Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I Can See Clearly Now

by Connie Cortright

When we actually close on the sale of our house in a couple weeks, I wonder if the new owner will appreciate all the new windows we added to our house - and the money we spent on this huge project. It surely is wonderful with the newer windows. Here's the original article about putting in the new windows:

I took the day off of work today because we were finally getting the rest of our old windows replaced.
Old windows with rope showing
We started this long costly process more than two and a half years ago. Our 1926 house still had the original single pane windows in after all these year. Just try to imagine how warm it was in our house with the old windows still in place, especially during a windy winter storm. The single pane of glass didn't keep the cold out at all. Thank goodness storm windows were added in the past, but the cold seeped through, none the less.

We tackled this problem a bit at a time as we could afford.
Today the contractors are replacing the last twelve of the twenty-six windows we have in our house. As you well know, the cost of doing all of these windows at the same time was very prohibitive, so we did it in several stages.

If you're wondering how we know the windows are the original ones, I can answer that very simply. They have ropes on the sides of the windows as you can see in the photo. I'd never heard of ropes in windows until we moved into this house. Of course, if you live in or grew up in an older house, this may be nothing new for you.

Example of pulley and rope
It is called the rope/pulley-counter weight balance system. The window sash has a rope attached to each side of the window, running along the frame and over a pulley that is mounted into the frame. The rope disappears over the pulley and down into the wooden frame. The other end of the rope is attached to a weight inside the wood. (Of course, cold air has easy access to the house through these empty chambers that hold the weights.) When the window is opened, the weight holds the window in place so it doesn't fall.

All windows build before 1945 were made like this. Houses back in the 1920s and 30s were probably cold most of the winter with the single pane glass and the rope chambers allowing the cold air into the house.

I have to say that this system worked well despite its age. The windows in our house were very easy to open and stayed where I put them. The one disadvantage was that the pulleys got very squeaky. At least, a burglar would not have been able to enter our house through a window without waking up the entire household.

New window in our dining area
It was interesting to watch them take out the old windows. The window contractors cut the ropes holding the windows and let the weights fall to the bottom of the empty compartments. Then they stuffed insulation into those areas to make sure the cold air can't get in anymore. We need all the help we can get making our house warmer for this winter.

If anyone feels like donating to our window replacement fund, let me know. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How Ironic

by Connie Cortright

Here's another re-run article about our house that we are selling. We heard that new owners these days are re-installing the doors that covered similar spaces and use the shelves for spices. Good idea.

Since we're on a roll with mystery items, I'm going to continue with a mystery posting today. The mystery was in our 1926 house when we moved in a couple years ago.

In our kitchen located between the stairs going up and the stairs going down was a little knick-knack shelf about a foot wide and three inches deep. It worked well for my bell collection, so I didn't think much about it when we moved in.

After we were in our house for a couple months, we noticed that on one side of the shelf was a metal bracket matching the door closure found on our pantry cabinets. This little shelf previously had a door on it. A couple weeks later when cleaning out our garage, we found the door that fit on this former cabinet space. Why would there be a three-inch deep cabinet with a door in our kitchen built in 1926? Did they have miniature kettles back then? Was this for storage of beer mugs?  Thus, our mystery.

My mother solved the mystery for us when we explained it all to her. She immediately said it used to be used for a built-in ironing board. But why would the original owner want an ironing board located in the kitchen? After a bit of research, the most logical explanation was because irons were heated on the stove, so it was normal to do the ironing in the kitchen close to the stove.

Built-in ironing boards were the latest innovation in newly constructed homes back then. These ironing boards were made to fold up and fit into the three to four inch cupboard. This way the lady of the house could open the door, pull down the ironing board and accomplish her task in no time. And then just as easily fold it up and close the door to hide the necessary equipment. I only wish I could shut a door and make my ironing board disappear today.

