The Place We Call Home

By: H. Anne Thurston, Columnist
“Beautiful Boyne”
anne@boynegazette.com
 

H. Anne Thurston, Columnist

Living in an apartment complex is a trip into another world after having one’s own home for over sixty years.  Granted that that there has not been one house in my adult life which I can think back to as ‘home’ because my life has been far too transient, even including the fifty years I have called Boyne City or its environs ‘home’.[private]

I think my parent’s house where I worked my way through my junior and senior high years probably remains ‘home’ to me to this day.  Not only did I live there during those great years, but it also become ‘home’ for my husband and me and our first son after World War 11 drew to a close.  We all hung our hats there as my father helped us build our first house on Holland-Sylvania Road near Maumee, Ohio.  It was tiny but perfect for our early years of becoming parents.

Thinking back I count seven houses following that first one.  Six have been here in Michigan.  All different, four were ones for which I drew the floor plans etc.  This was possible because of the long hours in my childhood I spent watching my father, a self educated architect and builder, work as he sat on a high stool before a large wooden drawing table in his office.  It fascinated me to watch a house evolve as my dad allowed his creative mind to move the pencil he held in his hand across a large piece of tracing paper attached to the board’s smooth surface.  No thumbtacks were ever used.  Only pieces of tape were allowed to hold the paper taught – holes were not permitted in the drawing board’s surface.

The pencil was sharpened to a fine point with Dad’s jackknife and further pointed by gently brushing the lead across fine sandpaper which Dad glued to a small block of wood.  As I watched I was instructed in how to use the triangular architect’s ruler which featured measurements for various scales.  The most common one used was 1/4 inch equals one foot.  Then there were the protractor, various triangles and guides.  The latter featured such open shapes as various door openings, toilet stools, tubs, wash basins, windows etc. which could be traced into place on the tracing paper.

The world of architecture has drastically changed since the 1930s and 40s; yet the basic components remain.  Digitally executed architectural drawings today intrigue me as not only two dimensional floor plans are produced, but three dimensional (once referred to as perspective) views are developed.  And, of course, all can be viewed in full color.  Untold numbers of wall textures, floor tiling, exterior surfaces etc. can be called into use.  Yet despite the broad spectrum of building materials now available the same mathematical basis remains in use.  The terms sixteen inches on center, or 2x4x8 are as common today as they were way back when.

To appreciate the basis of today’s construction projects one has only to explore a barn built in the early 1900s or earlier.  Standing in its interior and gazing upward into the far reaches of its overhead areas various construction methods can be discovered.  If one is fortunate enough to find such a structure built as far back as the early nineteenth century hand axed or sawn beams and supporting timbers can be found.  Even here in ‘timber country’ such hand hewn lumber still exists. 

I recall the wonderful old water mill that stood where Somerset Marina and Resort has been developed and its fine timbers as well as the wheel that ground the grain.  The classic structure was torn down before those who lived in its area realized its historic value and sought to preserve it in the manner Boyne’s old water department building is being renovated on Division Street.

We are fortunate that Boyne City’s leaders are now aware of the historic value the city’s older buildings such as the Hotel Dilworth, the original Carnegie library and the SOBO District’s movie house.  Coupled with this is the fine effort that Mr. Catt made in designing the new structures he built on North Water Street across from Veteran’s Park to appear as if they had been constructed during the same era as many of the businesses now remaining on Water and Lake Streets. 

It was advantageous that as many of the town’s buildings were built of brick because so many of the hotels and businesses which flourished in the early nineteen hundreds were destroyed by fire.  In fact shortly after our move to Boyne we became aware of a group of Boyne business men who joined forces to purchase what had become derelict houses within the town.  Once purchased the house would be given to the Boyne Fire Department to set afire to use as a practice situation in their training.  The resultant pile of burnt debris would be cleaned up and the ‘vacant’ lot sold for enough to reinvest in yet another derelict and the process was repeated month after month on a fireman’s Tuesday practice night.  Eventually the town was rid of all the homes which were past reclamation.

