My grandparents lived in a little bungalow on Earl St. in Windsor,a dead end street lined with no more than ten houses. Their house was the second last on the left and was not very imposing. But I didn’t know that at the time. It was my home in a way too. My grand father had a large parcel of land, so much so that it was divided up so that his sons and daughter could build on it. My Aunt Jessie and Uncle Bill lived behind and east of the house ,Uncle Milton and Aunt Mae lived behind them , Uncle Art and Aunt Margaret lived directly behind my grandparents and next to Aunt Jessie and Uncle Bill. The two youngest girls , my aunts, Jean and Ada, lived with Nan and Grand dad because they were still young.
I remember going to visit them. The gate off Earl St. opened into a yard that was not like the gardens of today. Back then there was no lawn . Many people kept their properties in the natural state. Usually they were too busy working to think about mowing grass and planting flowers. I remember Grand Dad raised at least one pig. It lived in a shed that was behind the house and it was the first pig I ever got up close to. And Grand Dad also had chickens .
Up from the shed was the house.When you entered it you did so through the back door. First you climbed several steps to get to a verandah that was the width of the house and then you entered the back porch. In front of you there was a wash stand with a bowl and pitcher. Above it and on the wall was a mirror. This was before there was running water. To the left of the stand was the door to the kitchen. The first thing that would catch your eye would be the wood stove directly ahead and on the far wall .In the center of the kitchen stood a long table. That table was used to feed everyone who crossed the threshold. Many a cup of tea was served on it.
It was the centre of the house and where you entertained company despite the fact that there was a front room on the other side of the kitchen stove wall. That room wasn’t used much to my knowledge before tv rather than conversation became more important. Entertainment was live. It came from the people who visited.
My grandmother would always prepare tea . And there would usually be home made bread, fresh butter and home made jam. Rat trap cheese it was called then was always cut up and placed on the table too. I loved that cheese and the name didn’t phase me at all. Nan was a quiet woman unlike Grand Dad whose voice could be heard in Grand Falls once he got going; And you never knew what was going to come out of his mouth. Some of his recitations were on the raunchy side. And I can hear Nan now, “Go on , Herb. Stop your foolishness.”
Nan always wore a dress. Of course pants hadn’t quite caught on in the 50’s. They were just starting to become women’s apparel. And on her head she wore a hairnet. I don’t know how long her hair was. I never saw it down. And she had the most interesting expressions that you rarely hear now. ” If I lives till da marro” is the one that resonates with me. I always thought nan was frail. She spoke with a pained tone. But she lived to a ripe old age.
My grandfather usually sat in a rocker to the left of the stove. He was a big man with hands that to me seemed gigantic. Sometimes those hands would grab my wrists and the more I struggled the tighter the grasp would be. He enjoyed my struggle and teased me even more. I was a little scared of him.
The bedrooms were all on the west side of the house. There were two off the kitchen. One later became a bathroom when running water became available. And there were two off the livingroom. In the living room there was a front door that I never saw used. It didn’t open to a ten foot drop though as many front doors in Newfoundland did. There was a small landing and a step in front of it.
I remember sleeping at my Nan’s when I was small. She and I shared a bed. I don’t know where Grand Dad was at the time. But I do recall that Nan snored really loudly . I tried to match my breathing with hers since it was difficult sleeping. To my chagrin I am accused of inheriting that particular talent of hers. I didn’t believe it though until my daughter very thoughtfully taped me. Anyway the night I remember staying there was a cold one. And the only reason I would remember that is my grandmother heated a brick or it might have been a rock , wrapped it in a towel and put it in the bed near my feet so that they wouldn’t be too cold. What a lovely memory that is!
A not so lovely memory involved the chamber pot. The only thing I disliked about visiting my relatives was the necessity of using the chamber pot and the outhouse. Our home in Grand Falls had a modern bathroom. But in Windsor running water came later. Consequently there were times when an uncle or aunt came to our house to get a shower.
But aside from the bathroom facilities a walk to Windsor to visit my nan was always a pleasant way to spend Sunday afternoon.
Today if you go to Windsor, Earl Street is called 11th Avenue. The name Earl Street is on a sign one street up from where it used to be. The old house is still there but the other houses have a cul de sac in front of them and are no longer in the garden as they used to be. Invisible property lines have been replaced with fences and it is no longer a family compound. One son now in his 70’s is still living in the same house he owned when I was a child but the patriarchal home belongs to stranger now. I wonder what modern changes they have made.