I always thought my Dad was pretty handy and a good carpenter. Don’t know if it was out of necessity that he took care of stuff, but I rarely heard him complain about it. Think he really enjoyed working with his hands. First thing I remember he built was a playhouse. It was awesome. Real siding, windows, even a brick chimney. “Neese” in my playhouse when I was about 4 years old, 1955.
After we moved to 15th street, it magically appeared in the back yard from our old house. That must have been a bugger to move. Thanks Dad. He also like to “kanooey” (tinker) with kids furniture. He built several kid sized kitchen cupboards, resembling the old Hoosier cupboards, complete with doors, drawers, each weighed about a ton. All kids stuff were various sizes, depending on how much lumber he had at the time. He’d slap on a coat of paint, usually yellow, and use left-over linoleum for the countertop. I don’t know if he gave them away or sold them.
|One of the Adirondack’s Dad built. Yellow, of course…|
Once we moved to 15th street, he would stay busy off and on for 50 years with that house (not the play house, the big house). I don’t think it had a modern kitchen or bathroom when we moved in, something Dad started on immediately. He built kitchen cupboards, moved the sink so Mom could cook, and modernized the bathroom. The first addition to our house that Dad built was a “haukee.” A Dutch word for add-on or small room. The door to our basement was on the outside of the house, not a good idea during Iowa winters. This new haukee would eliminate that, plus we had a freezer the size of a 1960 Caddy and it fit in there perfectly. Dad then put on a door from the kitchen to this haukee cause there was no heat in it. The problem with this little room was the step from the kitchen. It was a doozy, maybe 4 inches deeper than a normal step. After we got used to it, it was fine. But any unsuspecting person thought they were falling into a black hole. Plus there was no light switch, just a pull string.
These “odd-sized-steps” would prove to be Dad’s “signature” on all building projects in the future. Mom had lots of plans and ideas for remodeling. She would get tired of the cupboards, wallpaper, or want new windows, soon Dad was back to having that flat square pencil behind his ear, running back and forth to the lumber yard and garage. Mom didn’t like where the garage was located. Too far from the house, way back by the alley. She thought a nice attached garage would be better. Easier to unload groceries, and they wouldn’t have to trudge through the back yard of snow to get to the house. Dad had to build another haukee first. This one resembled a breeze-way. It attached to the first haukee to enable the nearly impossible turn the car would have to make to get into the garage. The second haukee housed Mom’s baseball cap collection. It naturally had a step, another step for the new garage (big surprise).
He later tore off a huge front porch. Replaced it with a small enclosed one, complete with a step from the side walk. And another step into the house. He just could not get that measurement down pat (leveling the floor). He might be off 3 inches or 10. He never used more than one step though. Often it was just enough to trip over, or way too deep.
Their bedroom was upstairs and this staircase was wicked when I was 5. It was about as steep as a ladder, with a nasty turn 2 steps from the top. No, these steps were not Dad’s doing or fault. Just the way our old house was built. When it was no longer a good idea or safe for them to be going up and down those stairs, especially at night, he decided it was time to build again. About age 75 Dad started on a new master bedroom off the den downstairs. It ended up with a couple issues. They had twin beds, 2 dressers, and 2 night stands, so it should have been a couple feet bigger. The doorway was a few inches too narrow, it was actually easier to go in sideways, then of course there was “the step.”
Now over the course of 40+ years Dad had added a Baker’s dozen of “odd-sized steps” to different areas or rooms of that house. But for some reason this small step to the new bedroom bothered him. His solution was to make it a small ramp instead. Now when you were entering the room, you picked up some speed just in time to run into the first dresser. Oh Dad. Had he been allowed to attend school longer, and encouraged to take some carpentry classes. Maybe had a mentor and some building instructions, I really think he could have been a master carpenter. In retrospect, maybe the odd steps in our house were all part of the bigger picture in Dad’s life. He was just practicing on his own stairway to heaven. Job well done Dad…