Several months ago I received a packet of information from a relative of the Hoefer family. She is actually the cousin of the sisters we purchased the house from, and she grew up across the street. It’s been a true gift to have a connection with the family that owned and loved this house for almost 95 years. One of the most interesting things she has sent me was an essay written by the youngest Hoefer daughter, Rosie, about what life was like growing up in our house.
I’ve decided to share her writings with you in this blog post, so you can get a glimpse as to what the house was like back in it’s prime, and hopefully give you a vision of what we want it to be again! Since this essay is quite detailed (which I absolutely LOVE) I’ve decided to split it up between he first floor and the second floor. The photos are from when we did our first walk through of the house.
“Remembering Life at 502 Plum Street”
Written By Rosie Hoefer Smith
“I’ve heard that our house at 502 Plum was a “Sears Catalog House” That means it was a kit house sold primarily through mail order from Sears Roebuck Catalogs from 1890-1940. I have no confirmation that it was a Sears House. Mother and Daddy bought the house in about 1924 when Mary was a baby. They, along with Fran and Marge, had been living with Grandmother Turner (Mother’s mother) in her house on Spring Street.
Sometime before Hoefers bought the property, there was a fire in the attic, roof, and part of the upper floors. In one second floor closet you can still see charred rafters from the fire.
The interior of the house has 8 large rooms, each with multiple doors and windows and each with stories. If only walls could talk! From the front porch you enter the “Front Hall” (interesting name since there was no “Back Hall”) The front hall acted as a cloak room. We hung our coats on a row of iron hooks in the hall. It housed umbrellas, bats and balls, tennis rackets, roller skates, and a tobacco can of marbles we all used. Opposite the coat hooks was a mirror, for one last look before going out the door.
The front hall led to the living room. That room has 3 windows and 4 doorways. As you enter from the front hall, the doorway to the downstairs bedroom is to your left. Then in a few steps there is the doorway to the bathroom hall, and a few more steps takes you to the wide opening to the dining room. The windows are on the North and West side of the house.
The living room was the site of many musical events. We played various instruments including accordion, concertina, tonette, harmonica, sweet potato, piano, baritone, and percussion. Not to be forgotten was Daddy’s fiddle playing while chorded on the piano, and our singing, dancing, and playing games. I recall Mother playing two songs on the piano—Missouri Waltz and Blackhawk Waltz, and she frequently requested Alice Blue Gown and Skater’s Waltz. Daddy’s repertoire included Tennessee Waltz, Wabash Cannon Ball, and other songs he played by ear or made up. Not all of us played every instrument mentioned, but pretty much all of us were involved in some sort of musical participation, even if it was to crank and play records on the old Victrola. We had an old wall telephone between the two North windows. Mother (and the rest of the town) would call “Central” (the telephone operator) whenever the fire sirens went off because she knew the location of the fire. The living room is also where Mother and Daddy played card games with our neighbors across the street, Hattie and Andy Price. Rook and Rummy were their games of choice.
At one point the dining room had French doors with glass panes. Sometimes in the winter, the doors would be closed. The wood heating stove, a King Heater, was in the dining room, and by closing the French doors, the living room, hall, and bedroom would be shut off from the heat. The heat from the stove could then stay dining room, kitchen, and up the stairs to the bedrooms. I can remember that little stove getting so hot that the sides would turn bright red. In the winter we sometimes took baths in a tub behind the stove. That is also where we hung our Christmas stockings.
The dining room has two windows, the living room archway, stairwell to the upstairs, and the door to the kitchen. We had a big oak dining room table, which was used when company came, a buffet, and china cabinet. The china cabinet housed antique dishes, hand painted bowls, and a few pieces of crystal glassware. There were other little pieces of memorabilia stuck in and around the dishes in the china cabinet. Mary has the cabinet now. Mother’s old upright Story and Clarke piano, which she got for her 10th birthday, was in the dining room also. It is now in Shirley’s basement. This is the piano that we all learned to play when we were young. It was played so much that the ivories for the keys Middle C, D, and E were all worn through to the wood. When I began taking lessons, there were little holes or grooves on the keys where our fingers fit. Jack bought us a new Baldwin console when I was in about 3rd grade. It was fun having duo piano concerts, even though the two pianos were not in tune with each other. It was like trying to get and stay in tune with Daddy’s fiddle.
The eat-in kitchen was adjacent to the dining room. It has 2 windows and 5 doors. The various doors in the kitchen led to the back porch, cellar, pantry, dining room, and bathroom hall. Somehow they managed to fit in a table, sink, cabinets and stove. I can barely remember a large, wood, cook stove. It was to the back of the living room wall. Most of my growing up years, Mother cooked with a gas range, which was placed on the East kitchen wall. In later years the wood heating stove in the dining room was replaced with a gas space heater, which heated the entire first floor and the girls’ upstairs bedroom. There was never central heat or air in the house.
In the bathroom hall, there was a unique set of iron clothes hooks where we hung our pjs and robes. The small bathroom was heated by a little gas space heater. In the early years we had a freestanding tub with claw foot legs. Later, a bathroom remodeling included a built-in tub, shower combination. As long as I can remember, we always had indoor plumbing in the bathroom and kitchen.
There was a door from the bathroom into the downstairs bedroom. It was cut out when Jack had Scarlet Fever and was quarantined to the downstairs bedroom. Betty said they were all quarantined (poor Mother) and would pass notes to Jack under the living room door to the bedroom. The large, airy bedroom has 4 windows, 2 doors and a closet that was added later. I loved exploring in the bedroom. There were so many interesting and unique items to inspect. I remember a picture of a crying baby, her spilled milk surrounding her, and a little dog lapping up the milk. I say her because the frame is pink. The picture is still there…”
And that’s part one! Stay tuned for part two, which is all about the second floor!