Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rented houses

Om Gov is standing on the porch of his house on McClelland Street--the last house on the street before entering Fairmont Park.  He is just older than my mother and is still alive at 92 and coherent.  My mother died at 82, mindless.

Tom has always felt there was magic in the fact that we came to America and lived on McClelland Street the first four months, because he grew up on 757 McClelland just a couple of miles north.  If you want to go the "magical route," then there was plenty of it for Tom and me to meet at all.

This is the first house my parents rented for $15.00 a month.  It was directly behind St. Anne's Orphanage (now a school), so our view across the street was of their vast lawn.  I knew it was an orphanage, but I fretted that I never saw any children outside.  I must have been raised with some superstitions about Catholics, because I remember thinking that the nuns kept the orphans locked up in the basement.  

Mother told me once that they had considered putting me in Catholic preschool, but decided against it.  I'd bet thirty-five cents that they were afraid I'd come home hailing Mary.

About this house:  It was a one-bedroom house with an outhouse in the back.  It did have a large bathtub and a kitchen sink, but the water just poured under the house.  If we had to pee late at night, Mother would let us pee in the tub and wash it out with a hose.  If you had to go number two, then it was out to the cranny no matter what time of night it was.

About the cranny:  bees.

Our landlord was "Sam the Greek," the only person in our family history that my parents felt belonged in hell.  Here's why:

My parents came into this forlorn little house and painted it inside and out.  My father replaced all the electrical fixtures, and because it had no heat, they put in a heater, that I think may have been fueled with coal.  They put up curtains.  They tidied the yard.  Mother washed the windows once a week.

They bought two bunkbeds for the bedroom and they slept on a fold-up couch in the living room along with Teddy in his bassinet.  Teddy was the first American baby, born the end of January, 1949. 

Sam the Greek's house was in back of ours, facing 5th East, and in his backyard, he kept goats.  The city/county line ran right between our two houses.  On one side of the line you were allowed animals and on the other side you were not.  I was always fascinated with the goats, but I'm pretty sure my mother was not. 

Anyway, when our lease was up, the house being much improved, Sam the G. raised the rent from $15 to $50 a month, a price my parents couldn't afford.  I remember my friend, Julie, from next door telling me that my dad and Sam were yelling at each other across the fence in the back.  By the time I got there, it was all over with. 

We had to move and move quickly, so my parents found a one-bedroom apartment on Main Street and 8th South in a building that was being torn down within six months.

My father removed all the fixtures he had put in, and Sam the G. sued him.  My dad was then working as an electrician, and his boss said he would go to court with him and help him explain it. In Europe, people do take electrical fixtures with them, but in America you have to leave fixtures or replace them.  The judge asked my dad to replace the fixtures.  There was no extra money involved.

"I should have painted the bugger's house black," my father later said.

St. Anne's Orphanage
Hey, there are children on the grass!


  1. Life of using the cranny ended permanently after leaving "Sam The Greek's" property?
    Your poor father!

  2. I am loving these entries. Sam the Greek is a fantastic character and your mother always looks beautiful in all the photos.

  3. Sometimes, I complain about our home because we hear the neighbors. I will stop complaining. Nobody's pooping outside at night.

  4. Your parents were the "bloom where potted" types. Mine too. I'm glad I came from that industry and perspective. Even though Sam the Greeks benefit from their labours.