to Google Maps, plug in the address—260 South Cumberland Street—nothing.

But finally, after 17 years there it was.  That’s my childhood home on Cumberland Street at the top.  It’s weird to see the empty space on it’s left, when I was a child an old Polish woman named Katie lived in a gray tiled house right next to ours.  It was torn down 40+ years ago.

To our right was the Johnsons, and over the years I’ve seen it on realty sites like Howard Hanna being sold again & again!

Not our house though—the people who bought it and moved in after us are still the same owners. 

We left there the week before school began, in August 1970.  We moved “to the country” 7-8 miles outside of town.  It wasn’t really a farm, but at times we had a couple livestock and a giant vegetable garden.  We called it the farmhouse and made a lot of happy memories there. 

(I’ve talked about our farmhouse before, and after discovering an aerial photograph was taken of it in the 1970s, I shared it here.)

But before the farmhouse, we lived in town in a nice neighborhood that was my world.  One block down from us was a pair of sisters the same age as my sister Shawn & myself, Jackie & Sharon Howard.  One block down and to the right was a girl in my class, Heidi Sisler.  She lived with her parents & brother in an apartment above the bakery.

One block up and to the right was Jeff Tewell and his mountain of comics.  John Lacava. Chuck Zimmerman.  A girl my older brother was sweet on, Lynn Mancuso.  And one block up and to the left was Waynesburg High School.  It’s where my parents attended school in the 1950s, and Dads’ brothers & sisters, and where my brainy Aunt Dena was an English teacher.  I was very excited to go to that school.

Margaret Bell Miller High School, which is now a middle school 

We walked past here every day on our way to South Ward Elementary. 

And a block west of this school was my friend Greg Leathers.  He was also in my class, and would go on to become the mayor of Waynesburg. 

But back when I knew him, he liked to draw like me and had a “Creepy Crawler Maker” where you heated colored goop and poured it into strange bug molds.  (I remember it getting really hot; I can’t imagine it being marketed to children today!)

I made a pretty big fuss about moving, I didn’t want to go.  But our sister Donda was 18 months old and outgrowing her crib which was in our parents bedroom.  Our sister Shawn’s room was too tiny for a second bed.

And Dad, who grew up on a farm, had recently learned of a larger house in the country (on one of the gas company’s wells too, meaning free natural gas). 

The last week of school, my teacher Mr. Porter had me stand in front of the class and tell them where I was going in the fall.  I told them I’d be attending Leprechaun School in the country. 

(It’s actual name was Lippencott School.  I don’t remember Mr. Porter correcting me!)

For years afterward the house on Cumberland became my scapegoat, everytime something went wrong.  If I was bullied in school, disliked one of my teachers, rejected by a girl, worried I didn’t have enough friends, I’d think “I’m not supposed to be here, my life was in Waynesburg, on Cumberland Street.”  

But with all things, I eventually stopped doing that and got on with my life. 

    

Shawn, Steve, myself, Duke & our sister Donda celebrating her first birthday on Cumberland St.

Those feelings made a comeback of sorts, the spring of ‘78.  I was a junior at Jefferson-Morgan High School and it was time to take the SATs.  The exams were at Waynesburg College, in town.  After I arrived and got situated, a couple girls came up to me and said “Doug Morris?  Hey guys, look who’s here!”  

I was befriended by a group of childhood classmates I hadn’t seen in years, and it was such a warm experience it made my heart ache a little for what might’ve been. 

Anyway… I was always appreciative of our years growing up in the country.  And with 5 brothers & sisters, we weren’t lacking the company of other kids!  But I think this explains why I live where I do now, all these years later.  Once a townie, always a townie.       

And finally, a goofy but honest-to-God real story

In that house on Cumberland, there were 2 doors that faced one another directly outside the entrance to the kitchen.  The door on the left was the basement steps, the right was a shallow closet with shelves, our food pantry.

One day I detected a small loop of twine on the wall in that pantry below the bottom shelf.  When I pulled on it, a small square of drywall swung outward, about the size of a slice of bread.  When I showed it to my dad and asked what it was, he said he didn’t know as it didn’t look large enough to store anything.

But it WAS big enough to hide my life savings—$2.09, which I kept in a baby-food jar.  I placed it in that hole along with one of the Creepy Crawlers Greg Leathers had given me (hoping a rubbery spider would scare off curious fingers).  After I closed it, I pulled off that tiny loop of twine.

Over time I forgot about it, until a month or so after we moved to the farmhouse.  I told my mom “I left my life savings in our old house!”  When she asked where I left it, I said the food pantry.  Mom said “Oh honey, a family with 2 daughters moved in there—they probably found & spent it already!”

