Saturday, May 16, 2009
The Old Brown House
There was once an old two story brown house which so happened to be directly across the street from ours, it was the constant center of attention in our neighborhood. Because of the influx of tenets in the home, there were no hard feelings when someone abruptly left and moved on down the road. The tenets would typically come from Kentucky & Arkansas and would get jobs in the neighborhood factories.
The house was referred to as “the old brown house” and it was always in need of repair. It was in a constant run down condition with tall un-mowed grass and weeds and had windows that were totally busted out. The only thing our house had in common with there’s was It had a “burn barrel” . Their barrel would smolder all day with the constant foul smell of burning raw garbage and clothes and if you watched long enough you would see a large rat or two scampering around the base of the rubbish on the ground looking for some food.
Ironically many of the neighbors became instant friends with who ever moved in to the old brown house and it was almost like long lost friends and relatives were reunited at last.
The House had a simulated brick asphalt siding which was ripped in some spots and you could see the bare gray boards and studs with no insulation underneath.
The Landlord so happened to be a tall white haired lanky lady who was approx 80 years old. She was a mystery to everyone as she would quietly work to maintain her house. She had several of these rental properties throughout the city limits and would rent to the hillbillies or white trash which basically qualified her as a slum lord. She minded her own business and lead a quite life as she would make the necessary repair’s all by herself.
One Saturday morning I personally saw her casually walking across the top of the ridge of the house slinging a bundle of shingles down as she roofed the entire house with a hammer and nails all by herself. She didn’t seem to have a fear of heights as she would walk across the ridge as though she belonged up there. She drove an old faded black Buick which functioned as her utility car. She’d pull ladders off the roof of the car, paint cans out of the trunk and concrete blocks out of the back seats.
In our neighborhood common names used were Peanut, Libby Sue, “Bang Bang”, Mildred, Ronnie, Billy, Don, Daryl, Bernie, and Linda, junior, Candice, Dick, Robert and the list goes on. Most of these people were hillbillies, white trash and common factory folks who drank and played together and pimped their daughters at the local bars on market street such as the “Tip top café”, “The Erie Smoke house”, “The Bell Café”.
on Friday nights most of the bars were hopping with dance bands or jute boxes blaring and loaded with factory workers lined up for a drink at the counter like animals at a drinking hole in the middle of nowhere.
It was a common scene early in the morning to see or hear a drunken Dad coming down the street with a loud car muffler trying to make his way home. When he got near the old brown house he’d get out and would pass out on the busted concrete front sloped steps of the old house. Then the mom would come out and smack him with a broom and curse at him for “spending all the money at the bar”!!!
I recall one cold winter night about 3: AM, the Dad at the old brown house was so drunk he tripped and fell into the snow face down and laid there until someone in the house came out and drug him in the front door. There were times when they’d make it home and sit in the car with the engine running, radio blaring until someone would come out and shut it off or it would run out of gas or stall.
As a typical pattern, Mondays the kids would skip school, Tuesdays the truant officer would show up to ask why they weren’t in school. Wednesdays the Salvation Army would arrive with arm loads of clothes because the renters claimed they didn’t have any clothes to ware.
I recall one boy name Bernie, who lived in the brown house that was my age. He sat next to me in school which was in the back of the class. There were several silver painted cast iron radiators behind us along the wall and they would clank and generate enormous heat to the point that it would put you to sleep. However Bernie stank so bad from not taking a bath that his odor was like smelling ammonia which kept my eyes wide open.
One time which I’ll never forget was a hot summer evening and a lot of emotions were flying around between the “tenets” and our family. They’d call us names and throw stuff at our house such as pop bottles or trash. Linda the oldest daughter came over and spit into my brother Nathan’s face and called him a “retard”.
Naturally this did not set well with my brother Dan who became enraged and grabbed a chrome sweeper wand from the broom closet and chased her down. There was a horrific scuffle and scream as Dan beat her face in with the wand until she got away. He had bloodied her face, and challenged her blaring foul mouth, screaming, clinched fisted, hatred filled fat body.
Then they called the police on us and the neighborhood turned into screaming red lights turning and squad cars slamming on their brakes as they lined our curb and theirs.
After the dust settled the police left and the tenets reassured us that they’d “get us back and kick our butt’s”.
Later in the fall Linda chased me down the back alley, tripped me and commenced to rub my face in snow. She was much bigger than me and I got the idea that she somehow didn’t like me either. Snow actually burns when rubbed in your face to which I’ll never forget that sensation.
Another time we heard a crash and they came over and busted out the head lights of my Dads car with pop bottles. I can’t recall what happened but the Hillbillies just had to make their point when ever they could.