As some of you know, in 2012 we moved to Knoxville and bought a basement rancher in West Hills to fix up. You may have also heard that "the cobbler's children have no shoes." Well, the house flipper's family doesn't necessarily get their own house flipped with the speed that you see on HGTV (in fact, there are a lot of things on reality TV that aren't quite reality - I hope this is not a shock to you).
It was a lovely old home built in 1967, and we were surprised to hear that we were only the second owners. That means a family had lived in this house for 45 years. I get very attached to my houses (see this post and this one), and I was sad to think of a family losing a house through foreclosure after all that time. Because foreclosure purchases are handled through the bank after the former residents have moved, we didn't know any of the story. Not that it's any of my business! But I just felt a curious connection to the former residents. Of course, arriving junk mail gave us a few clues about who had lived here. Also by instinct, I looked at the back of the pantry door and saw names and heights chronicled on the inside door facing. I wondered if they were mad that we had their old house. I wondered if they would appreciate or resent the changes we were making to it.
We heard (but couldn't confirm) that the man who lived here was a lumber wholesaler who had been an Olympic diver and that there was a dog in the backyard that the whole neighborhood loved. In fact, we found a few photos left behind. They were all of dogs. Here is one:
Well, SURPRISE! Two weekends ago, a man stopped by. He was the son of the original owners, and he helped build this house. He loved what we were doing to the house and hung out with us for over an hour - telling us all sorts of stories.
He told us that the kitchen and dining room got lots of use. Him Mom was a great cook and hosted some wonderful family dinners. He also confirmed that this was a party house (which we had already sort of figured since the wall had a built-in turntable, the sink had a built-in blender, and the house had an indoor barbeque grill!). He told of his mother's 50th birthday party where the whole neighborhood was thrown in the pool. He also confirmed that he had a little sister Terry's age, so it now appears entirely plausible that Terry did indeed attend a party here back in the day (he's always had a deja-vu feeling about attending a party at this house).
His step-dad was a lumber distributor, which explains the wide variety of interesting wood in the basement bedrooms:
He told us that when his step-dad retired, he went a little crazy with paint. Besides the green in this room, there was one room that was entirely pink including ceiling and trim:
The room that we always thought was an office was actually a "library," which was his dear mother's dream (a woman after my own heart). The wood and bookshelves in it are all solid cherry, and he actually passed out when doing the staining in there and was taken to the ER. This is now the room that I sit in while I blog (minus the olive carpet and soon to be minus the 1960s overhead light):
Hey, and his step-dad was an Olympic diver! He made the 1940 team (but the Olympics weren't held because of the war). That explains the awesome diving board and DEEP deep end. He did dive at the University of Alabama (BOO!) and was also in the Million Dollar Band there. Maybe that's why the basement ceiling was painted red?
He told us about their dogs and about the gopher that lived under the porch (we still have a gopher under there - the kids have named it Oswald - how long do those things live anyway?). And he told us how his Mom made some bad decisions with money as dementia set in. She lives not far away now but doesn't have many memories of this house anymore.
So we are having fun filling it with new memories . . . and now we can add the memory of our surprise visitor.