Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Das Heimatland

First off, reminiscing about one's former homes/houses/dwellings/domiciles etc., is popular this week. Well, it is amongst the subset of humanity consisting of Your Humble Scribe, Juvat, and Skip. While it ain't no Skunk Week, it does give the Muse something to chew on...

Now for all intents and purposes, I consider myself (Bernie notwithstanding*) to be a Vermonter. Born there, raised there, and (with the exception of college) went to school there. Spent my formative years there if you will, as I am rather conservative about many things it seems I might be an outlier as the rest of the state seems profoundly liberal these days. NTTAWWT, per se. Wasn't that way when I was a callow youth, not that I recall anyway.

So Sarge, tell me a little bit about Vermont.
Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. Vermont is the 6th smallest in area and the 2nd least populous of the 50 United States. It is the only New England state not bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Champlain forms half of Vermont's western border, which it shares with the state of New York. The Green Mountains are within the state. Vermont is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east across the Connecticut River, New York to the west, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north.

Originally inhabited by two major Native American tribes (the Algonquian-speaking Abenaki and the Iroquois), much of the territory that is now Vermont was claimed by France during its early colonial period. France ceded the territory to the Kingdom of Great Britain after being defeated in 1763 in the Seven Years' War (in the United States, referred to as the French and Indian War). For many years, the nearby colonies, especially New Hampshire and New York, disputed control of the area (then called the New Hampshire Grants).

Settlers who held land titles granted by these colonies were opposed by the Green Mountain Boys militia, which eventually prevailed in creating an independent state, the Vermont Republic. Founded in 1777 during the Revolutionary War, the republic lasted for fourteen years. Aside from the Thirteen Colonies, Vermont is one of only four U.S. states (along with Texas, Hawaii, and California) to have been a sovereign state in its past. In 1791, Vermont joined the United States as the 14th state, the first in addition to the original 13 Colonies. Vermont was the first state to partially abolish slavery while still independent.

Vermont is the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States. The state capital is Montpelier with a population of 7,855, making it the least populous state capital in the country. Vermont's most populous city is Burlington, with a 2010 population of 42,417, which makes it the least populous city in the United States to be the largest city within a state. Burlington's metropolitan area has a population of 211,261.
(Source for photo and text)
What Mr. Lund didn't mention in his blurb was that the name "Vermont" is from the French words for "green" and "mountain." Which, if we followed French practice, the state should be named Montver, as the French for green mountains is montagnes vertes. Vermont sounds better, heck, if it was call Montver we might confuse it with Mount Vernon, George Washington's home on the Potomac. Or not.

But yeah, I digress.

I still have a sentimental attachment to Das Heimatland, the homeland. (Well dammit Sarge, why didn't you just call the damn post, "The Homeland"? Well, the word Heimatland, which literally translates to "homeland" has a deeper meaning in German. The word,  auf Deutsch, describes a community, region, country or state, to which a special affiliation is felt. Again, I have this language "thing." Vermont ist mein Heimatland.)

So, before joining up with Uncle Sam's Aerial Force I lived a few places back in the homeland. While I wasn't a military brat, Dad worked his way from an apartment, to part of a house, to a whole house all to ourselves back in the late '50s.

Now if you slide on down to the fourth photo in the following sequence you'll see a two story house which figures a little later in this tale. But the lot just to the left (out of the photo) at one time held an apartment building, which is where Mom and Dad lived when I came into the world. That place burned down a few years after we lived there. Coincidentally, the hospital I was born in burned down a while after I came into existence as a person separate from my mother.

Note the use of the word "coincidentally." All of that happened before I started the first grade, the hospital burned down before I was one. They had to build a new one for my brothers to be born in. I had nothing to do with either conflagration. I was too young, there was no motive, no evidence, and no witnesses. As I probably couldn't walk yet when the hospital went, I guess you could say I had no opportunity.

Now the house below was where we lived after the apartment. We had most of the place and as I recall, the landlady lived in that small section on the left in the photo. (And no, that weird cut across the front of the house wasn't there. That's an artifact from Google pasting all those street view photos together. Just sayin'. That is not a rip in the space-time continuum!)

I remember one Christmas in that house and though I don't remember how old I was at the time, it is my first memory of Christmas. I also recall no heat on the upper floor. We slept under a pile of blankets and I do remember that when you woke up, you hurried downstairs at a brisk pace because those floors were damned cold!

