There’s No Place Like (My Own) Home

Grandma and Grandpa Madden - 1006 Nelson Street

Recently a friend and her husband moved into their first home and their excitement of their new homestead rekindled my memories of how I also felt over 30 years ago when I moved into my first home.

Those memories of the first home are powerful because despite renting or owning or the size or simplicity of that first home, no one forgets the satisfaction and attainment of having your own place. And I might venture to say that this has continued for generations.

Soon after I moved to my first home, my mom, who is now deceased, shared with me the story of the first home that her parents owned:

“Back in the early 1930’s when I was growing up, my two brothers, Murice and Dewey, and my two sisters, Jo Ellen and Priscilla and I were living with Mom and Pop on Nelson Street in Webb City, Missouri. My other three siblings had already moved away from home. Mom and Pop rented that house until the time I was married in 1948.

It was a very drab one bedroom home. It had a big kitchen and living room. I don’t recall how we slept then. We might have slept on the floor in the living room.

In the winter we sat around our wood stove and kerosene lamps to keep us warm. We didn’t have any electricity until I was about eight, and we were one of the first families in town to get it. But there was only a light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

We had an outhouse. In the winter we’d run out there barefoot in the snow. When dishes had to be done, there was always someone who had to go. We used old Sears’s catalogs or newspapers for toilet paper.

When Mom and Pop first moved into this home, they rented it for $6.00 a month. Then because the landlords felt a bit kindly toward them they let them buy the house at $6.00 a month. I think they paid a total of $600 for it.”

My mother’s parents were always humble people but in this picture I see them as sitting proudly in front of their home, and I’m fortunate that my mother recorded the memories of their home.

Keeping Your Memories of your life and the homes you lived in will be enjoyable reading for your great grandchildren years from now and they will learn from you how you were able to support and maintain your home.

Open up your laptop or grab a pen and paper, find a picture of that first home to add to your story, write the address and start recording your home life experiences for future generations to read. Start with these questions:

• What made you fall in love with your first home?
• Were you living by yourself or with someone?
• Did you have many possessions to move with you to this first home?
• What special events occurred while living in this home?
• What were the sounds of your home and neighborhood?


He Has Run a Good Race


Mr. and Mrs. Stephens

One week ago today Mr. Stephens passed at the age of 91. He was…is…always will be…the father of Carol, my BFF since 1965. 91 years old. That is a long life, and it is easier to accept the passing of a loved one who has lived a long and fulfilling life. But I still mourn. And perhaps it is a selfish mourning. I miss being the child and being loved and cared for by not only my parents but also other elders in my life.

On Sunday, five days before he passed, I went to visit Carol and her family to celebrate Mrs. Stephens’ 90th birthday and to say goodbye to Mr. Stephens. I don’t believe at any time with all the days, nights, hours that I spent at that home did I ever go into her parents’ bedroom until that day.

In these 52 years, I have never seen him lying down asleep. But that Sunday I saw this 91-year-old man in his well-worn body laying in drug induced subdued pain. For the first time, I stood over him. For the first time when I spoke to him, he couldn’t respond to me. For the first time in 52 years, I gently kissed him on his forehead when I said my last good-bye.

On my drive home that day I reminisced about my past and how enjoyable it was because of the wonderful people that I had in my life.

As a young child, life was simple. I played outside. I rode my Schwinn banana seat bike without a helmet down the middle of the side streets. On rainy days I played board games and watched TV. I walked by myself to school. I ate whatever my mother fixed that day for dinner. I shopped for frivolous luxuries on my weekly $1.00 allowance.

In the 1960’s it was not unusual that my friends shared bedrooms with multiple siblings as it was common to have four to seven siblings per family.  There were even a few families in school that had twelve siblings. And many siblings had friends within the same families. My four brothers all had a close friend from Carol’s family also.

The majority of my friend’s mothers were housewives who devoted the majority of their time to managing a tribe of children and overseeing the maintenance of the home that was infested with their children and their children’s friends coming in and out of the doors continuously throughout the day.

But our childhood was enjoyable because our fathers, like Mr. Stephens, and many of the fathers of my childhood friends, provided for us and set an example before our generation of being hard-working individuals who grew up during the Great Depression.  They knew the struggles of poverty and knew it was possible to do better in life with hard work and determination. They knew how to make life better for their children and through all of this they taught by example to work diligently.

This past Monday Mr. Stephen’s wife, children, grandchildren and great children gathered along with extended family and friends to celebrate his life. His grandchildren shared how he impacted their lives with his patience and wisdom along with his willingness to teach, to help, and to love.

A portion of his obituary read:  “He was a 1943 graduate of Hammond Tech High School. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served on the USS Kingfish submarine during World War II in the Pacific Theater, as a Torpedoman Second Class. After the War, he served on the USS Atule submarine in the Arctic Ocean, finished his tour on the USS Toro, and was honorably discharged in 1947. Upon returning, he began working for local steel mills, and retired from Bethlehem Steel after over 40 years in the steel industry. He was an avid runner, running in the Chicago Marathon in 1979 at age 53. Ed also enjoyed fishing, camping, boating, water skiing, and traveling coast to coast with his wife and children to see other family and friends.”

Mr. Stephens was also a second father to many. I am so thankful for the kindness and patience he has always shown to me my entire life. He has impacted my life and taught by example. May I only do the same for my children and grandchildren as he has done for his.