I didn’t tell her about the hole in the wall below the bottom shelf, but for years I wondered if it was ever discovered.  And now, I’d rather not know.  I want to believe my life savings of $2.09 is still there, after all these years.

And still being protected by one of the Mayor of Waynesburg’s Creepy Crawlers. Alien

50 comments:

  1. Amazing story. You even remember all those names, first and last. Your house was quite attractive. It's sad that you had to move. But think of all those military brats, who are always on the move. What a terrible life they live. How can anyone have any lasting friends that way?

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    1. Thank you Gigi, and you know what you make a very good point. I feel lucky that we only had that one big move. šŸ™‚šŸ‘

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  2. Nice post. And thank you for the memory of Creepy Crawlers! I loved making those things, you could even mix colors. My younger brother and I were lucky enough to have the cooker and moulds. It did get super hot, and we were completely unsupervised! Life was pretty free back then. Survival of the fittest and fast learning if you got burned. Your memory of names, places, details is impressive. Kim in PA

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    1. Kim thank you for this very nice comment, much appreciated. And it's nice to read someone else remembers Creepy Crawlers too! Oh I wanted one of those makers bad, but my mom absolutely refused. I should probably be thanking her. šŸ™‚

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  3. Great post Doug. It motivated me to look at one particular favorite childhood home and it brought back good memories. Moving is a way of life for some. My family moved every 2-3 years. This meant: new house, school, friends and neighbors. You learn quickly how to walk in to a situation without fear and embrace it. Personally, moving builds confidence and social skills. There was no choice in the matter so you make the best of the cards dealt. I also had a box of creepy crawlers.

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    1. Thank you Susan, and I like what you said here. Having to move every 2-3 years, you certainly adopted the right attitude and became a better person from it. I really do give you credit, you saw your moves as a real learning experience. šŸ™‚

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  4. That is a cool house! Next time you go, knock on the door and ask about your life savings guarded by the creepy crawler. Or, print this entry of your blog, mail it to them, with a paid return flat folded box and see what response you get. What a funny hiding place. Maybe others have added to it and forgot when they moved. Linda in Kansas

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    1. Thanks Linda! Well, that secret hole was only about the size of an adult fist. It fit that baby food jar and spider, and that was it. I heard they tore down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, but that pantry was in the hallway outside the kitchen so I don't know..! šŸ™‚

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  5. I'm with DrumMajor - it would be fun to find out if they found your life savings, perhaps in a renovation.
    You have some wonderful memories of your old home, and it is wonderful it is still standing. All I have left of my childhood home are the memories, it burned down several years ago.

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    1. Thanks Maebeme, well I just wrote above they did renovate the kitchen but that pantry was outside it in the hall. I'd rather believe that only my dad and myself knew of it then and to this day. But they did have two girls and nothing gets past most kids.. anyway I am very sorry to read about the burning down of your own home. You make a good point about mine still standing.

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  6. I've been a lurker here for a long time. Always enjoy reading your posts. After reading about the creepy crawlers I just had to comment.. I got those for Christmas one year. Of course, I was up before my parents and started making some right away. I did get burned and it didn't deter me ... kept right on making them. There are only a few specific things that I remember getting for Christmas but never forgot those. In fact, I was just reminiscing about them with some of my family not too long ago. Mary

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    1. Hi Mary, thanks so much for commenting it's nice to meet you so to speak. And I very much appreciate you sharing that creepy crawler memory, how awesome you had that toy! I think if I read one more memory of someone else with it I'm going to go on eBay and do some searching. šŸ™‚

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  7. Hi Doug, what a wonderful post. Your home was beautiful. You have an incredible memory for things 40+ years ago. Creepy Crawlers sound like a lot of fun, I don’t recall them. Take care and glad you are feeling better.❤️

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    1. Robin, thank you and you know you inspired this post right? It was very appreciated as your friendship and always kind words here. And not to sound like a baby but I am still battling this darn stomach bug šŸ›! Really, thank you Robin.

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    2. Oh Doug, hope you kick this bug soon!❤️❤️

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    3. Thank you Robin PS It's been snowing in Pittsburgh all day--not Canadian snow tho :^)

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    4. šŸ˜†šŸ˜†šŸ˜†

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  8. What a fine looking home on Cumberland Street!! By the way, did you ever graduate to become a licensed 'Leprechaun'? Very funny!!! I also had a hidey-hole in my family home. It was under a loose floorboard where as a teen, I hid my diary. My parents tiled over that floor and I'm sure that mice have chewed the paper to pieces by now. And I thank them for it!!!

