Sunday, February 26, 2006


At 55 years of age, some of my dreams are still centered around 2108 W. Main Street. That is the house in which I grew up. That house, although not a person, holds a special place with me. I spent 18 years of my life in that house and did not leave it until I was married and moved away.

2108 was in the Portland neighborhood in the West End of Louisville. In the 50’s it was known that black people lived past Jefferson Street, which was two block to the south. I’m not being prejudiced here, but back in those days we were taught never to wander to, or past, Jefferson Street. Right or wrong – that is just the way it was and what we were taught.

For those of you who do not know us, we were a family of seven people. There was my mom and dad and five of us girls. In order by age are my sisters Mary Lee, Dorothy Ann, Sandy, me then Carol. We were also what I considered to be poor, and the house was not very nice and was in bad need of repair most of the time.

The house was a camelback shotgun house. A shotgun is a house where the rooms are all lined up one behind the other. There are no hallways. A camelback shotgun had a second story room built on one of the rear rooms. Shotguns were built that way a long time ago because, when homes were built then they were taxed on how wide they were in the front of the structure, so the structures were only one room wide.

The shotgun at 2108 W. Main Street was four rooms deep. When you walked into the front door at our house you were in the Living Room as well as my mom and dad’s bedroom. In that room was a couch, my dad’s chair, a TV and a double bed. Mom and dad’s bed was right in front of one of the living room windows.

There was also a fireplace in the living room that served to heat the room. My mom and dad burned coal in that fireplace. The fireplace was small, as coal-burning fireplaces were back then. I loved that fireplace because it was great to stand in front of to get warm and it added atmosphere to the room both at night with the glow, and while sitting and watching TV and relaxing. I can recall distinctly the smell of burning coal.

Walking back to the next room was the bedroom of all five of us girls. There were two double beds and, at one time, a baby-bed. There were also a couple of dressers in there too, as well as a space heater. Also at some point in my life, my dad built a closet in our room. The closet was big with a large storage area at the top.

We did a lot of bed shuffling in the early days, and Sandy made out like a bandit because of the order my two oldest sisters left the nest. The great bed shuffle went like this. Me and Dorothy Ann slept in one bed next to the wall. Sandy and Mary Lee slept in the other double bed next to the side door. Carol was in a baby bed next to the window. Blow a whistle and shuffle. Dorothy Ann leaves to get married and Carol moves in the bed with me. The baby bed comes out. Blow yet another whistle and Mary Lee gets married and Sandy gets a bed all to herself. This is the bed configuration I remember the most.

In my bed, I slept next to the wall and Carol slept on the outside. The house did not have air conditioning. During the summers there would be a floor-fan that sat at the foot of the two double beds. I was always hot, so I would stick my feet in a hole in the plaster in the wall because it would cool me down. The plaster hole was always cool, and I was often glad they did not repair that hole. Many times, when the fan or the plaster did not do the trick, I would often times join my family to sit out front in the middle of the night to watch the cars go by.

The winters were always cozy in that bedroom. You could see the glow from the fireplace in my mom’s room and could often times hear someone up and adding coal to the fire. The space heater did the trick in keeping us warm, and it was comforting to hear it come on and go off. A fond memory indeed.

The next room next to our bedroom was what we called the junk room. It was appropriately named. There was all kind of furniture in that room at one time or another. It served as a kitchen in my early years and in the later years, it became more of a sitting room with a couch in it. The telephone was there as was my mom’s alarm clock. The bathroom was off to the side of the junk room.

The reason I mention the alarm clock is because I never understood why it was two rooms away from my mom’s bedroom. She would set it every night, and it would go off in the morning playing music. Often times I would mess with my momma by turning it up all the way, so it would go off blaring music throughout the house. Mom would stumble out of bed, cursing as she went through our room at a rapid pace to get to that clock to shut it off. I would lay there and chuckle.

While in grade school, we were sometimes allowed to come home for lunch. I remember during the winter months mom would hang laundry in that junk room from clothes lines that were there. Coming home for lunch would include sitting with the wet laundry that hung over your head. Somehow that wet laundry would magically disappear by the time the school day ended. I was never clear on where it went or how it dried so fast. Disappearing laundry was a mystery to me.