There is one other anecdote about that place I've been told of which involved Yours Truly, though I don't remember it, my Mom and Dad told me about it. Seems I was upstairs banging on one of the bedroom doors with my hand. My father came upstairs to see what all the racket was...

"Chris, knock that off, use your head son."

Well, apparently I did stop, at least until Dad went back down the stairs. At which point the banging of the door recommenced. Back up the stairs Dad went to see his oldest son again banging on the door. Using my head. Of course.

I do believe Mom and Dad thought me a bit "touched," though I daresay that hard head came in awfully handy as a sergeant later in life!

Google Street View
Now after that place above (which was on Crescent Street, I should note that the apartment building mentioned above was on Commonwealth Avenue, no, not the one in Boston) we moved to what I now refer to as the "Ancestral Family Home." Which is currently owned and operated by my brother, The Olde Vermonter and his tribe. Oddly enough, that street name also starts with a "C." (Pattern? Coincidence? Rip in the space-time continuum?)

Google Street View
Little brother is a carpenter and is quite handy with tools, he makes his living fixing up other peoples' houses so he often falls behind on the maintenance of his own domicile. That is until Mrs Olde Vermonter "suggests" that the work needing doing around her house needs to get done and yes, now would be a good time. So that much needed paint job above has since been completed.

A few things worth noting:
  • The addition on the right of the picture was done by my brother, long after I had moved on to phix Phantoms on the phlightline.
  • The trees out back of the house weren't quite so close when I was a lad.
  • The two windows just to the left of the front door mark the two rooms I had in high school (top floor) and just before I went off to wear the blue (bottom floor).
  • The window on the left at the back of the house is where I shared a room with The Olde Vermonter when my youngest brother, The Musician, was still an infant. Once he could toddle about I suggested to the parental units that perhaps the two youngest sons should share a room and the eldest (moi) should have a room all to hisself. Surprisingly enough, and much to The Olde Vermonter's chagrin, Mom and Dad agreed.
Now I should mention that there was a year of college in between those two rooms I had all to myself (no, not at the same time). I spent my freshman year learning how to march and do calisthenics, throw fake hand grenades, and do so poorly at most academic exercises that I barely made it through the year.

On the up side I did discover a fondness for beer. Not that that particular life "skill" impressed my parents all that much. So I didn't return to college until some eleven years later. Quite a break between freshman and sophomore years, neh?

But I didn't go to Europe to "find myself" or some other hedonistic pursuit. Back in those days I was encouraged to get a job. Which I did. First at a map making company (mentioned here) then later at a factory where I had a number of jobs, was a union man, and learned exactly what it was I didn't want to spend the rest of my life doing. 'Twas the Air Force for me, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

My first time living away from my parents was this place (which I talked about here in the tale of my first car) -

Google Street View
That photo of "Buckingham Palace" is a bit clearer than the one in that link above. Taken in the Fall it was so that it isn't obscured by foliage. My roomie and I, Animal, (well, that's his name innit? Okay, his last name was Tier. Look that up in German and get back to me...) lived on the bottom floor, Mr Buckingham (an architect I think) had his office on the top floor. Which does have windows round the back. The top floor was half the size of the bottom. Which is where we lived in bucolic splendor until I fell in with a fast crowd.

Student nurses they were.

And a whole passel of 'em lived in this place (which in this photo is sadly run down, last time I was home the new owners were actually fixing it up) -

Google Street View
That's on Park Street (note that Buckingham Palace was on Parker Hill Road, I'd gone from street names which start with "C" to streets and roads which started with "Park." Odd that.)

Well, the wild life of student nurses, strong drink, and semi-fast cars (okay, I made up that last bit, my roomie there did have a kinda-fast car, which sucked in snow) wore thin after a while. (After all, Your Humble Scribe is a calm, sedate fellow, okay, absolute truth, I had trouble keeping up with those student nurses.)

So I moved out of paradise Park Street and got an apartment on Commonwealth Avenue (no, not the one in Boston). Actually it was the entire top floor of the house below. I was reminded of this the Friday after Thanksgiving when the whole tribe motored up to New Hampshire and we went out to dinner in the Heimatland. At the restaurant my mother pointer out my old landlord (owner of the house below) and his wife.

"I say Mother, they have certainly aged!"

To which my daughter, The WSO, said "Have you looked in the mirror lately Dad?"

"Yeah, you're old!" Chortled The Nuke, who was accompanied in her glee by the Senior Granddaughter who enjoys remarking upon my advancing age and "So Grandpa, what happened to all your hair?"

