Sunday, April 12, 2020

Remembering the Farm - This Old House

The house in which my father was born and in which our family lived until the late 1960's was built in about 1910. My Grandfather purchased the farm which included the relatively new house in 1914, the year he and Grandma got married. It was a basic two-storey 14x28 box with a lean-to kitchen and store room on the north side and lean-to front porch on the west and a dug out root cellar.

Downstairs was an L-shaped living-dining area and parlour, with stairs going up and under them, down to the root cellar. Upstairs had two bedrooms, a large one on the west and a small one on the SE corner, along with a hallway and a closet with a toilet and honey bucket, vented to the chimney. A stove pipe from the space heater in the living room came up through the floor and provided heat to the west bedroom where we kids slept. The parent's bedroom was unheated and on a cold night with a SE wind was also unliveable.

My father also slept in the west room as a boy. Bedbugs were a major problem in every house in those days and his bed and bedding had been taken outside to fumigate one spring while he slept on the floor. While he slept one night, a ball of lightning came in through the roof and went out the west window, shattering both and leaving his bedding full of scorched splinters. If he had been in his bed, it would have killed him. Fortunately it did not start the house on fire.

Initially the house was heated by a coal and wood space heater in the living room and a coal and wood cookstove in the kitchen. Eventually both were replaced by fuel oil burners. The house never had water or sewer installed. We got electricity in the spring of 1953, the year I started school.

The house was 2x4 frame construction, sided in shiplap and had no insulation. The last years we lived there, you could see daylight through a crack in the wall under my brother's bed.

In the early 60's my mom's father bought and paid for the moving and much of the renovation of an old house in good condition so his daughter would have someplace decent to live. Renovations were completed for a move-in in the late 60's, where my parents and younger siblings lived. My brother is living there now.

Dad tore down the lean-tos and the chimney finally toppled but the main box is still there, though the stairs have collapsed. Instead of burning the place, my brother is determined to save it for some reason and has reshingled half the roof.

When the house was new. It never saw another coat of paint.

My grandmother standing by the front yard c early 1940s

My grandparents standing by the front gate c late 1930s

My father standing in front of the old house c 1990s


  1. Wow, no insulation. On the prairies. In winter. People were tough back then.

  2. Debra, it was "insulated" with shavings which settled over time and were useless

  3. You must have been absolutely frozen in that house! And it's still standing after all those years.

  4. Froze in winter and boiled in summer. Wish it would fall down or catch fire but that is just me.

  5. The old house on our family farm was similar - built in 1905 and "insulated" with wood shavings. It was my grandparents' house, and I can still remember sitting in the kitchen eating split pea soup that had been cooked on the woodstove. (They had electricity by then, but the woodstove was hot anyway, so why not cook on it?) By the late 1960s they wised up and went to Texas every year from October to March. From your account, I can only imagine how cold that house must have been in winter!

  6. Diane, glad some people smartened up. and yes it was cold in winter. We kids wore long underwear in the house and warm socks, with moccasins that went inside 4 buckle overshoes to go out.


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