Electric irons were also a new innovation around this time.  Prior to the early 20th century flat irons had to be reheated on the stove after only a few ironing strokes. Many women had three flat irons in rotation  when ironing --two heating on the stove and one pressing out the wrinkles of a shirt. After a stroke or two, the iron would be switched out for the hottest one on the burner. The task of ironing was not so unbearably hot when the new electric irons were used.

Which leaves the biggest problem that women faced back then. When homes were finally wired for electricity, they only had electricity running to the light bulb in the center of the ceiling. Pictures of women using electric irons have the cord running straight up to the ceiling where it was plugged into the outlet sharing the light bulb socket. (Our house must have been built with very high standards since it has the original wall outlet still gracing our kitchen.)

What good did all the new electric appliances do for a wife at home if there was no place to plug them in? Can you imagine asking your hubby to spend lots of money to have an electrician come to your house and rewire it for outlets in the walls, just so you could use the modern conveniences - iron, vacuum cleaner, refrigerator, waffle iron, or toaster-- in your housework? I don't know if I'd have had the courage to suggest it.

I wonder how fast this really happened in most homes.

Information taken from Old & Interesting

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hunger Games

by Connie Cortright

Here's the one about our lovely pantry - which I will miss terribly after we move.

     Where does your family go when hunger strikes? We go searching for tasty treats in my favorite part of our house – our walk-in pantry. Since our home was built in 1926, this was a typical style built in that era.

     Our pantry is not like the usual cupboard style that I’ve seen in any other house I’ve lived in. It is a little room four feet by seven feet off of our kitchen. It’s lined with open shelves on the top holding all my food staples plus room for extra paper towels, appliances, etc.

     The bottom half is full of cupboards with doors on them - enough storage to hold all my Tupperware plus seldom used kettles and other sundries. The storage space doubles what most people have in their entire kitchen.

     The counter space above the lower cupboards is great for storing my cookbooks, our toaster and snack canisters. I’m sure most women would be envious of this wonderful space.

     When we saw our house for the first time, my husband declared this little room “Aunt Reddy’s pantry”. I asked my mother-in-law about  the story behind the name. She told me when he was a little boy, he went to Aunt Loretta’s house while his mother was working, thus a familiar remembrance of a pantry in an old home like ours.

     My husband says he remembers Aunt Reddy’s pantry most for the wonderful smells. I can imagine it would contain smells like cinnamon and other cooking spices, making this space so appealing to him. His mother added the extra bit of information that Aunt Reddy kept her cookie jar on the pantry shelf.

     He said that he and his brother used the space in the pantry to play fort when they were at his aunt’s house because there was a curtain that divided it off from the kitchen. It sounds like a wonderful place for children to hide or set up a play fort.
  I’m sure the two small boys had their own version of hunger games when they were playing in Aunt Reddy’s pantry with the cookie jar nearby. Yummy!

     Do you have a favorite spot in your house where a cookie jar may be lurking? 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Milk Doors

by Connie Cortright

I could never forget the first article ever written for this blog about milk doors. The inspiration for this blog came from the milk door at our house. Does that mean when I move away from the milk door, I'll have to quit writing this blog? A very interesting question I don't have the answer for at this point. Here's the first blog post from August, 2012. Lots has happened since then including my first published book!

Through the Milk Door?  What kind of journey is that?  What is a milk door? Why give a blog such a name?

As some of you know, I’ve been learning the art of writing a novel the past several years by working on two historical romances that are “works in progress”.  But in that progress, I’ve learned so many tidbits about early twentieth century life that our grandparents and great-grandparents lived through that I wanted to find a way to share these the many, many stories I’ve learned about life back then with my family and friends – thus, a blog.

Now, what’s with the milk door? My grandmother would’ve had no problem answering this question, and others like it, because she lived in the time when milk doors were an everyday item, probably as common as email “boxes” today.

Milk doors were found on houses that were built before 1940 or so. About a foot square, they were located close to the side door where the milkman would deliver glass quarts of fresh milk several times during the week. Used before the days of refrigerators, these doors allowed him to deliver milk well before the occupants were awake.

