The Basement, Memories from downstairs

Coleridge, 1948

Well,we had a basement in our house in Coleridge. The house itself was three stories high with an apartment built into the uppermost story for rent, to the newspaper guy, I think. The second floor was four bedrooms and a bath. My brothers and I had one bedroom with bunkbeds made by a farmer in payment for veterinary services. One bedroom for my parents, one bedroom for my sisters and the other bedroom was occupied, at least part of the time, by my paternal grandmother, Annie Meskimen, who was dying of cancer (though, again, I didn’t know that at the time.) The bathroom was the scene of joint baths with my sibs, spankings, my dad shaving with strop and straightedge.Oh yes and there was a candlestick type phone on a wall shelf in the hall that was an extension to the phone in the kitchen.
The main floor was living room, dining room, kitchen, and ? room. And of course this was all connected by a set of stairs upon which we played school and went up a stair for a correct answer and down a step for an incorrect answer.
Then there was the basement. First of all, I was scared to go down there if the light was not on. Second, there was a toilet that had no privacy where my father taught me how to wipe my butt after mother complained about the poop stains in my underwear. There was also a workbench with my father’s tools and where he skinned squirrels he hunted. (These were big red squirrels I once went with him to hunt with .22 rifles). There was also a big furnace and another large room that contained a pool table and shelves full of pill making materials. We used the big horse pill capsules for squirt guns by putting a pinhole in one end and a cork in the other.
There was a room that led to the underground garage that was used for my father’s office, for a party room ( it had a jukebox at one time) and as a mud room since it was the first room entered through the garage. There was another garage out back (for the big Chrysler) and two cars (a jeep and a Model A coup) that were parked on the street. A huge sand pile was the scene of much road building, garage making, and use of toy cars, trucks, and other road vehicles.

The memorable part of this basement was a recurring dream I had after my father’s death. For several years after he died I dreamed that as I walked in the backyard I would step on a trapdoor that would make me slide down a tube (like the fire escape that came down from the second floor at school) and wherein I would land in his vise. Then he would take out my heart for his friend. Finally I would recognize this dream and wake myself up so finally two years later it went away.

The good memory from the basement was about my sister Donna and the Cheerios Western town. Each morning we would get up have a bowl of Cheerios and empty the box. On the back of the box was a part of the western town, a barn, a sheriff’s office, a church, a ranch house etc. We cut these out and took them to the basement. At some point we had enough to send in for the large unfolded paper with roads, rivers, train tracks etc. for us to set our buildings on. Each building had a place and since there were lots of spaces without building we at lots of Cheerios.
After finishing a box of Cheerios we would go to the grocery store and examine each box until we found a building we didn’t yet have.
As I recall, and Donna has a different memory of this event, we got like four of these large fold out maps, so that we covered the pool table.
I don’t remember the end of this. Did we finally get all the buildings? No. Did someone want to play pool? No. Did we get sick of Cheerios? I don’t think so. Maybe we just started saving box tops for a decoder ring.
there was one other good memory from the basement. It was big enough and went in a circle around the furnace so we could ride our tricycles in the winter when sidewalks were not available. As soon as the walks could be shoveled we went outside.
Oh yes, there is another good remembrance. My father brought me malted milk tablets as a treat.


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