Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Playrooms and Forts and Attics—Oh My!

Have playrooms changed so much over the years? I don’t think so—they are made from whatever we can scrounge and wherever we can carve out a space not taken by parents.

We find them everywhere—from Otty Lake with its outdoor forts checkered throughout the pasture to the cluttered basement of the Spencerport Lochners to the huge over-hanging branches of the pine tree at 2846 to the tremendous metal trailer and woods filled with hanging vines of the Harold Taylors—playrooms are where you find the kids!

Mom would tell us that 30 West Street in Geneva was no different for them. In her words:

Big brother, Arnon, created a place of wonder in our attic. I think it was early 1937, as that is the year Arn graduated from high school. Doris was 13, I was 10, Harold 7 or so.

The attic had no floors, but just as the stairs came up, Arnon put down wood and built work benches for himself. Better choice than the cellar, which was huge, but had a dirt floor. He had drawers and cabinets, all of which he had built. We’d go up and walk across the floor joists to wherever we wanted or needed to go in the attic.

In the back of the house, there was a window all by its lonesome (this was the third floor) and below that was the roof of the back porch. Here there was space for a room-size area, about like our attic bedroom at 2846. Now it so happened that down the street lived Mr. Connelly, who was a mason. He had many, many boards that he kept in back of his house. More boards than he needed, Arnon and Doris thought, so in the dark of night (ten o’clock?), they’d go over, grab one and walk it home.

Arnon would quietly go to the attic, open the window and lean out; he’d throw down the end of a rope and Doris would tie it around the board’s middle (with little Lucille helping). Arnon would pull up the board to the window, with the two girls trying valiantly not to let it bump against the house as it went over the porch roof so that Daddy would hear. In this manner, Arnon slowly put a floor in that area and built two bunk beds; we used burlap bags nailed over 2 x 4’s for the mattresses.

I will never forget the walk to get to our playroom! You had to balance on the skinny floor joists for about 30 feet or so just to get to it. It was only us Taylor kids up there, as to get there, you had to be half goat!!

We used to play house up there; we found some old dishes and pretended to cook. Doris made her big rag doll, Elmer, specifically for the playroom, so he sat with us through every lovely tea time and doll party. The only snack we ever had up there were raisins as we ran the risk of mice otherwise. Spring and fall it was grand. Summer, Too hot! Winter, Too cold!!

Picture One: Doris and Elmer

Picture Two: Back of 30 West, 1931. Shows back shed kids had to get lumber up for their clubhouse--Doris, Esther, Harold, Ruth, Arnon, CB


Anonymous said...

Pat, are you the author of the intro to this classic? I'd never heard this story, nor about Elmer, before. Thanks!

I remember the loft area in Dan and Tim's room on Fielding Road. It was an "L" part of the room, with the floor at what seemed awfully high to us then, but probably was about adult chest height. We used the ladder from the bunk beds to get up there. Dan and Tim had their train set there, running around the floor.

For some reason, our name for it was "the high partee." It made that room special to us.


Pat said...

Yes, I wrote the intro--

I would love to hear all about any and all playrooms in the cousins memories!

Our forts in the Otty Lake pasture were named after the names of the kids who built them, so for a summer or two, the HayAffKinTa forts--with the Big Drum--ruled the lake, or so we thought.

Later, the huge tree fort by Dan's land--covered with Matt's poison ivy--was the place to be.

I LOVE the Elmer story. It was a late addition to the attic playroom story, and I almost fell over when Mom said that she had a picture of this Elmer doll and Dad would send it. Wonderful!!

Hawkes family--have you heard of Elmer??! What a handsome guy!

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is the Taylor bunch standing in front of the back shed which was really the back porch of the house , covered/ That is where the washing machine lived until wash day when it came in the kitchen! And to the right of us is Mom's perennial garden which Arnon had helped her make!! . Some rock garden and the rest composed of all the ' Slips " that anyone gave her and she could root, or bulbs! There were lovely iris, tulips, delphiniums, etc. She really had a green thumb as did everyone else in the family except Esther and me!
And don't forget the cardboard houses that Beth had at Otty and the BOYS desecrated!!! CB