The doors opened from the outside to reveal a small area located in the walls. The empty bottles were left in the milk door with the order form for the day rolled and stuck in the neck of a bottle. The order would then be filled by the milkman (I don’t think there were any “milk ladies” back then!). There was another corresponding door inside the house that would be opened by a hungry boy or girl when it was time for breakfast.

Milk doors have disappeared from use in these days of supermarkets and convenience stores.  Still, we have milk door in our 1928 house near the back door—a quiet and quaint reminder of days gone by. Last year when we moved in, we found the outer entrance for the milk door boarded up and several old locks placed on the door inside the house. Sadly, I imagine previous owners feared that this little door could be an entryway for thieves and sealed it up–a sad commentary on the days we live in.

I’ve read that these little doors were, in fact, sometimes used as emergency entrances for the owners when they were inadvertently locked out. A little child would be hoisted up and lifted through the milk door and unlock the back door from the inside. What an adventure for that tyke! I wonder what happened when the youngest child got too large to fit through the door!? Most of us can probably remember a time when we wished there was such a hatch out of our problems! 

In C.S. Lewis’s fantasy, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, four young children travel to the magical land of Narnia by passing through the doors of a wardrobe.  I’d like to invite you, dear reader, through my magical little door, a humble little milk door, to explore with me life and living in times past.  Come and pass through the milk door each week with me to wander in simpler, homier times.  I’d love your company! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

This Old Bungalow House - Sold

by Connie Cortright

News to share with all my readers... We've accepted an offer to sell our house. We're downsizing and moving to an apartment in the next month. Since so many of my blog posts were about features in our 1926 house, I'm going to rerun those posts (besides, I won't have time to work on new ones for several weeks.) Hope you enjoy these posts even though you might have seen them before.

I've written blogs about different items in my house, but I've never discussed what type of house I live in. Our house was built in 1926, so what type of houses were built back then?

It is a bungalow- a one and one-half story house with a low pitched roof - very popular in 1920s. The term bungalow originated in India as a dwelling of any size, but when bungalows came to the Unites States they were generally small homes like ours.

Ours was built out of brick so it is holding up very well for its age. In fact, when we moved in, all the windows were the original rope and pulley type. They're squeaky, but the ropes and pulleys still work. Since we've moved in, we've started replacing the old windows for warmth in the winter.

A bungalow usually had the living space on the ground floor and a full basement. It was common for them to have gables built in the roof to expand the upper floor and have access to light and fresh air. The upstairs areas were used for attic space. Most also had large porches on the front of the house, often enclosed to make sun rooms.

Ours was built with all the modern amenities of the time - electricity and plumbing. Of course, each room had only one ceiling light in the center, with a switch on the wall, and one electrical outlet, whether you needed it or not. Guess people back then didn't like a lot of light in a room. Not too convenient for modern usage, though. Both of our bedrooms still only have the single outlet in each room. Makes life interesting sometimes.

Our kitchen has the original electrical outlet from when it was constructed. The configuration of it is very interesting, so I'll attach a picture. When we first moved in we were skeptical that it would still be hooked to the power supply, but it was.

The upstairs bedroom and bathroom were added many years after the home was constructed. Because of the low-pitch of the roof, it's difficult to walk around in most of the room except for the middle peak of the ceiling. At least there are more plugs up there to use.

The low-pitch of the roof-line make the stairs very interesting to go up and down. The clearance space at one point is only four feet high. No gable was placed in the roof over the stairs to make it more usable. That might be one thing we change in the years ahead. (GUESS THE NEW OWNER WILL HAVE TO DO THAT NOW)

Thank goodness our children are all grown and married. With only two people in the house, we don't use the upstairs much at all. It's a guest suite when the grandchildren come to visit us. They like having their own little "castle" upstairs since you have to climb the steps almost like going up into a turret.

We love our bungalow even is if it is rather small. The historical woodwork and built in cabinets far outweigh what it might lack in size.

We will sorely miss this wonderful house, but it's time to move on with our lives.