Saturday, February 26, 2011

401 S. McKinney Street, Mexia, Texas

This old house still exists on Google Earth. It was built by my grandfather more than 80 years ago, and it's the house where I spent most of my growing up years. My parents continued to live there after their kids grew up and left, and my father died in the same bedroom where his own father died 50 years earlier.

The rooms in the place were huge compared to those in a modern house. The bedroom my brother and I slept in had twin beds end-to-end along one wall, with room between them. Our sister's room was smaller. It had a double bed on one side of the doorway between our rooms and an upright piano with its back to the wall on the other side of the door. The other rooms were much larger. There were 12-foot ceilings.

There was a basement, too. I didn't know of another house in my hometown with a basement, and I felt quite smug about having one. I couldn't stand up in it after I was a teenager, and it wasn't very big. But it was a basement.

That's just the physical stuff, and it doesn't really matter much. What matters more are the family dinners on holidays, the times we'd sit out in the back yard in the summer, doing homework at my desk (that bedroom I mentioned had two desks, a wardrobe, and a gun cabinet in it besides those twin beds, and it wasn't crowded), deciding who got to bathe first in the only bathroom, watching TV with the family in our parents' bedroom, coming home from school to eat lunch in the kitchen with the family, washing dishes in the little sink, hearing my mother sing "Let the Lower Lights be Burning" when she worked in the kitchen, lying in my bed and reading one SF magazine after another, the collection of baseball cards I kept under my bed in the wooden box my grandfather made me, sitting in my room listening to Al Helfer call The Game of the Day in the hot summertime with a little buzz fan blowing on me, my mother sprinkling water on the sheets at night to cool them during the terrible hot drought years of the '50s, my father whistling when he came home after work, my sister practicing her piano lessons ("Shrimp Boats," "The Little White Cloud that Cried"), my brother creating his own piano compositions (the immortal "Aye-yi-yonga"), my high school graduation gifts on the dining room table (and Judy's and my wedding gifts there some years later), some mighty good dogs, some crazy cats, and so many more things.

The house still exists on Google Earth but not on this one. My brother owned it, but it had been vacant for a while. Thursday night, someone got inside and set fires in every room. The house is a total loss. The only thing my brother could save was the cast-iron door knocker that had been nailed up beside the front door. Ah, it was a beautiful door, too, let me tell you. Maybe you can see it in the picture. And I think that's all I have to say about that.

14 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am so sad to hear this. But you gave it a second life here and I will remember it.

Bud said...

Sorry to hear of this, but glad you have such happy memories of the place. The house looks a lot like my grandmother's house in Wichita Falls.

Martha Wells said...

Oh no, Bill, so sorry to hear this!

Deb said...

Oh Bill, that's heartbreaking. I thought you were going to say the house had been torn down to make way for a McMansion or some such--but to know that it was willfully destroyed is just so painful. I truly am sorry for your family's loss.

PAUL BISHOP said...

Bill, you brought a lump to my throat. I can't imagine how you must feel about this . . .

Scott Cupp said...

Very sorry to hear about this, but glad no one was hurt, though someone should be,

Jerry House said...

Sorry to hear this. The house I grew up in (built in the 1870's) is still standing, but has been remodeled and reconfigured so much that I wouldn't be able to recognize it. When parts of our past vanish, we at least still have the memories.

Randy Johnson said...

I'm sorry to hear this. I live in the house I grew up in and can imagine what it would be like to lose it.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks, everyone. It was just a building, as they say, but it was more than that to me in a lot of ways. I haven't been inside it for a couple of years. Probably just as well.

Cap'n Bob said...

You have some priceless memories and you expressed them beautifully. There's a special corner in Hell for the cretins who destroy things like this. Justice will prevail.

Anonymous said...

Well, that really sucks. I hope they find who did it and string them up by the balls.

But thanks for sharing the memories with us.

Jeff

George said...

I had tears in my eyes as I read your reminiscence of your home. This is indeed a tragedy!

James Reasoner said...

I'm so sorry. The house I grew up in is still there, but my mother sold it after my dad died and different people live there now. I drive by every now and then and say to myself, "Ah, man, they cut down that bush!" or "Ah, man, they have a new front door!"

I need to stop going by there.

Bill Crider said...

Well, you've lost a lot more in fires than I ever did.