At Home

The house I knew as home until marriage, was a comfortable six-rooms at 6 Shawmut Avenue, in the Bradford section of Haverhill, Mass. An ice-box in the cellar was regularly serviced by men who delivered the cakes of ice which I helped chip so that they could fit more fully into the box. In the cellar there was also a washing machine, and two large set-tubs which, as a youngster I learned to use for rinsing clothes before hanging them to dry on a line in the back yard, or, on rainy days, on lines strung in the basement. That is where I was introduced to the mysteries of women’s undergarments, the corsets! A quaint old second toilet also was there, with the flushing water closet suspended overhead, controlled by a metal chain. A coal furnace stood in the center of the cellar; it became a regular duty for me to keep the fire stoked with coal, and to empty the ashes. In another corner of the cellar was a “vegetable closet” where apples from our trees were stored for the winter, and where I was sent daily to choose from rows of jars of mother’s preserved fruits and vegetables. That same basement was the place where I was banished to wait for “Papa”, whom I knew would spank me when he came home and mother told him what forbidden thing I had done. The waiting was always worse than the actual spanking!

Groceries were delivered after mother phoned an order, or sometimes were picked up by father on his way home from work. Because we were dependent for services on delivery people, letter carriers, and because people needed to use the sidewalks, I learned very early in life that shoveling after a snowstorm was an important part of being thoughtful, to make it easier for others. I remember that mother insisted that I must shovel as soon as a storm was over so people in the neighborhood could walk safely on the sidewalk. It was one of my first lessons in community responsibility.

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