I Wuz Just Thinking: A dream home from the past

All it took to build a home in the 1950s was a dream, a little imagination, a lot of hard work, and a pile of cinder blocks.

Of all the family endeavors, the memory that stands out most was building their own home from cinder blocks.

The other day as I was driving down Roberts street, my eyes drifted to a pretty little house on the left side of the road that was nestled beneath shade trees.

I recall the story my friend, Betty Childress Caskey, told me.  Seems nice rental properties, that were reasonably priced, were difficult to find in the 1950’s.  She was ten years old when her parents, Elbert and Louise,  decided to purchase a lot and build their own dream home.

Both parents were holding full-time jobs, so the work on the house was done after regular work hours and on weekends.

Betty Mahurin Baker

It was about July 1953 during the heat of the summer when the family began the task of building a home using cinder blocks.  The blocks were easier to stack and fire resistant.

The cinder block house was built in stages.  First came the basement and underground level.  Elbert Childress even hand-dug a water well close to the house so there would be water lines leading into the home.

During Halloween of 1953, Betty remembers moving into this underground unit.  They used it as their living quarters, settling in together with their little dog Chi Chi and parakeet Mickey while the upper ground level was being built.  Later, the basement would be used as a garage and laundry utility area.

After digging out the dirt of the 14 by 34 foot hole,  a concrete pad was poured.  It was not an easy task.  It took two Jeeps, a second-hand cement mixer, and plenty of hard work and patience, but their dream house gradually began to take shape.

After the skeleton of the house was completed, the Childresses set about to make the inside livable.  The walls were plastered and painted a light shade of green.  Shelves were built over the fireplace in the living room.  Two full baths, one with a tub and the other with a shower, were completed.

A clothes chute was installed from kitchen to basement, something Louise insisted in having.  Elbert made his job of cleaning the fireplace easier when he installed an opening into the basement for removal of ashes.

A double attic fan and central heating were installed and casement windows were put throughout the house.

The cost in 1953 was estimated at $5, 500.

Today, Betty and I drove past the house, and she was giving more details of the fireplace and the gas central heat.

Her memories of summer time of the bedroom windows being left open. There were screens on the windows so there was no fear of flies and mosquitoes entering.

A water sprinkler was placed beneath the shade of the trees, and the ceiling fans pulled cool air through the windows and into the home.  At night, Betty said it would be too cold for her to sleep.

She said her Dad was very industrious.  In part of the basement area,  he built an indoor/outdoor motor boat using an airplane engine.

Sometime later, he even cleared part of their property and put in a mobile home park on neighboring White Street.

This family was very industrious with projects and businesses through the years, but, of all their endeavors, the memory that stood out the most was building their own home.

It was a dream come true built by hard work … as I wuz just thinking.


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