I swear, young people these days.

Anyhoo, I had come full circle back in the old hometown, living next door to the lot (remember, the building itself had burned down - an event for which I hold myself blameless) upon which stood my very first home.

Google Street View
 So yeah, I lived in a few places before heading off into the blue, as it were. After Commonwealth Ave, my Dad and I fixed up a room in the basement of the Ancestral Family Home as he thought it would be nice to have me around before going off to the colors.

Hhmm, that room had no heat either.

Full circle indeed!

* Er kommt, wie die meisten echten Arschlöcher im Staat, nicht von dort.


  1. Mom and Dad grew up in the dustbowl years in SW Oklahoma. Mom said they had quilts that they kept warm under... She said she kept a glass of water near the bed, and it was frozen solid by morning in winter. Dad told me he could see the stars through holes in the roof. When the weather was about to change, the yellow jacket wasps would start hunting for shelter. He said waking up with a load of wasps in your bed was touchy to say the least. Lots of farmers in 1930's OK were some kind of poor.

    Good stuff to kick start memories around Christmas... Thanks for that.

    1. I like sorting through the old memories at this time of year.

      Glad you like it too!

  2. Hey, is the house on Crescent Street in Northfield? My father was the basketball coach at Norwich University in the 1960's and I lived in the house at the corner of Crescent Street and the main road, I think Route 12. We moved when I was four but I went back to school there for two years. Went to Florida on spring break my sophomore year, put in an application for college in Florida and never looked back. I have a sister who lives in Waitsfield and a nephew there as well. My sister went to UVM and married the captain of the basketball team. Norwich and UVM used to play twice a year. My sister was engaged to the captain of the team one year while my father coached against him. Awkward.

    1. No, it's further south, in Springfield. Norwich is where I learned to drink beer. Sort of. I used to love Tuesday afternoons in the winter, I tool skiing lessons for gym class across the road. As I already knew how to ski, the instructor cut me lose for the day, knowing that I would actually be skiing. When I wasn't drinking beer.

    2. I also learned to drink beer there. However, I perfected it in Florida. I got an ROTC scholarship after my freshman year. However, I did not actually receive it until December. By that time I wasn't really sure that I wanted it. Then they told me I would receive five months back pay, a whopping $500, if I signed up. I had never seen that much money in my life. I signed the papers, got the check and walked downtown to a bank and cashed it. They asked how I wanted it and I said in 20's. I went back to my dorm room and threw the 20's up in the air. I still have the picture someone took of me sitting on a bean bag chair covered in 20's thinking I was rich. My buddies and I spent $400 of it that weekend on beer. The rest of it I wasted. Five or six years later when I was sitting on my tank in the desert I remember thinking, "you dumb ass, you are sitting out here in the middle of the desert because you signed your life away for $500. And you spent that on Old Milwaukee beer in two days."

    3. Some of life's lessons are pretty harsh. If it's any consolation, I probably would have done the same.

    4. I don't know.....Old Milwaukee?? I'd like to think I'd have gotten something a bit more upscale. Michelob, maybe?

    5. I suppose Old Milwaukee is a step up from Schlitz. At least that's what I guzzled back in the day.

      Taste? Pshaw, it was simply an alcohol delivery system back then.

      Yes, I grew up. Barely.

    6. Actually Old Milpond was the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co's. answer for Miller's Milwoerker's Best and A-B's Bush, in other words it was aged in aluminum for as long as it takes for the truck to deliver it.

    7. 1983 new years resolution was to never drink old Milwaukee again. And I have stuck to it.

  3. It interesting how the the things we remember from our few formative years become our foundation for the rest of them. Someone could be a kid in one state, but live 50 years elsewhere and yet still consider that first domicile as "home." Same way for Sports teams. San Diego is 2/3rds transplants, and they all consider their childhood baseball team "their" team (vice the Padres). Home games look like away games sometimes, with all the opposing team jerseys.

    1. Many members of my family attended Giants games at Petco Park because it has been easier to obtain good seats at a lower price than at AT&T Park.

  4. Boy, I'm glad I brought a lunch along when I sat down to read this post; it's a long one. A very good one despite ( because of )[ ? ] its length. Thank you for sharing this part of your life.

    The photos of the houses are very nice, look like great places to have lived.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. While I try to avoid the TL;DR situation (TL;DR = Too Long; Didn't Read), I do get long winded at times. What the progeny like to call "Dad's getting carried away again!"

      Glad you liked it despite its length.



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