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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Starting Out

A recent photograph of my parents’ first house.
The five of us lived there with my paternal grandparents.


I really enjoy the show “House Hunters”. It airs here in the U.S. on HGTV. It’s similar to “Location, Location, Location” that used to air here on BBC America, except the home buyers work with different realtors in each episode. HGTV also runs the fun companion program “House Hunters International”. Chuck and I both get a kick out of “touring” the prospective homes and guessing (more like rooting for) which home the person, couple or family will (should) buy. The cherry on top is when the show revisits the new home owner a few weeks or months after they moved in and we see them settled into their new digs.

Recently, I’ve been struck by how big the housing budgets are for some very young buyers. And some of them seem to have champagne tastes, but are apparently not operating on a beer budget! Three or more bedrooms with three or more baths, a deluxe kitchen with all the bells and whistles and great rooms seem to be the norm. Remember “starter homes”? They were compact, affordable houses where kids shared bedrooms, the family ate in the kitchen and the only bell or whistle was the front door bell - maybe! Continuing along these lines, do folks ever buy cinderblocks and pine boards to build bookcases anymore? My Dad built mine when I was a kid. He stained the pine boards and polyurethaned them. Then we painted the gray cinderblocks to match the “decor” of the room. My grandmother, Gagee, made my curtains out of sheets and I sewed pillows out of bandanas.

If folks can truly afford deluxe and they want deluxe, that’s great, more power to ’em. I just hope that the folks who want deluxe, but can’t yet afford it, know that a starter house can be a very good thing to really live in - not just a property to quickly “flip” for profit. Most of us with clear recollections of the 1960s and earlier decades, started out with small budgets, in small houses. And a lot of us had pretty cool makeshift bookcases built with cinderblocks.

8 comments:

Gail said...

I know you don't remember Gentian Avenue as clearly as I do but wouldn't you love to get in there and see what they've done to the place? I recognized the house immediately but it looks like they have added on in the back.

A blast from the past!

Post Road would be fun too.

Pink Granite said...

Hi Gail -
You're right - I don't remember it as clearly as you because I was only four when we moved. I can still see the floorplan and walk through it in my mind, but the details are fuzzy.
I would love to walk through now. But a walk through Post Road would be even more amazing! I'd also like to go back to Gagee & Gramps' house on Taft Street!
;o)
- Lee

dancingmorganmouse said...

You are so right on the "want it all now" attitude - our first home was tiny (our 2nd one isn't much bigger) but 2 people don't need 3 or 4 bedrooms, several bathrooms and all the rest of it. And all that stuff, does it really make people happy, or just unhappy because they end up wanting more and better stuff?

Roo said...

That is a sweet house! I remember the house I was brought up in, I thought it huge, and when I rode past it a few years back I had to look twice, but then I recognised it, as the rose growing up the front was still the same one my father planted for my mother ;o)

Pink Granite said...

Hi DMM -
I think you're right on the mark. I think it was Oprah Winfrey who said the first thing she wanted when she made some real money was nice towels. The next big raise it was nicer towels and so on until she realized she kept raising the bar on herself.
- Lee

Hi Roo -
You've spoken so fondly about that rose. I'm happy the subsequent owners appreciated the beauty, even if they didn't know the lovely sentiment behind it.
- Lee

Anonymous said...

As a first time house buyer now, we could never afford all the "bells and whistles". We were lucky to find a house that was affordable in what we consider "
move-in" condition...I watch those shows too thinking they must all have trust funds! Carrie

Karen said...

Wow! LeeAnn,
Where did you get this shot!
I was just talking to Joe about going back to Rhode Island someday and taking Jackie to see where he lived on Bluff Ave in Cranston.

That was before he was Gagee and Gramps' paperboy when they lived on Taft St and his family lived on Rhodes Ave off Warwick Ave where it splits from Broad St at St Paul's Church.

I said I had no real interest in going back to Gentian Ave because I knew that it had changed almost immediately after we sold it and left for Warwick.

The house on the left, as you are looking at it, belonged to a "Grandma & Grandpa" named Schregy(sp?). It had a very large and beautiful hedge where you can see a fence now. I used to play with their grandson Billy when he was over visting. He was about my age.

Then, as can only happen in Rhode Island, a family named Reilly moved in and it turned out that Mom had gone to school with Mrs. Reilly! What I really remember about them are two things. One their youngest child had the cutest knickname "Tender" and their son Eddy was younger then Gail or I and he had a little boy "crush' on me.
Once when I came home all dressed up in white with a veil etc. from ? Confirmation or May Day celebrations, he took one look at me and ran in to his Mom crying that I must have gotten married!

Even I can't believe I remember that story!
The house on the right was a large family named McKiernan (sp?).
We had a really beautiful lilac bush between the properties. Allergy problems galore but well worth it. It appears from the shot you posted that they might have built a detached garage out in the back yard where the huge tree was that was split down the middle during the 1951 hurricane. Long before your time. Gail and I sat on the kitchen table at the window watching the wing and rain.
There wasn't any fence back then either.
Boy this really brought back some wild memory's! I could go on forever. Do you remember the finished basement?

Love Kat

Pink Granite said...

Hi Carrie -
We are tickled pink that you and Al found a lovely home in a lovely neighborhood! The fact that it met all of your unique needs and is in "move in" condition is amazing! We wish you every happiness!
As for the trust fund babies - maybe you'll find a long lost Picasso painting in the attic of your new home - next stop Antiques Roadshow!
;o)
- Auntie Lee


Hi Karen -
Wow! Where do begin? In the middle I guess -

Tender was, I think, just a teensy bit older than me, my friend and my idol. Under the heading of "Rhode Island is a very small world": Tender and her brother own or work at the funeral home Gagee went out of!
I remember Joe's house when he lived near Gagee & Gramps. I also remember and love the story of his very long walk from there under very difficult circumstances!
I don't remember the lilac bush on Gentian. But I do remember Dad making a snow kitchen for me in the backyard!
Chuck and I went back to Gentian, Modena and St. Augustine's in June 2006. It all started because we went to a birthday party for his aunt. It was held just down the street from St. Joseph's Church and the old Cleary School. I took great delight in saying: "Hey, that's where my family started!" because it was where Mom and Dad met in the choir! So we drove all over Providence - including Hope HS and St. Xavier's!
I do remember the finished basement!
I absolutely LOVE the Eddy Reilly story of your imagined wedding day!
Phew!
I think I hit the highlights!
Thanks for all the great memories and stories!
;o)
Love,
Lee