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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The scream house

Unlike the sidewalk, the scream house construction didn’t get documented with pictures.  Half way down the sidewalk, on the left side, there’s a shed type structure put up by the current owner.  Sadly, he tore down the patio and covered up the cobbles to do it.

In the beginning there was the screen house.  Dad built it about 1957.  It was a frame of a house, complete with pitched roof, and screens for walls.  Jan was four.  It was her scream house.  Before he built the scream house dad had to make the patio under it.  He laid hundreds of brick cobbles that he discovered as construction waste at Botzum Brothers, the company mining the pit.  They were his for the taking.  The pile surely weighed a ton and was three quarters of a mile from our house.  A quarter mile of that was the climb back up out of the pit.

Dad furnished the clothes line and paid the neighborhood kids a nickel a cobble to drag those bricks up from the pit and down the street to our back yard.  I think that took us the entire month of June.  After dad laid the stone floor he assembled the scream house on top of it.  Every fall he took it down and stored it in the garage.

The cobble stones, on the left.  Quite a few years after they were laid; probably between the screen house and its replacement.

A glimpse of Jan's scream house over her shoulder.
Dad ran electricity to the garage and the patio.  He dug a trench the length of the yard and laid a pipe that went through the basement wall.  Walt held the ball of cord at one end and dad started up the vacuum at the other.  The line was sucked 200 feet out to the garage.  Then the cord was tied to the electrical line and slick as you know what, the electrical line was pulled through.  This probably did not violate a single zoning code in 1957.

Mom, Jan, Joanne, Walt, Mel, Uncle Bill, Dad.  That grin on dad's face is knowing the timer will trip perfectly.
The scream house was our haven in summer.  Mom set up her sewing machine.  She may even have set up a quilt or two. We ate every meal there. She made pancakes in her trusty electric skillet on the weekends.  One time I reached up to unplug the coffee pot I had just emptied into my parents’ cups.  Just as I reached dad jumped up and shouted “NO,” but my hand had already closed on the plug.  Bare feet on damp stones.  I was thrown the ten foot width of the patio and landed on my back.  Unconscious.  When I opened my eyes dad was compressing my chest and counting.  He looked at me and said, “How often have you been told to wear shoes!”

In 1965, early one April there was a freak wind storm.  My brother Mel had just put the scream house together, and it sailed away forever.  The next patio cover was not screened.  However, it did not have to be disassembled and reassembled annually.  Dad’s health was not up to new construction and Walt was in the Air Force, so Mel and our neighbor Chico built the new patio roof.  The new roof was barrel shaped, with fluted green fiberglass covering.  From then on, when dad was not using his camera for family events he would reach up and store it safely from harm on one of the four by four rafters.

 Mel and Chico, constructing.

Mom supervising.

The camera holder completed.  Right up there on the cross rafter in the foreground.


  1. The most awesome covered patio EVER. My recollection is of the picnic table turned 90 degrees. That picnic table is a story in itself. What was it, like 12 feet long? *I* remember sewing out there over the summer!

  2. Nice looking patio cover...too bad you lost the scream house though...that was cool.

  3. It was probably at least 10' long. And if too many people got on one side it tipped over. Always a treat for a new visitor.

  4. And look at that lump on my forehead in the picture where I'm standing in front of the August lily. Since it is the August lily it was obviously late summer. That was the year I got my first bicycle? Almost four? And apparently mom was practicing the standard scotch tape hair cut a year early. Every school picture of me had that "no bangs" curve from her making sure I could SEE in class.

  5. Oh, I love this!!! I love your memories! The scream house was fabulous, and your new patio almost as good! I feel like I lived every moment of this post. Thank you so much!