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    1. Florence, I swear to God you just gave me my first laugh today! I love the idea of the hidden diary, at the same time you are an expert on critters so.. well my hidden loot was in a baby food jar so you never know! šŸ˜„

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  9. I love this post Doug! I am a regular user of Google Maps as I visit all my past homes as well. I am another one that moved every two or three years growing up and I've been able to see many of the houses I lived in. For that matter it's fun to travel the world without leaving your house.

    If you lived in one house all your life I bet it was hard to move and especially to leave your life savings behind! I bet it is still there unless they remodeled that room. It would be fun to go back and see or write and ask them.

    I remember the Creepy Crawler Maker! They later made a flower maker just like it and I had that one. I made loads of plastic flowers.

    Great post Doug!

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    1. Bonnie, thank you so much! I sure have missed your comments - - and it's nice to know others out there do the same, looking up childhood homes on Google. I'm feeling a little less goofy for sharing this now. Trust me, over the years I came close a couple times to contacting the homeowners and asking about that hidden space in the wall but I found it more satisfying to believe my money was still hidden. And thank you as well for sharing your own memory, I do remember that flower maker! Gee I love stuff like that.. thanks again Bonnie. šŸ™‚

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  10. How nice to see your childhood home and that you have such good memories. I got my daughter a creepy crawler maker in the 90s, but don’t know if it was the same kind. She loved it. šŸŖ². Joyce

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    1. Joyce, thank you--and I am a weirdo because I just laughed out loud and said "That does it". I want one too. :^)

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  11. What a heartwarming post! I love stories of the past and this one was incredible--all the memories and names. You have an excellent memory! I often drive by our old house which is in the downtown of my city. It's changed a lot but I still remember lying on my "bear rug" on the hardwood floor watching cartoons on our black and white console TV.

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    1. Thank you Margaret, you're very kind--I actually thought a lot about you and your YD when I was writing this (and how lucky she is) but of course you'd have your own memories too. As for my great memory, it's not that great--I just seared certain things into my noggin for posterity and refused to forget. :^)

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  12. I also was one of those who moved every few years, and I rather enjoyed being the "new girl" so often. My sister hated it, so everyone is different. I sure cannot remember very many names from childhood. You are amazing!

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    1. DJan--in all honesty, you are the last person who should be calling me amazing, c'mon. But you're very kind, thank you--and why am I not surprised you enjoyed moving every few years! (I do remember that though, your early years from your Sunday's Edge blog.) Well, we are all different alright. :^)

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  13. We went in the opposite direction to you – from a country town to the big smoke (Melbourne).
    The first house is still there, but has been altered such that it’s unrecognisable.
    The second is much the same.

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    1. Music Man, that sounded pretty exciting--moving someplace like Melbourne. Um, back in the late '60s, Waynesburg had a population of around 7,000. That was big enough for me. :^)

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    2. Yeah, the town had a population of about two and half thousand, and Melbourne at the time was about two and a half million.
      Melbourne’s more than doubled that now and my old town has pretty much the same number of people.

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  14. I started life in "The Projects" in Barberton, Ohio. My dad worked for Goodyear Aerospace, Goodyear Aircraft at the time. My parents bought the house at 729 Moraine when I was a two year old and that's where I grew up. I had the same sort of block by block friends. My parents never moved, between 1945 and 1988, when my sister and I sold our respective homes and opened a business in a wing of the house. I googled the Barberton projects just before and after they were demolished. Very interesting. 729 is still there.

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    1. Wow Joanne, very cool--thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading that! Hmm, now I'll have to google map it... :^)

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  15. Thingmaker Molds, I have several, it was a Favorite Toy! I too have Google Mapped many places we lived to see what they look like now and to reminisce. We moved so often that no place specific was ever Home, we were Nomads most of my Life, since I grew up in a Military Family and Married a Career Military Man. Both your original Home and the Farmhouse are great Older Homes. I just Love Historic and Vintage Homes, the Modern ones cannot compare. The Historic Home I owned here in Arizona I was loathe to Sell and still Love it dearly and wish I could have kept it... but, Life happens and sometimes moving on is taking us to new beginnings and experiences we'd of otherwise missed out on. The Mini Farm I now own has a Vintage Home on it and I just Love it and the Location and Community it's in, so, it all turned out in the end as it should be. I enjoyed hearing your Shared Memories.

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    1. Bohemian thank you for sharing your own upbringing, wow you military kids had your act together! I never thought of our houses as historic or vintage, but the farmhouse was definitely pretty old. That's cool you have a mini-farm of your own. šŸ™‚

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  16. I like to think your life savings is still there too, I also like to think that maybe one day someone who badly needs "just one more dollar" will find it. Nice memories.