The bathroom was a mess. For many years only a curtain served as a door. At some point an official door was added to the bathroom. In the bathroom was a bathtub that was old fashioned and had feet. It was great for relaxing in. There was no shower – just a tub. Behind the tub was a little shelf. The shelf was only about 3 or 4 feet high and behind that shelf was a great chasm of junk. If you looked back there you could probably gather a lot of history about our family. An example of what was back there was: For Christmas Mary Lee would often times buy us younger sisters fancy, perfumed dusting powder with nice little, fluffy powder puffs. These little canisters of powder would be set on the shelf behind the tub, and would one day be gone. Oops. I can probably say that every container of powder had fallen behind the shelf and into the chasm never to be retrieved or seen again. The chasm was not big enough for someone to get back there to get the goods, but they were there none-the-less.

The next room in succession was the kitchen. It was the most modern room in the house, and I think was added or remodeled sometime in the course of my life at 2108. It was big and had all the appliances that should be in a kitchen. It also had a door to the outside, except that door had no screen door and no steps. So, if you went out that door you had to literally jump out. Unless you could step really high, you could not enter by that door and would have to come to the door that entered into our bedroom through the side door.

My mother used to do the laundry from an old wringer washer. This was mostly manual labor. That machine was huge and most of the laundry was manually placed through the wringer to squeeze out excess water. When I was a teenager my mother got a new automatic washing machine. She was never so proud. That new automatic washer was placed in the junk room. Believe me you couldn’t lay down a sock, or a shirt without it being thrown into that washer. My mom was now a clothes washing maniac, and I can’t say as I blame her.

The upstairs room was a room full of junk and was not used. You could never get up there because of the junk that was stored in the stairwell. Once daddy was cleaning out the stairwell and we were allowed up to the room upstairs. On a few occasions I would take dolls up there and play, but I could probably count on one hand the number of times I was in that room. I t seemed like such a waste, and I always wanted that room to be my room.

The yard at 2108 was small. The front yard had virtually no vegetation except a rose bush, and what little grass we had would be cut by using a push “Leave It to Beaver” mower. There was a side yard that was long and narrow. You could literally stand in the side yard and touch our house and the house next door at the same time. The back yard was equally tiny. The coal pile was in the back yard. I can still see my mom in the winter carrying in coal for the fireplace. Many times she would have to get the snow off the pile first before carrying in the coal in her coal bucket.

Mom and dad were buying the house on 2108 W. Main Street, until my mother quit making the house payments. Daddy would give her money to pay the bills, and I think she opted to buy food rather than pay the house payment. They lost the house. The good part of that was the buyer of the house decided mom and dad could rent it. That didn’t last too long and mom and dad had to move. My mom and dad moved from the house at 2108 to an apartment on Algonquin Parkway. I had married and had children then and also lived in those apartments. It was nice to have them literally right next door.

We grew up without a car. It was sometimes a real hardship. My dad took a bus to and from work everyday. He worked at the Census Bureau in Jeffersonville, IN. The city of Louisville ran the bus system, and when the bus system went broke, they quit providing service to Indiana. Mom and Dad moved to Indiana at that point.

The house at 2108 W. Main Street burned down sometime during the 70’s. I remember going down to 2108 house after reading about the fire in the paper. I stood at the fence to that house and cried. Standing at that fence staring at the charred house, my life memories went rolling by in my head; Laundry hanging in the junk room, the sound of the space heaters, the fireplace – all of it. My husband took video of the burnt out structure. I couldn’t help but think of all the things that had gone on in that house, and all the fond memories I had there. It really did make me sad. I wondered if all that powder was still behind the bath tub. 2108 W. Main Street was, and will always be . . .home.



Blogger A Flowered Purse said...

Awww how sad :(
But great memories. Do you still have the video?
If so you ought to take it to the video kitchen to have it put on DVD to keep it.
Disappearing laundry, I have a few memories of when i was little stuff being somewhere and it would disappear and i wondered where it went. LOL . I remember one time going to Dorothy Anns and you taking us somewhere to have our picture made and I was sooooooo scared of a hole up in the ceiling cause i was afraid there was monsters up there and I was screaming LOL
Love you

8:39 AM  
Blogger Gloria said...

I have it or your dad has it. I'm just not real sure. I may have it on VHS already. I took the 8mm film he gave me and had it put on VHS tape.

9:23 AM  
Blogger smae said...

