The House on Glenwood
The house where I grew up (“Sally’s Childhood—the Early Years”) is for sale. Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago, I Googled “713 Glenwood Avenue Ottumwa Iowa” and found the realtor.com listing. Nowadays, of course, you can see online photos of properties for sale in, presumably, their most appealing conditions. There are twenty-two photos of that house available for viewing, and you can bet I’ve looked at them a few times by now. Memories have flooded.
At the end of December in 1951, my dad and older sister Julie moved from an apartment on North Court Street to the house on Glenwood when Mom was in the hospital having a baby—me! I got to stay in an incubator a few extra days because I was a bit early. (For years, I didn’t have a clue what my dad meant when he would tell people I popped out ahead of schedule because I wanted to be a tax write-off. Huh? I finally got it, eventually.) It was sometime in January when they finally brought me home. We lived on Glenwood until May 1963 when we moved to a brand-new, much larger, split-level house on Kingsley Drive.
But I loved that first house! (The picture at the top, taken in 1990, doesn’t do it justice. All the shrubs around the front porch are gone, thankfully, enhancing the curb appeal quite a bit.) It was the perfect place to be a kid. It is described as a “bungalow” in the online listing—three bedrooms, one bath, a one-car garage, and a full unfinished basement (which always had water in it when it rained hard). In the fifties and sixties, the large back yard had a swing set, slide, and a sandbox. (Do kids play in sandboxes anymore?) The house has central air conditioning now, but back in the day, we had one window a.c. unit in the living room. The front half of the house remained tolerable on hot summer days (and nights), but the kitchen and back bedroom where Julie and I resided after additional babies joined the family, were uncomfortable at best. But, we were kids. I don’t think we suffered too much.
It was a great neighborhood—the Darners, Markhams, Vanderwilts, Sanders, Bairds, Heinjes, Fridleys, Russells—kids around our ages and mostly friendly older folks (who probably weren’t all that old but seemed old through young eyes). The municipal swimming pool was only three blocks from our house, and when we reached a reasonable age, we pretty much lived there in the summers. We raced our bikes around the block, and when it wasn’t laundry day (with five kids in the house, most days were laundry days), we made tents with blankets over the clothesline in the back yard. In the winters, there was always at least one snowman in the front yard, smiling and waving at passersby.
Somewhat ironically, the house on North Ward Street in Ottumwa (built in 1882) where my dad grew up is also for sale. My grandparents built a new house out on Lake Drive in the mid-1950s, so I don’t have strong memories of the old place, but I do remember an icky toilet in the basement that was out in the open—no walls or curtains for privacy. (I mention a similar toilet in My Mother’s Friend, believe it or not. It must have made quite an impression.) And I remember Boppee (our grandpa) pushing Julie and me in those way cool leather swings that hung from a tree branch over the driveway. The house was across the street from Winblade Grocery, one of those old family neighborhood stores that doesn’t exist anymore. From the online photos, the house appears to be in really good shape, considering it’s been around for 139 years.
Thinking back, perhaps the best thing about that “bungalow” on Glenwood was that it was always full of love. No wonder I have so many wonderful memories.
Recently, I looked for real estate advertisements in the 1944 and 1945 issues of The Algona Upper Des Moines and the Kossuth County Advance newspapers. I didn’t find many. Those I did find were in the “Classified Ads” and the “Wants” columns. Apparently, prospective buyers were more interested in the number of rooms in “modern” homes and the location of the property. Less important was the list price and whether or not it was insulated or had a garage. I saw nothing suggesting an “open house” event at any of the properties.
In August 1944, the readers of The Algona Upper Des Moines learned about a plan to build twenty new homes in south Algona near the fairgrounds. Weather permitting, the homes were to be completed by the end of the year. The “modern” two- and three-bedroom homes would not be “shoddy” but built by the “best workmen” using the “best materials” available. Average price? $5,600.00, with a $300.00 down payment and $32.00 monthly installments. Those were the days.
For years, after we moved out of the house on Glenwood Avenue, I would dream about it. They were happy dreams, all of them. (No related dreams lately—there’s still time.)
Blessings to all.
Sally Jameson Bond is retired and lives in Southwest Virginia with her husband and two dogs. My Mother’s Friend is her first novel. You can find her web site here: www.sallyjamesonbond.com.