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    1. River, thank you. Now THAT is something I'd like to see happen! šŸ™‚❤️

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    2. River's post prompted a memory for me. When I was about 8, my dad installed a new handrail for our front steps, and he placed a dime before pouring the cement, saying if I was ever broke, I knew where to get a dime. Of course, even in the 50s a dime wouldn't have taken me far, but I love that he did that.
      Nina

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    3. Nina, what a sweet memory, I loved it. Thank you for sharing that. šŸ™‚

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  17. What nice memories! I'd be the sort of person to drop a line to the address and ask the people if they found your hidey hole. You might find that you are the recipient of a creepy crawler and $2.09. If not, you'd be regaled of the story of how they found it, and what they thought.

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    1. Thank you Anon! Oh believe me, for a long time I came close to finding a way of contacting them (short of knocking on their door and asking them in person) about that pantry, but over time I just liked my "still hidden" fantasy better. But if they did find it, it was probably 50 years ago and long forgotten :^)

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    2. PS That anonymous 'twar me. Don't know why this posted as anonymous.

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    3. Before Google bought and took over Blogger, we had zero of these kinds of problems. Thanks Debby.

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  18. I have checked out my childhood home too; I am originally from Ohio and after I was born my parents bought their first house (they were in an apartment when I was born) and we moved to 5008 Wellington Avenue Parma, Ohio. And now it looks so small (two story colonial) but looked huge to me as a kid. My father was a pressman for both the Plain Dealer and Cleveland Press and he worked as pressman for 40+ years. When 14 my Dad decided to apply and work at the newspapers in Boston and we moved to New Hampshire. Unfortunately three years there the newspapers crashed and my folks had build a house in Derry NH a year after we moved to NH - before that we crashed a year in our 2 bed cabin with a chemical toilet ! That was fun, lol. So I have also googled our Derry NH house too. And then back to Ohio we went, for Dad to go back to the Plain Dealer, in the Strongsville area, where we ended up a year then they build a house in Brunswick Ohio. Again I googled that house. I moved away on my own and they eventually decided for the last 10 years of my Dad's career to move to Long Island and work at NewsDay because of their incredible 401K program so ... he did. And the he & Mom retired to FL (I had moved to FL 5 years before them so it was nice to be close to them again); after living in Hawaii for almost 6 years. Now I live in SW GA, but I am a midwestern girl at heart.
    Dawn P. Albany, GA

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    1. Dawn I am blown away--what a detailed, fascinating history, I loved reading all this, thanks so much for sharing. My gosh, I'm small-fry compared to others, especially you & your parents! Really, this was awesome. :^)

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  19. I could swear I wrote a comment earlier. It must not have gone through. I don't remember what I said, but I'm sure it was witty, insightful and cogent. Well ... maybe a good thing it didn't go through, b/c it probably wasn't as witty, insightful etc. as I thought. Anyway, what a great peek into your past of old friends and lost fortune!

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    1. Haha--thanks Tom, and you probably DID. I am getting fed up with Blogger and how they keep mismanaging comments. Half the time I try to leave one on someone else's blog, I run into the same issue!. Anyway, very nice what you said here, thanks again! :^)

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  20. Wow! You have so many wonderful memories. My brain is not so good. I have to ask my (younger) brother all the time about anything in the past. I wish I could see my childhood home but it was in a sugar plantation housing area. The entire place was burned down, leveled and developed. I don't even know where our house was. It's just gone with no landmarks.

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    1. Thanks Kay! My brain isn't that good, there are just some memories I've done my best to hold onto--and your own brain isn't so bad, I remember very well, reading about your childhood on a sugar plantation. I remember thinking it was so unique and interesting, you could probably write a book. :^)

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  21. Hi Doug, I’ve got to start with a quick question: Are you an author with published books? šŸ˜Š Well, the reason I ask is because you are a great writer! This post is like a condensed version of how and where you grew up and the fascinating place where your life savings are … I’ll bet! … still there. Just for fun I opened up the Inflation Calculator [https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/] and plugged in $2.09 and 1970 … and guess what that $2.09 would be worth in today’s dollars … wait for it šŸ˜Š … $16.21. I don’t know if that will make you smile or cry. I love that picture of you and your siblings enjoying Donda’s first birthday. A classic photo for sure and a treasure. Well, Doug, I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing! Take care, be well, and I’ll see you next time! John

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    1. John, thanks so much for your generous feedback, you made my day and I've only been up for an hour! And the Warren Buffett side of me is very interested in that inflation calculator, thanks for sharing the link. I sure hope you are doing well and thank you again. šŸ™‚

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