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The Philedelphia Room – The Pros And Cons Of Living In Your Husbands Childhood Home

“No!” was the answer I got often as I asked if we could live without this piece of furniture, less dusty, musty books, (don’t get me wrong. I love books. But who needs ‘Dutton’s Navigation and Piloting’ or the complete set of ‘Sea Frontier’ magazines, all bound in notebooks by the year!) And what about that huge framed picture and all the other miscellaneous framed works that do not fit into the beach house style?  The list was ongoing. We recently moved into Harry’s childhood home – the home he had grown up in since he was ten years old. There were a lot of memories for him, but not for me. His parents kept everything. I do have memories of this house, only they were of more recent times.

Here’s a funny memory! – My 4 year old grandson Ty, now 16, walked through the house on his first visit here after a long trip from Louisiana and exclaimed sadly, “Well I can see they don’t have no TV’s.” There were TV’s on corner shelves up so high you had to crane your neck to see them from a standing position. A four year old was certainly going to miss that.  Harry’s dad had decided in the late 60’s that would give them more room in this tiny house and his mother said,  “Yay! I can buy more furniture.” This was not going to be a fun trip with no TV was probably rolling around in Ty’s mind. 🙂

Harry moved into this house fifty-seven years ago when it was newly built with his parents and two younger brothers. The yard had not been landscaped and more houses were being built all around them in the subdivision. His father had come from Maryland to Florida for a job interview and bought the house without his mother even seeing it! I’m sure at the time she thought it was a castle because I’ve seen the sorta duplex type housing they moved from. Only two bedrooms with those three growing boys and this monster has three plus one and a half baths.  🙂 She was in heaven!

We have the original papers, bank note, and deed. (We also have original birth, death, and marriage certificates along with pictures of everyone and anyone from at least the last four or five generations from both sides of his family!) This house is only 1145 square feet and is too, too small to house all these artifacts. That’s why we have a storage unit and and I’m scared to open the door of it  in fear of a piece of the past falling out on top of me. One day we intend to catalog all that history so Andrew will know who’s who and what’s what!

Well that is a consolidated background synopsis. Believe me, I could say a whole lot more! Now here are the pros and cons:

  1. Original wiring – and I mean original! No three-prong plug-ins and not enough of them either. No electrical outlets in either bathroom. No overhead lightning in the bedrooms. Re-wiring the whole house comes with a hefty price tag. We already had to add wiring for a dishwasher and dryer. CON
  2. Kitchen – 7ft. 1 inch X 10ft. 9″ – really small and nothing made sense. CON
  3. Kitchen – Gutted it and now we have what we want. If I could just get rid of that white dinosaur fridge that is too big and doesn’t match all the rest of the stainless/black appliances. H’s take on this – It works, don’t fix it. That fridge will have to die someday is all I keep praying for!  PRO
  4. Three bedrooms – That means one for us, one for Andrew and one for my sewing room. Simple, but – yes, there’s a BUT. Andrew has the smallest, We have the next size and the largest is my sewing room. Not how I wanted it. I wanted the smallest for sewing, Andrew the next size and ours would be the largest. But did I get my way? Noooo. Andrew wanted the smallest and H has an issue with sleeping in the master. (That’s another story!) So the largest went to me for sewing and everything in the house that we have no room for – Hence, the ‘Philadelphia Room’. H – “No we can’t get rid of that. It came from Grandmother’s house in Philadelphia!” Again, I don’t want to live in a storage shed. CON
  5. So much stuff! – They kept everything. After we weeded out the junk there was a lot left to wade through and we found a lot of H’s childhood buried in the mist. There were newspaper clippings, baby shoes and clothes, birthday cards, scrapbooks his mother had made for him, even a $25 savings bond given to him for his high school graduation that was worth about $280.00! This was in a drawer with a lot of old birthday and Christmas cards. Too much to list. PRO
  6. Concrete block walls – Now I know why if there was a hook or nail in the wall there was something hung on it whether it made sense or not. Have you ever tried to attach something to a concrete wall? It’s not easy and if you have to remove the nail a chunk of the wall comes with it. Everything is a project. CON
  7. Colors – The colors they used in these bathrooms were great for their time. Now its time to change. We have painted every room – sometimes more than once – and are trying to work with the bathroom tile colors so we don’t have to do any major renovations. The full bath is blue and the half bath is pink. It could be worse. Some of these homes have a awful green color tile in one bath and a bright yellow tile in the other. I think we got the lesser of two evils. CON
  8. Doors or lack of doors and tiny, tiny, tiny closets – Closet doors = none. There were some wood slat folding doors on the bedroom closets that had seen better days. They hung from the ceiling on a track. No closet is a standard size so its hard to find  replacement doors and even with that we will have to add a panel at the top to close the opening up because they went all the way to the ceiling. We have one bi-fold for Andrew’s room that has not yet been installed. There were places for eight doors in the hallway. Can you believe that? In this size house and the hallway is not that big! The width is not even up to fire code. We left the door off the hallway opening, replaced the bedrooms and double door linen closet doors – thanks to Davey, my son-in-law for his hard work on this project – and left the extra wide opening of the coat-closet-turning-into-my-desk-and-bookshelves-nook free of a door. H may come home one day to find that project done because this is another one of his ‘If its not broke don’t fix it’ items. In my opinion its broke! I almost forgot the front door that opens the wrong way. It really doesn’t make sense to open a door into the wall and not into the room. The storm door on the side/back door has to go. We don’t use it. It stays propped open all the time. From H, “Dad put that up,” if you know what I mean. Wonder if he will miss it if I remove it myself? CON
  9. Beach – Yes we live very close to the beach! Who could ask for anything more? I call this my beach house and we tell Andrew one day it will be his. He isn’t quite convinced this is what he wants! PRO

Well, that the list and I haven’t even given you a peek on the outside! I know it looks like the CON’S won this round, but I really believe the PRO’S will catch up soon. We can put all that money we were spending on rent into fixing this place up. We did not gain any extra time in the deal though because H now has an hour commute to and from work every day and by the weekend we try to do what we can and the rest has to wait. We are having fun and are in no hurry. It’s small but its big enough for us.

Oh, I almost forgot! Those two sets of blinds and one ceiling fan are still on the floor from when we had a burst of energy a couple weeks ago, ran over to Lowes, and had good intentions of installing them that weekend.


I’m just glad I don’t have three growing boys to raise here in this small space! How did she do it?


Do you have cramped spaces and storage problems in your house?

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About Elle Knowles

Elle Knowles lives in the Florida Panhandle with her husband and off-at-college-most-of-the-time son. She has four daughters, one son, and eleven beautiful grandchildren. 'Crossing the Line' is her first novel. The sequel 'What Line' is a work in progress. Recently published is Coffee-Drunk Or Blind - a nonfiction story of homesteading in the Alaska wilderness with her parents and four siblings, told through letters by her mother and remembered accounts from the family.

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