Fires that happen here, near the shores of Lake Charlevoix can quickly become monsters because of the winds that often prevail.  We are fortunate to have the dedicated volunteer fire department to respond to any such happening. We lived in Evangeline Township back in the late sixties in an old home built on what had been a cherry orchard.  Soon after moving into the house we had reason to crawl up into its small attic. 

Wasps had invaded it en masse and taken up residence.  Once up in the windowless and therefore pitch black area our flash lights exposed the fact that the roof rafters were heavily charred in its western half.  We learned that back in the days of wood furnaces a chimney fire had come close to finishing the house off.  Just how it was saved could not be recalled but somehow the flames had been extinguished and the house continued to stand at the southern end of Call Street.  We located the wasp’s hang-out and managed to extinguish it also.

On all the excursions my husband and I took with our canoe off into the wilderness of Canada from the Algoma Central Railroad we made the care of our cook fires a primary concern.  Aware that 911 and a call for help was not a choice we knew that neither of us ever wanted to be responsible for a land or forest fire.  We had seen such fire ravage while in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in our early years of marriage and those devastated acres of bare land haunted us all our lives.

Again, while visiting Portland a couple of months ago I rode through endless miles of devastated mountain sides where only the black, charred trunks of giant Ponderosa Pine stood silhouetted against the distant ridges. As I gazed out through the blackened remains of what was once a magnificent forest I was aware that in its original form it had been home to the magnificent elk as well as many other forms of wild life. 

Man had not been the cause of this vast burn.  No cigarette or camp fire had accidentally been left to smolder and ignite, but rather Nature’s incendiary lightening was determined to be the strike that brought on the engulfing flames.  Man alone is not responsible for today’s recognized need for conserve                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ation, however the fact that it can be caused by Nature should give us even a greater sense of urgency to control our own carelessness.

Neither my brother nor I ever became smokers.  Fortunately for both of us our father by way of his father was a tobacco chewer.  Upon marrying my father my mother was not aware of his tobacco use.  The story goes that the summer after the wedding Mother set out to carry a telephone message to my dad who was on a construction site of a home he was building.  No cell phones were even on the horizon in that year so Mother arrived by car, walked across the grassless yard and through the door-less jamb and onto the house’s first floor’s sub floor.  It was as she approached my father that she spotted tobacco stains around the edges of a large knot hole in the flooring. 

Looking up at her husband Mother asked in surprise?  “Are you chewing tobacco, Trace?”

His immediate reply was, “No, Hon, that is Joe in the basement.  He spits up.”

During our younger years when accompanying our parents somewhere in their car, a stately Reo, my brother and I learned that when we saw our father turn his head to the left that he was about to roll down the window and expectorate a mouth full of brown fluid to the four winds.  The problem lay in whether or not our window was open.  If it was we immediately dove forward unto the floor behind the front seats.  In those days that area was quite spacious.  Of course whichever one of us was nearest the window was in the most danger of being hit square on in the face.  A few such experiences somehow completely removed any desire to ever smoke in both of us.  I still have my father’s brass spittoon which always sat on the floor next to his drawing board.  I use it for flowers; always with a memory induced smile on my face.

 So for two years I have lived in an apartment here in Boyne much as I lived in an apartment after my marriage in ’43.  It was in Fresno, California in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley with its prolific vineyards, cloudless skies and sunshine.  Here in Boyne I found myself discontent with ‘city’ life.  Recently I conquered that feeling by moving to another apartment within the same complex for one reason.  It was to enable myself to look out my windows, not at parked cars and street lamps, but at an expanse of grass, a woods of large trees and Lake Charlevoix below. 

 But most of all are the stars at night, the sunsets and the blue skies or clouds of the four seasons.  Today it is the gentle dissent of huge fluffy snowflakes and three jet black squirrels romping about on the snow covered tree limbs high in the frigid air.  With such a view I could be in the hills of Oregon, the forests of Canada or some small camp area here in Michigan.  My passion for the outside world that is God’s gift to each of us only grows as I age.  It is my love and is there for all of us to be treasured and preserved for the generations yet to come.[/private]

Anne Thurston is a weekly columnist for The Boyne City Gazette.  Thurston lives in Boyne City, and her published works include “E-Males” and “The Book of Anne.”  More information on her work can be found at http://www.hathurston.com

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