A Designer’s Renovation – Part 8 – Preserving History

How are you? The sun is out right now, makes for a better day. It’s been gray for a month and the sun feels like a welcome old friend.

Sort of how our past feels, isn’t it? Memories of childhood are like an old friend that comes to visit every once in a while, to remind us of our youth, the day we tried bobbing for apples, the first time we tie-dyed a shirt or had a sleepover or jumped in puddles or had our first glass of wine.  The smell of coffee that takes us back to summer days when our mothers sat around on lawn chairs in the back yard and we huddled in corners planning “shows” to torture them with.  It’s nice.  Even if there were hard times, there is always some nice. Some jumping through sprinklers, some ice cream, laughter that made Coca-Cola come out your nose.

Finding Bits of our History

When we started ripping up the bedrooms, it was just a gross experience (read back to the first or second blog about it).  But a few days in, tearing out the floors, my brother in law, Ben, and I found old newspapers plastered to the subfloors.

EXCITING! We got down on the ground looking for dates. None.  So we took some photos and I started an internet search.  It feelt a bit like Indiana Jones Finds Historical Records in the Room of Mouse Poop.  I love history.  I love old stuff. Ben does too so we were very excited.

I found a listing on the newspaper for Deer Run Estates up in Bradford. Homes built in 1979, so that paper was likely printed around then. For Ben, who wasn’t even born in 1979, this was a historical find of huge significance! For me, not so much.

But, nevertheless, it was a fun find. So we left it there. The next owner of this house can have a read in fifty years. To them it will be super old!

A little farther back…

As we got to the kitchen tear out, we found a hole in the wall with some newspaper stuffed into it.  My husband, not so sentimental, was about to throw it out when I pounced.   I carefully took the yellowed, folded paper from his hands, and sat down right there on the floor to check it out.  August 24, 1954.  My dad was 10.  Now this is good stuff!

It’s so interesting to read what was acceptable back then. What seemed “normal”.

I am not a super feminist. It doesn’t define me. I believe in total equality, but I don’t really think about it much, because that’s how my life already is. I don’t have to worry about equal pay.  I own my own business. I don’t have to worry about someone telling me what I can and cannot do. No one ever could. And if anyone was ever sexist towards me, well let’s just say I have a unique way of standing up for myself and women in general. It’s never been a central part of my life.  And then I started to read these Want Ads.

“Young ladies under the age of 30…good appearnace and pleasant voice will overcome lack of experience.”

“Typist – 17-21”

And as I read, I am so saddened.  I cannot believe what women only 60 years ago had to endure. So you needed to be pretty, feminine sounding, and in some cases only between such and such an age, to get a job? Think of how far we have come. Ageism. Sexism. So much more. No company in this country could place an ad like that now. And those were the jobs available. Typists. Secretaries. Home care workers. Flight attendants. Store cashiers.  No ads for anything that required schooling. No ads for women over the age of 30. No ads for professional females.

I thought a lot about what to do with this particular section of the newspaper.  I could toss it out. I could shove it into a keepsake box.  Or, I could frame it.  Frame is so that every day, my daughter and I could look at it and she would see how many opportunities are now available to her.  She could learn to be grateful for the women before her who triumphed against the prejudice of the past.  I could raise a little girl into a woman who was proud of the mothers, sisters and daughters of the past, and grateful for the time she was born in.

And then my son.  He would learn much of the same.  That women are equals. Respected. Deserve kindness and pride.  He could be a better man.  So this sad print from the past became a light for the future. And, as hokey as that may sound, I love it. So I framed it, and it’s going up on the kitchen wall.

Along side…

WOW!! 20 oz tins of fruit for $0.33!! Frozen lemonade for $0.21 a can.  How much fun is that? Look kids! Look at how prices have changed! Why do you think that is? And so the conversation becomes learning.

The sentimentality of these newspapers is also important. They were found in our walls. Likely put there when our old kitchen was renovated in 1954. The house was 9 years old at the time. It gives our home a sense of history. We are the third family to live here.  The first in 1945, the second in 1970 and we moved into this home in 2011. And all three of these families grew here. Raised their kids, shared their dreams, bought those fruits, experienced the changes in society of their times, cried and laughed and cooked and dreamed. We are tied together by the old trees, the foundation, and the newspapers in the walls.

Moving into an older home can be a daunting experience. There is so much to fix, change, update.  We must fix mistakes of the past, and put our stamp on the future. We have kept a few things from the past, here, during this renovation. An old vanity in the powder room, sturdy and a perfect fit. A stone fireplace, not my choice of stone, but someone lovingly and quite painstakingly built that fireplace, in 1971, which kept us warm during the ice storm a few years back.

So, when you look around at your old home, maybe find some value in that old fireplace mantle, the antique handles on the creaky doors, maybe the light fixture in the foyer. If only they could speak. And for those of you who moved into brand new homes, think of the future. Think of those who will come after you. And take comfort that someone else will one day love the home that you created.

Have a terrific day!! and remember, there’s no place like home.

Have a terrific day!