Posts Tagged ‘home improvement’

I spent a fair amount of time at my grandparents’ house on Hope Street as a kid.

And through this blog, I’ve spent a fair amount of time revisiting it in my mind — most notably in a post from this week in 2012, when I wrote a room-by-room tour of the place from memory.

That’s why I was interested — though maybe not surprised — to discover that one of my grandpa’s recently discovered journals includes a year-by-year list of every significant improvement made to the house, starting in January 1946 and ending in October 1984.

The first page ...

The first page …

... and the last.

… and the last.

It would have been around October 1984 that my grandparents sold the house at 1107 Hope to developers, who tore it down the following year to make room for condos.

I can only assume that front porch roof really needed to be reshingled in the fall of ’84; I can’t imagine my grandpa enjoyed sinking $350 (about $800 in 2015 money) into a house he knew he was going to leave.

On the other hand, I am oddly touched by the $2.44 spent on a new toggle light switch for the bathroom medicine cabinet. It’s like a fresh young soldier reporting to a platoon that knows the battle’s lost. Here’s this shiny new part looking forward to a lifetime of service, and getting six months tops before the bulldozers come.

I won’t bore my Five Readers with a lengthy breakdown of what got spent, when. I know no one really cares about the details.

I will share some of the more interesting items, though.

For starters, here’s a list of the paint colors (besides basic gray, white, blue and green) applied to different parts of the house over that 38-year period. The house in my memory was fairly drab — maybe “plain” is a kinder word — but this parade of names makes it sound like a riot of color:

Pine green
Mint green
Light green
Kentucky green
Cordovan brown
Forest green
Dawn yellow
Pilgrim gray
Smoke gray
Park green
Misty gray
Blue moon
Provincial grey
Slate grey
Pastel pink
Battleship gray
Candleglow (it appears to be a light beige-yellow)
Mission rose
Antique white

And now for some journal entries:

October 1946.

October 1946. Twenty-five pounds of furnace asbestos. Wonder what that was — insulation, maybe? It was only a buck — good deal if you didn’t mind getting cancer years later.

April 1947.

April 1947. My grandpa splurges and blows eight dollars on evergreens. Wonder if they are the ones visible in this photo from circa 1973.

October 1947: Wood for the rose arbor.

October 1947: Wood for the rose arbor. This might or might not be the (heavily weathered) wood from the cover photo of Hope’s Treat, the official soundtrack to the Hope Street blog.

March 1956. Remember when a radio was something you got fixed?

March 1956. Remember when a radio was something you got fixed?

April 1957. Look, Ma, I made the newspaper.

April 1957. Look, Ma, I made the newspaper. Wonder how many of these building improvements — heck, how many of these buildings — are still extant today. Also, I have always thought of Stamford as a predominantly Italian city with a minority of eastern Europeans, and this clipping does nothing to change my mind.

August 26, 1967.

August 26, 1967. Home security is not a running theme in this journal, so the mention of a lock stands out. My grandparents’ home would be broken into in the early ’80s — perhaps a minor contributing factor to their eventual decision to sell.

October 18, 1968.

October 18, 1968. This is probably the same clothesline my grandfather photographed, encased in ice, after the ice storm of December 1973.

January-February 1975.

January-February 1975. Regardless of what Fela Kuti might tell you, water is the homeowner’s enemy. I think this is the only reference to an insurance claim in the entire journal. At least it’s the only one that sticks out now that I’ve been through it three or four times.

October 14, 1977. No idea why my grandpa saw fit to illustrate this, but here you go.

October 14, 1977. No idea why my grandpa saw fit to illustrate this, but here you go.

October 1979.

October 1979. It’s a family affair: John Jacobellis, who replaced part of my grandpa’s porch floor, is my cousin on my mom’s side. (He’s been active in the building trades in Stamford for many years, and is referenced in passing in this post from four years ago.) He shows up in my grandpa’s journal on one or two other occasions in the late ’70s and early ’80s, as well.

March 5, 1981. Salty Grandpa shows up for a moment ("crap trap").

March 5, 1981. Salty Grandpa shows up for a moment (“crap trap”).

Summer 1983.

Summer 1983. My grandpa tackles a home improvement task — and, by his own concession, does a “lousy job.” The roots of the sale of Hope Street and the move to Rochester might lie in moments like this, as my grandfather realized he was no longer as capable of this sort of repair as he used to be.


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Grandparents’ houses are not usually places that seem to change a lot when you’re a kid.

I mean, sure, Grandma and Grandpa might get a new fridge once every decade, or repaint a room here or there. But for the most part, grandparents’ houses tend to stay pretty constant in terms of decor, furnishings and general appearance.

(When you’re a kid, you don’t realize that everything in your grandparents’ home lasts so long because there are no kids around to break it, dent it or wear it out.)

I can even remember a specific glass candy dish at my grandparents’ home at 1107 Hope Street that seemed to have the exact same candy in it every time I visited. They were these sorts of candies.

I do not associate the taste of hard candy with the house because I do not recall ever actually eating any. But any time I see those sort of ridged old-school candies with the patterns on the top, I think of that candy dish.

Anyway, this week’s calendar entry features a rare thing — my grandpa preparing to make a noticeable change to his home.

April 20, 1972. Now they know how many tiles it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

(Yes, this calendar entry also captures my grandpa buying another lottery ticket. Maybe even two. Perhaps he was more of a gambler than I thought. Nah. I doubt it.)

As with so many other calendar entries, I enjoy my grandpa’s attention to detail. Not only did he write down where he bought the kitchen tiles, but also how many.

I can only assume that 144 tiles was the minimum available quantity. Either that or they were tiny tiles. It wasn’t a large kitchen.

Perhaps he wrote down these details for reference purposes. Maybe he thought he was gonna retile his kitchen floor again in a few years and would need the information then.

Although, even if he did, he was the sort who would have enjoyed taking out his tape-measure afresh, sitting down again with a pad of paper and calculating how many tiles he would need to do the job.

I do not think he ever tackled the job again. I think the kitchen tiles my grandpa laid down in the spring of ’72 were still there thirteen or so years later when the wreckers came for the house.

So, I conclude that this entry is yet another in a series of monuments to detail for detail’s sake.

You know how they say, “Pictures or it didn’t happen?” Well, for my grandpa it was, “Calendar entry or it didn’t happen.”

Except — this being the Blumenau family — we took pictures, too.

I wish my kitchen were that clean. Or my laundry room, for that matter.

Peel it and stick it.

My aunt, dressed for the times, joins in.

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