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Salvage Catz

April 19, 2017
 Our 80-something neighbor, Tom, used to live two doors down from us in a house he occupied with his family since he was a kid in the 1940s. A couple of years ago, Tom inherited his sister’s “newer” mid-century house across town. He finally sold the family bungalow, which hadn’t been updated since the 1960s and was sorely in need of some TLC. A guy named Jessie bought the house as a flip.

 

Small brown bungalow needs updating

Tom’s house

Jessie’s attention was diverted to another project, and Tom’s place sat, gutted, sidingless, and sad, for what seemed like forever. Last summer it became a flop house for homeless people and druggies. Over the fall and winter, Jessie’s crew was back at it, thank goodness, and the house was secured and squatter-free at last. Recently we asked the foreman if we could peek inside, and we were thrilled to see what a nice job they’d done. The house retains its early-1900s charm and general floor plan, but with beautiful wood floors, gray and white paint, and a modern but period-appropriate kitchen. Some family will be proud to call it home.

Updated Craftsman bungalow

Jessie’s house

This house not only belonged to Tom (who taught me how to prune my roses), but another family that I recently learned about. A few months ago I read Midnight in Broad Daylight, the biography of Harry Fukuhara, whose family lived in the house before some of them moved back to Hiroshima just before World War II. It’s a fascinating account—I highly recommend it. I was amazed to discover this personal neighborhood connection to the story.

Jessie’s crew made a debris pile in the backyard, which has been slowly disappearing to the dump. And then—Eric spied something interesting: old glass-front cabinet doors with the original brass latches! Eric asked Jessie if we could pilfer their trash, and Jessie was only too happy to let us lighten their dump bill. So, we sauntered down the alley on Sunday to do some pickin’.

A gravel alley behind old houses

I love alleys. You can see all kinds of interesting things.

Along the way we encountered our tux cat, Crosby, out for a stroll with beautiful Dot, our feral friend. Dot, Dash, and Ditto Morse like to hang out in the blackberry thicket across the alley.

Two cats hangin out in the alley

Alley catz Dot and Crosby

A tabby cat looks out from a blackberry thicket

Dot in the blackberry thicket

We salvaged ten windows for their wavy glass—something you pay good money for these days. (We paid about $400 to put “new” old glass in our kitchen cabinets.) Some were glass cabinet doors, and some were the kitchen’s exterior windows. Coincidentally, the kitchen cabinets and trim are pink, ,just as my kitchen once was.

Back of remodeled bungalow

Is there anything interesting in this pile?

Man salvages old windows from debris pile.

Ooh! Windows with wavy glass!

The windows moved into our greenhouse, because, obviously, you never know when you might need a wavy glass window!

I have no idea what we’ll use these windows and doors for … but now a little piece of Tom and Harry’s house belongs to us. Yay!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

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14 Comments
  1. Barbara H. permalink

    Oh, good save! That’s a fascinating connection to what I think might be a very sad story.

    • It’s not really sad, Barbara (other than how the whole Hiroshima story is sad). But it’s very enlightening. The family survives but not without consequences.

  2. Tom & Judy Huppert permalink

    Sounds like you struck it rich finding those windows and doors. The book must be an interesting read, especially since it relates directly to your area. I presume you no longer use your greenhouse as a greenhouse any more. lol

    • Haha–we use the greenhouse for lots of things: tool storage, junk storage, cat storage … and sometimes for plants! 🙂

  3. cathy lee permalink

    How did you ever find the book? History is so interesting and to have a piece on your corner is very special. The fact they conserved the inside seems so unusual in this day of buy, teardown, build and sell. I know you will find the right place for those beautiful windows.

    • I picked up the book at Costco, not knowing it was about someone who once lived in Auburn, much less just two houses down from us! The remodel did change some things, like where the laundry room is, but overall it’s very much the same, only cleaner, prettier, and way better! So glad they kept the nice front corner window.

  4. Wavy glass is beautiful. How did you figure out that family had lived in your neighbor’s house?

    • Early in the book I was surprised that they lived in my town … then it described them driving down my street up to a house “across from the Knickerbocker mansion” (which isn’t a mansion, just a big house) that had a bay window. There’s only one house that matches that description. Later, the mother writes to Harry that “a family named O’Neill bought our old house” … and then I knew for sure! I was so amazed!

  5. WILLIAM C GOFORTH permalink

    If you liked that book you will probably like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

  6. I’m confident you and your talented hubs will find a good use for the treasures you salvaged. The house looks charming. We’re hoping our houses sells soon so we can find something “charming” to move to!
    Karen

    • Where are you planning to move to, Karen? Still staying in SoCal, or finding someplace cooler? I mentioned a potential use for the cabinet doors to Eric and he was already thinking the same thing. 🙂

  7. very cool story & finds!!! love the cat pics, too

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