Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Going Home Again

Our new home in the 1950s
My parents bought their first brand new home in 1956. It was in one of the new suburbs that were being built outside of San Rafael, in what was to become northern California's very fancy and expensive Marin County.
At the time, these houses ranged in price from the high 12's--I guess I need to translate that, in view of what has happened to house prices since. I mean that the prices ranged for $12,950 to $19,950--hard to believe now, I know! I just did a price search and the cheapest home in this area is currently listed at $599,000, even with the recent dive in real estate prices.

For that original price, people were getting some very nicely designed homes. Ours had a public area--living, dining, and kitchen--that was built around a massive brick wall that contained a two sided fireplace open to the living and dining rooms; and a large indoor barbecue, complete with spit, copper hood, and firebox that added to an already special kitchen.

The kitchen barbecue, spit and all

The kitchen contained General Electric's very best and latest appliances--countertop burners, a wall mounted oven, a built-in dishwasher, and a washer/dryer combination that no one ended up liking very much. My dad eventually took it out and built a matching cupboard for the space left, and we put our replacement washer and dryer out in the garage, as did most of our neighbors. The kitchen was small, but very workable, and opened into the dining room so the cook could have company. The most interesting appliances in the kitchen were the wall-mounted countertop-height fridge and freezer--three little doors, conveniently placed right at eye level. I've often wondered how people managed when those fridges wore out and needed replacement--there was literally no space for a big fridge.

Image from an old GE advertisement

The living room had a peaked wall of glass that rose up to a beamed ceiling and opened out onto a covered flagstone patio that my dad built.

At the other end of the house there was a long hall that included two small bedrooms, a bathroom, and the first master bedroom suite we had ever seen--a large bedroom, two closets with an adjoining dressing area and built-in dressing table, and a bathroom of its own. This was fancy living after our small 2 bedroom, 1 bath home in San Francisco.

My family owned the Marinwood house until the year after my father died. We kids had moved away, and my mother moved to a smaller condominium.

In the 1990's, on a trip to California, I took a photo of the house as it was then. The little tree we had planted out front decades before was giving lots of shade. The garage was converted, so the driveway was littered with cars--not a look that my parents would have appreciated.

This photo was taken in the summer of 1998--different paint job, more cars


June Saville said...

Hi Clair
I used to go back to the home of my childhood whenever I was within cooee, which wasn't very often.
Last time I happened to be with my brother and we were reminiscing like mad. We remembered the story of how our father had buried an Indian motor bike in the yard when it died, because there was no better place for it.
We turned the corner, longing to see the house again. Shock!
The place had become the site of a three story block of units and the entire garden was under concrete!
I will not return.
June in Oz

Anonymous said...

Clair, Your house was SO neat. I really like it. I bet it was great fun to live in such a cool house. I saw the tiling that you had in the kitchen and it reminded me of my grandmother's house in Tyler, TX. Same kind of tiling.. They moved into their house in Tyler in the late 50s, early 60s. It also had the mounted oven on the wall. Your Dad built a flagstone patio ~ those are so nice. We had a large one when we lived in the Colorado mountains outside of CO Springs.