What childhood memories do you have of your friend’s parents? Preserving the legacies of these important people will prevent them from ever being forgotten and future descendants will enjoy reading about your childhood.

Pull out your laptop and grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of someone who impacted your life as a child.



Young Love


Today my childhood best friend’s family hosted a 90th birthday celebration for their father. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of this family for over 50 years and to share in today’s celebration. Mulling over what birthday gift to give to him, I decided a matted picture frame with a copy of their wedding picture and a condensed version of the love story that his wife, Margaret, had shared with me when I recorded her life story would be priceless…and it was! Next month they will celebrate their 66th anniversary and as shown in pictures from today, they are still in love!

Margaret’s recollection shared on June 11, 2011 of how she met and fell in love with a young man named Ed:

“It was 1949, about four years after the war ended, when a family with three girls and a boy moved just across the street from where we lived. They treated me nice, very nice …all of them. One of the sisters married somebody that knew this young man. Her husband had been in the service. But he had lived with his family in Hammond and lived close to where Ed had lived.

I and two of the sisters belonged to a Bunco Club and one night one of the ladies in the club started telling us about this guy who came back from service. She talked about his beautiful blue eyes.

At that time of my life I was a roller skater and often went roller skating with these sisters. I really enjoyed it very much. Several of the kids that roller skated often stopped to get a drink and would go home. And one night that’s how I happened to meet him.

I watched Ed, and I could tell what she meant about him and his beautiful blue eyes. She introduced us to each other, and we went on our first date to Teibel’s which was at that time in North Hammond.

He got a ring and gave it to me. I don’t think it was a whole lot of money. We were really wanting to get married, however, he wanted to make the last payment on his car before we got married. So we planned it that he made the last payment on the car, and I paid for the wedding license. We were married on February 11, 1950.”

Musty Books and Salty Popcorn

2015-06-27Memories of my childhood public library were recently stirred. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s my childhood best friend, Carol and I would walk or ride our bikes numerous times to the Hansen branch on Martha and Vine Street.

The musty smell of the library would immediately hit us when we opened the door of this brick building. The reception desk was immediately at the entrance. On the right side was the adult’s section and on the left was the children’s section. I can visualize the card catalog cabinets and the square benches topped with vinyl orange cushions. After perusing the books and choosing my picks for the week, I’d pull out my library card that had my name and address embossed on the bottom and the green stripe across the top with Hammond Public Library printed on it. At that time they used a pre-“post-it note” that would have the due date printed on it and placed on the pocket that held the card for that book.

Before going back home Carol and I would visit the Hessville Dime Store on Kennedy Avenue that was located across the street. The dime store was a fascinating place for us to shop when we were young.

I must have spent quite a bit of my allowance at the store because I could always find something to buy. On every visit I followed the ritual of walking to the last aisle to the right of the store to thoroughly examine all the inexpensive toys that were displayed on reachable cabinets. From there I would either go to the corner of the store where the large popcorn machine stood and buy the delicious salty popcorn or walk to the glass encased candy display across from the cash registers and sales ladies and wish I could buy it all.

Perhaps the candy was displayed there because the sales ladies were always suspicious of every child that walked in the store. Since they didn’t have security cameras then, they would follow us throughout the store to make sure we weren’t going to begin a life of shoplifting at the young age of ten.

Both the library and dime store have been closed for over twenty five years. I believe the library eventually became a police station post and the dime store building was razed and the site is now a parking lot. Although the buildings no longer physically exist, they will forever emotionally exist in the memories of my childhood as part of wonderful summer days spent inside both of these dream filled buildings.

What special childhood memories do you have? Now is the time for you to pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your childhood and places that you regularly visited.

  • What locations did you regularly visit?
  • How did you commute to these locations?
  • Did you get to go to these places by yourself or did you have to go with a parent?
  • Describe the details of this location.
  • Describe the smell of this location

Friends Sharpen Friends…

2015-03-15 HBC friends

Proverbs 27:17 reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”  Forty years ago I became friends with these girls from my church youth group. I was fourteen years old. They were sixteen and seventeen years old. At that age it was a significant age difference, but they still included me and welcomed me in their group.

The next two years I joined them on activities with the youth group. I spent many afternoons and nights at Kathy’s home eating her mom’s delectable home baked goods in between laughing and talking with one another as well as flirting with the guys who also came to her home. I loved not only the late night laughter and good times, but also the late night talks about life and teenage hardships that we helped each other through.

Time quickly passed and these ladies graduated from high school, and we all started on our separate paths. Some started working full time and others went to college. Next came weddings and children. On that path we also crossed intersections of sadness with divorces and death. I occasionally kept in touch with a few through annual Christmas cards but even those slowly stopped.

However, with time our paths crossed again when Kathy began coordinating reunions, and we all easily started catching up with one another again. The reunions along with social media have helped us to keep in touch with one another and to reach out during times of celebration, times of medical needs, and times of sorrow.

These ladies have played an important part in my life and I find it important to preserve the memories of my high school friendships for my children and future grandchildren. One day they will be able to read how life was like for me as a teenager in the 1970’s and how good friends helped me then and now.

Now is the time for you to pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your friends and record how they influenced you, how you helped them and how they helped you.

  • Who was your best friend in your neighborhood?
  • What do you remember about your friend’s house?
  • What do you remember about your friend’s family?
  • What did you and your friend have in common?
  • What types of celebrations, trials and sorrows did you support each other through?