Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lincoln house

It was the early 1950s.

We had long outgrown our little duplex on Minnehaha Avenue that my parents had bought as an investment. Seven of us lived downstairs, and the upstairs quarters were rented to a newly-married couple.

During the summer of 1953, we moved to Lincoln Avenue in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota.

The big white house looked like a mansion to us.

Built in 1913, it had three stories and a full basement, plus five porches. There were two large enclosed screened porches, one off the living room that became our playroom in the summer; the other off the master bedroom.

There were flower patterns everywhere: in the carpeting, the wallpaper, the drapes, and the hallway going upstairs.

There was one pattern for the carpeting, one pattern for the living room wallpaper, a different pattern for the dining room wallpaper, and yet another pattern for the drapes. Though perhaps fashionable then, it would be HGTV's nightmare today.

Our green nylon frizee couch, moved from the duplex, now stood amidst pink and rose colored flowers.

The kitchen had black linoleum flooring in a square tile design. We had a white chrome table, usually covered with oilcloth, and a defined seating pattern that never changed: two children on youth stools either side of Dad; three on a green bench on the other side of the table; Mom and me on each end.

A white Gibson refrigerator sat in the entryway of the back door. The back door was never locked, even if we were gone from the house for a week on vacation. If we ever had keys, I doubt that we even knew where they were.

The dining room had a built-in buffet that held everything from the telephone and phone directories, to combs, brushes and curlers, to Sunday School books and offering envelopes, to Mom's china dinnerware and silver. The phone was the only one in the three-story house, and we were on a party-line.

One phone, five teenage girls, a shared party-line.

The dining room had a pair of window seats that you never see anymore, but should. They were ideal storage places for Mom's fabrics and sewing supplies, since her sewing machine was also in the dining room.

When weddings approached for five girls, our just-received gifts were proudly displayed on the window seats.

The top of the window seats provided a great play space for my little brother's Tonka trucks and matchbox cars. He must have worn a path along those window seats as he ran his toys up and down the wooden surface.

An upright piano was on the opposite wall of the dining room, and, of course, there was a big dining room table and chairs in the center. On birthdays or holidays, we ate in the dining room, a real treat.

I'm not sure how my parents found the house, or their criteria as they were house-shopping, but they couldn't have chosen a better neighborhood than Mac-Groveland, as it was, and still is, called.

I can't imagine growing up in any other area of St. Paul. The neighborhood's proximity to private colleges and schools made it academic-rich and was comprised largely of professionals.

Of course, the decor of the house changed over the years, thank goodness. The flowery carpeting was replaced by beige plush; the wallpaper removed and walls painted; the green frizee couch went out with the 50s, along with the white chrome table.

But even an extreme makeover couldn't erase the many years of warm memories in our Lincoln Avenue abode.