What a great job you did capturing the essence of 2108. Once the Curl and I tried to paint the bathroom. I think we used the wrong paint and it actually looked worse than when we started. I also remember that our bedroom had a side door. When Bloom's Market delivered groceries they used that side door. Of course my bed was about 4 feet from that door and I would just hide under the covers until Bunny (the guy who delivered) was gone. I also remember hollering for daddy many times because I heard a noise outside or I thought I smelled smoke. He didn't like it, but he always got up and checked things out. I think his house burned down when he was little or something, so the "I smell smoke" thing probably brought back bad memories. The "hood" also brings back memories. I know mother would rather have us go to Jefferson street than to go over to the area around Boone's Park. That's where the winos and the Portland gang hung out. At one time there was another house behind ours. That house faced onto the alley. There was a weird girl named Leela who lived in the alley too. Dorothy and Julian lived in a little house in the alley for awhile. They also lived in those apartments down the street where Tabitha and her little boy (who died very young) lived. Later they moved into the house next door where the Shepherds and later the Phelps lived. You should do a separate blog on our neighbors. Heck you could write a book on our neighbors. I still have dreams about 2108. I am there and I discover a hidden room or that it has been remodeled. I always hoped they would fix the upstairs and that I could have my own room. I would have given anything for a room of my own. One of the reasons I moved into an apartment was so I could have my own room. I was afraid if I got married I'd never have the chance to have my own room. And of course there was the Nicholas' house. They had a big house with a big back yard. At one time they even had a swing set. When I was older I was often embarrassed by that house. But I found out that real friends don't mind. Ginny used to spend the night and never seemed to mind. Anytime Jerry and I would go into the west end I would always have him drive down Main Street. After the house burned down, we went down there and I was surprised how small the space left behind was. In my mind it was much larger.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Sandy, I actually had some information on the neighborhood in there, but it was getting bogged down (or blogged down har har) but took it out, because I actually thought of doing a chapter on the neighbors, especially the Nicolas' I still may. I had forgotten about a lot of the stuff you mentioned. I love reading the comments. Remember the Nicolas' "back lot" it was a whole big yard behind their shed.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

It's funny how certain numbers stay with you for life. I can still remember our phone number on Main St."778-3855" I guess when you are in Kindergarden they brain wash it in your head.
I Remember the smile on moms face when you guys made the video of the places mom lived, went to school and church. She really liked seeing and remembering those places.
Now, About those hair-dos on that picture. WHATS WITH THAT!

4:48 PM  
Blogger Lisa_g said...

Nice Sorry Glo. Can you post the picture bigger? I would like to see it bigger and save it.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Lisa, we've tried to enlarge it. I'll ask Mary Lee to rescan and resend.


6:38 PM  
Blogger The Curl said...

Well here goes some 2108 Memory Lane for me. I have fond memories of that house too. I don't ever remember being scared there. But, I do remember feeling shame there. It wasn't until we went to high school, that I knew my house was different than most. I remember Sandy, especially, shutting the middle door whenever anyone would come over. The only people I didn't feel ashamed with was Karen Lally Pritchett and her family. She spent the night many times and we would go to St. Anthony's for donut Sunday. I remember the Phelps, Marilyn being my best friend. Our entertainment would consist of jumping over her fence with one hand and swinging around the poles. We did that for hours until our hands bled. Glo, you always thought it was cool that we could go around for so long on one hand-and we would eat sugar candy in either her backyard or mine, daydreaming and singing songs to each other. Like you said, the Nicolas's are a whole other chapter. But back to the house, I have the same memories of the grocery man coming, the Donaldson man (all this food association lol)
and the bathroom. Glo and I would get ready for school at each end of our stove (which was chrome) for our mirror. Sandy was prob in the bathroom. She had her own bed. I coveted that bed. I don't think we were allowed to sit on it much, I don't remember sitting on her bed, it was kinda off limits. I remember the coal fireplace esp, at Christmas, coming home from Midnite Mass and rocking in front of the fireplace. I played some upstairs too, and would find old things, dolls, etc. I thought it was cool. Wonder why we never took the initiative to clean it up. I guess after the paint debacle Sandy and I had, we weren't permitted. But the house has such good memories, I really don't remember any bad, except it was in pretty bad shape, but somewhat clean, as clean as Mother could get it. I remember also, laying out in the sun in the side yard which lasted about 10 minutes b/c it was so narrow, the sun would come and go. I loved when I spent the night at Marilyn's house, I could still look over and see our house, and yes almost touch it out her bathroom window. Her house I thought was cool. I too dream about that house. I use to take David walking down the street "on the stones" when Dorothy Ann would come and play poker on Sunday. I also would teach Jeanette the sound of Music songs (I think) during those times on main street. I can still hear the whirr of the fan, in the summer and the shaws across the street and running over there when there were tornado warnings to their basements and the bad wrecks on main street, and on and on and on. Wow, too many memories, but I love them all, except my prideful embarrasement sometimes.

