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Minnies' House

Ruth 0. Richards

Originally published in the Emmitsburg Dispatch
Republished in the Emmitsburg News-Journal

In the fall of '42 we moved to the neighbor’s house, on South Seton Avenue with the promise that we could stay there for the duration of the war. However, circumstances made it necessary for the neighbors to return to Emmitsburg in the fall of '43. We weren’t exactly evicted, but the arrangement offered to us of sharing the house with the neighbors’ family did not appeal to us so we had to move.

Moving did not appeal to us either, for we knew that housing in Emmitsburg was scarce and we had no furniture. Well, we had a refrigerator that we had bought our first year in Mrs. Patterson's house, but except for a handful of odds and ends, we had nothing.

We rented Minnie Eichelburger’s house from the Emmitsburg Water Company, owner at that Time; the house, that is now next to the drive in at the Bank. In 1943 there was one house in between owned Mr. Peter Burket [said to be the richest man in Emmitsburg] owned that house which had a rented apartment upstairs, and he lived downstairs. Now, my memory is a bit fuzzy, but I believe there was a small A&P store owned by Mr. Bill Rowe there also, but I can’t remember if it was a part of Mr. Burkeffe's house, or a separate building.

Minnie’s house was big, and needless to say, we could not live in such a big house with only a refrigerator. Someone told us about Mr. Herzog at Blue Ridge Summit who had some kind of connection with a furniture warehouse in Baltimore. We contacted him and he took us to the warehouse where we could choose from the furniture in stock.

As we walked through the warehouse, we were made aware that Wartime furniture was not only poorly made, but made with interior design and materials. Couches and easy chairs had no springs, belying the word "easy." The bad springs consisted of two parallel boards with flimsy springs between and heaven only knows what was in the lumpy mattresses. We bought a drop leaf table that teetered no matter where we it, a buffet and four dinning room chairs. The only thing now remaining of that shopping spree is a suit of bedroom furniture of cherry wood, and that remains because it was of fine quality.

How were we going to get this furniture back to Emmitsburg Mr. Herzog had the answer.  Obviously he had done this before. It was not an insurmountable problem. Andy Eyster, a friend from our first days in Emmitsburg, went to Baltimore, picked up the furniture and brought it to Emmitsburg.

We still had no stove nor kitchen furniture. We bought a tiny gas stove from Hayes Hardware, and a kitchen table and chairs from a second hand store under the hotel. I was ready to make this house livable and cozy but by then I was pregnant and Dr. Cadle put me to bed for six weeks.

Sometime during that six weeks there was a carnival where the erstwhile shoe factory was and the Antique Mall now is. Every hour of the day, hour after hour, the calliope at the carnival played "Pistol Packing Mama - Put that Pistol Down." I was reeling with nausea at that time and hearing that tune set me off. Today just thinking about that tune almost sends me reeling again.

There were annoyances about this house that we had to contend with. As soon as we moved in we had no hot water, even though we had built fires in the little stove next to the furnace for that purpose. That problem was solved when Mr. Hayes discovered that the hot water pipe had been connected to the toilet. We were flushing all of our hot water away.

Other annoyances were not so easily dealt with. The furnace was hand-fired and because of the war, the only coal we could get was "oil coal," I think it was called. It was terrible. If the fire was "banked" (does anyone know that usage, any more?) too much, the fire go out and the house would be cold in the morning. On many occasions, black smoke from the furnace would fill the house and everything would be covered with a grimy black film. Oh! Joy!

We were horrified to find that we had rats from the chicken 'factory ' next door. Every time we went down to the basement there would be rats crawling overhead, or sucking water out of the drain for the wash tubs. Flying ants or termites would swarm into front room, and in the room at the top of the stairs I had set aside as a nurse.

We had even begun to think that the house was haunted. Not infrequently, we would be awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of something being dropped onto to attic floor overhead. We went up to the attic several times and found nothing that would account for that noise.

The blinds that had been furnished by the landlord did not reach all ft way to ft bottom of the windows, which reached to the floor. Often at night we would discover passerby's stooping to look under the blinds and into the room. I wonder what they were hoping to see.

There was a little yard to the east of the house with a hedge along the front. One Saturday evening as we were sitting on the front steps we were privileged to learn that the little yard was a public toilet. 'Come on Mommy, here's where we always go.'

That yard got very weedy and Mrs. Hayes, (Sam's mother) was embarrassed and hired Gem Myers (who was a high school student then) to tidy it up for us (her.) We had no tool as they were unavailable at the time. There was room at the back of the house for a garden and I have no idea how we prepared the ground for that, but I do know that we had a great tomato crop. Victory Gardens were 'the thing."

Each room in the house had windows on the west side. I felt they had to be curtained

to help make each room look more complete. We could not use them for either looking out or to let light in, as there was less than a foot of space between that house and the one next door.

Once again, I say, Mrs. Harnar was good to me and to us. She was about the only person I got know during our first year in Minnie's house. Our baby (Katharine) was born in May and when I went out of the house with her, I got to know more neighbors.

That will have to be another story -- there's much to tell.

Have your own memories of Emmitsburg of old? 
If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net

Read other stories by Ruth Richards

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