Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Was Your Childhood Home Like?

Saturday has rolled around once again and I love, love, love this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge with Randy Seaver on Genea-Musings. That’s because I love writing about Passaic, New Jersey, which is where I was born and lived until sixth grade.

1) What was your childhood home like?  How many rooms did it have?  What facilities did you have?

My childhood home was at 49 Summer Street, Passaic, New Jersey. It was also the house in which my father was born and lived in until he was 37 years old.

It just so happens that I have photos of my beloved home and I’ve created a floor plan. Actually, my hubby cleaned it up on the computer – I just did the hand drawing.

Summer Time on Summer Street

Our house on Summer Street might seem like a good size at 1682 square feet. However, it is a two-story house and Nana lived upstairs. That means that my parents, my brother and I shared 841 square feet of living space downstairs.

Here is the floor plan and I think I’ve added enough detail so you can match it up with the photo.

Walking up to the front steps on the right, the main front door was directly inside the screen door. That opened to (1) immediate stairs that took you up to Nana’s home (2) a quick left put you at the inside door that allowed you to enter downstairs or (3) kind of straight ahead led to the door that went downstairs into the creepy cellar!

My bedroom wasn’t originally created to be a bedroom. From what I have been able to figure out from my home’s house history, a photographer ran his studio out of the house and I think my bedroom was likely where he photographed his clients.

My room had three windows – two on the front and one on the side – which was great for airflow in the summer, as we had no air conditioning. The windows aligned with those on the second story and can barely been seen through the screens.

I had a dresser in my bedroom, as there was no closet. My room closed off from the rest of the house with two very big sliding doors. Those doors also reinforce my belief that my room was the work studio.

I had this room to myself until my baby brother came along; we shared the room for five years, until we moved to Wayne.

Adjacent to my bedroom was our living room. My bed was on the left side and the head of the bed touched the wall shared with the living room.

I learned a trick when I was very young and never told my parents about it until long after we had moved.

In the photo below, Dad and I are sitting in our rocking chairs, watching TV. The doors in the background are the sliders into my bedroom. The door on the left is the one that was normally opened for me to go in. That was because my bed stuck out and overlapped the door on the right.

Here is my secret: I worked the right slider open just enough so that my parents never realized it. The television angle changed slightly after this picture was taken because my parents bought a new sofa and placed it along the wall adjacent to their bedroom.

In their bedroom, they had a dresser with a wide mirror attached to the back. I figured out that with the crack in my door, I could look out, see the mirror in the bedroom AND the television show was reflected in the mirror! I sometimes got to watch Saturday Night at the Movies until I got tired and/or bored and fell asleep.

We had a “front door” to our downstairs home, which was on the left side of the front porch.

The photo above is me with my aunt and uncle, who had come to visit. We are standing on the porch – not in summer since we have coats on and Dad had taken down the screens, but the door on the left was the entrance to home.

There was no door dividing the kitchen from the living room. You just walked in there. The table where we ate was on the left. In the middle, Dad built a small T-shaped counter so Mom had some prep space for meals. The telephone sat on that counter, next to the radio and the toaster! The kitchen sink was on the right side and the dishes were all hand washed, as we had no dishwasher.

Dad in the Kitchen

The photo above is my 7th birthday party (I’m in the back). You can see the kitchen sink and the back door to the pantry. (The photo of my dad gives a better view of the kitchen sink.) However, this party took place before the t-shaped counter was built. It was along the wall on the left where the yellow balloon is hanging.

The washing machine sat in the right corner of the kitchen adjacent to the bathroom. I remember when we had a wringer washing machine and I was warned to keep my hands away from it. Eventually, a more modern washer replaced the old wringer, but clothes were always hung out to dry on the clothes line in the backyard – even in winter. We didn’t have a clothes drier until we moved to Wayne.

Our bathroom was small, but there were two in the house. Nana had her own, which was a duplicate of ours. We had a single sink, toilet and bathtub/shower combination. The small ledge along the tub housed my waterproof dolls and, eventually, my brother’s water toys.

There was a back food storage pantry, which might have been added on sometime after the original house was built, as it sticks out from the rest of the house. Here is Mom in the yard by the back door into the pantry/house. To the right, it is hard to see, but those were heavy, slightly angled, flat double doors that opened to the cellar.

Our yard was quite small. We had a separate garage, which originally housed a wagon, because our house was built c1899, just before the advent of the automobile age. The driveway was along the left side of the house and the lot was only about 7000 square feet total.

Dad, in the yard, c1926

This 1926 photo is one of the best views I have of the driveway, although no car is parked there.

Dad & Me, Garage in Background

You can see the walk-in door to the garage. The driveway is to the left of this photo. Dad and I are about in the dead center middle of the backyard, so you have an idea of how small it was.

I hope I’ve given you a sharp picture of what 49 Summer Street was like when I grew up there. It was fabulous and I have nothing but wonderful memories.

This is probably the longest SNGF post I’ve ever written, but I love strolling down my own memory lane. Thank you, Randy!


2 thoughts on “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Was Your Childhood Home Like?”

  1. What wonderful memories of your childhood home! I saw the photo with the can opener on the wall near the phone. We had one of those, too. They worked great.

  2. You have so many photos of your house, which is wonderful! I might have photographs of my family’s house in Pomona in the huge collection of photos my father took but which I still don’t have access to. I guess it’s time to ask my sister again about the digitization project her niece was going to start!

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