9:47 PM  
Blogger The Curl said...

Hey I just noticed in the picture the two people Sandy and I said we weren't ashamed to invite over are in the picture, Ginny and Karen, cool huh.

9:59 PM  
Blogger The Curl said...

hey one more comment, for Micheal, I remember some numbers too, I think it was 778-5478 and 772-9002. Are those correct for main street. or is my brain fried

10:01 PM  
Blogger The Curl said...

excuse me 778-5479

10:04 PM  
Blogger smae said...

I agree, the memories of that house could go on and on. Now I would just like to make one little comment...Curl and Glo (but especially Curl) messed with every single item I owned. ha! ha!, especially those knee socks. I agree with you that I sometimes was ashamed that I was ashamed. Mother tried so hard to make the place nice and to keep it clean. I too will never forget that place and the memories I retain are the funny and happy ones...and certainly of my two little heathen sisters. Also Glo and Curl, before you two were born, Mary Leaf and Dorothy used to torment me, but we also did cool things like put on Christmas shows for mother and daddy. I still remember clinmbing on a chair while singing "up on a rooftop, reindeer paws, here comes good ol" Santa Claus"....hey i got the lead role...old St. Nick himself. I also remember someone imitating the Easter Bunny and saying in a high squeaky voice...I'm hiding your baskets. Mother once got us little women easter
(or was it the easter bunny???)

11:38 AM  
Blogger david said...

I remember the old house also. I was trying to remember the house # but could not remember it. Now i know. The # of our house on Main St was 2319. Reading the stories from everyone reminded me of something i said when i was a kid. I was there in the house one day, and i don't remember which sister i said it to, but i told someone that your house looked pritty good on the outside but really bad inside. I think it was carol or glo i said it to. Whoever it was went to Mamaw miller and told her what i said. She laughed but now i realize that must have been a very hurtfull thing to have said. I have wished many many times i had not said it, but sometimes a kid says what comes to mind, with out thinking. I also remember the good times, all the grown ups at the kitchen table playing cards. Laughter would fill the house. And as i said before, your dad and my dad both lived to argue with each other. I think that was a highlight of their lives. Some one that didn't know them would have thought they were going to fight. The next week they would have the same arguement and switch sides. I also had forgetten that i would go to mow the grass at that house with that old rotary mower. The thing about those mowers was that you didn't let the grass go too long or you couldn't push the thing through the grass. I remember watching the film you are talking about. What i remember the most about it was the opening shot. The film started with a close up of a big orange CONDEMENED sign. That image is burned into my mind. I never knew that there was a room upstairs, but i remember the rest of the house, just as you described it.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

David, Wait until you read the chapter on Henry Clay - I discuss his love of arguing. . .It was part of who he was . . .and you are right, sometimes those arugment would take opposite sides the next week.

That house was always full of laughter and lots of people. I still love having people around.

Remember - kids do say the darnest things, and are so honest.

5:43 PM  
Blogger The Curl said...

David, thats Ok. a lady who use to live next door always passed out chocolate ice-cream cones each night. I went in her house one day and said I thought her house was dirty. Needless to say, I didn't get an icecream cone that night. Whats up with us and saying whats on our minds ha ha. Wasn't it Jeanette who use to say mother had dirty skirts or something along that line. We're a clean bunch aren't we .

7:02 PM  
Blogger Jeanette said...

I can definetly remember listening to The Sound Of Music and the Beatles. I can also remember Carol filling balloons with water for us in the summer.
I didn't know that the house had a room upstairs. But I do remember the bed in the front room. Especially waking Papaw up when Lisa was born and telling him that she was here and born on his birthday.
I too remember Papaw and Daddy arguing.
It's funny, Adam tells me all the time that I like to argue.....
I know many times Mom would talk about growing up in the house on Main Street.
It was me that said, "My Mamaw Wears Dirty Skirts". I don't recall why I said it.

11:39 PM  
Blogger Lisa_g said...

Well I'm sorry, but I don't know who's who in the picture. Someone tell me. For some reason, I don't remember much about back then?!!!?

11:04 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

The girls in the pic are.
On the left side: Me, Carol and Carol's friend Karen Lally. There is also Sandy and her friend Ginny on the right. The little girl sitting is Karen, and of course, the only guy in the picture is Daddy - Henry Clay

12:07 PM  
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8:45 PM  
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2:24 AM  

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