First and Last House

Playing around on Google Maps, I put in the address of my childhood home and the photo above came up. Yep, that’s it.

As often happens, images prompt me to post.  Pulling up that Google Maps image of the house on Elam Street brought back a flood of memories. I usually live in the present and look to the future, but this got me reminiscing about how things have changed in the way we live, especially regarding our homes.

We moved into that house in 1957 when I was 9 years old and I lived there growing up until I graduated from High School in 1966 and left for college. That’s over 50 years ago now. I only lived in this house about 10 years, but when you are growing up, that’s a long time.

I lived there with my parents Mary and Roel Fowler, and my two brothers Alan and Frank. Oh and our black dog, Snuffy.

Housing really has improved for most Americans in the last 50 years. I thought it may be interesting to compare the features of that house to my retirement home today.

That house on Elam Street did not have central heating and air like all the homes do these days. It had 3 ceramics gas heaters. The heater in the kitchen is where Snuffy our dog would lay in front of, but we all took turns backing up to that heater to warm ourselves when it got really cold. There were only two window air conditioner units, one each in the two bedrooms. The kitchen only had a couple of box fans.  I am not sure what utilities cost back then, but now the cost of utilities seems to keep rising even as we upgrade to more efficient equipment. Water bills seem to be particularly high lately. Regardless of costs, comfort has great improved these days.

That house was probably built in the late 1800s and looks like a farm house originally.  It had wood floors and vinyl floors in the large eat in kitchen where the dinette set was. The kitchen was our meeting place, with a TV, a chin high white refrigerator with ice trays. The first ice trays were metal with a lever to pull to pop out the ice cubes and later we had those blue plastic trays you could twist to pop out the cubes. Many times a pot of Maxwell house coffee was brewing.

Today’s homes have some similarities. Our kitchens remain the center of our homes. K Cup coffee brewers let us get a cup of any kind of coffee we want almost immediately.  Refrigerators have two doors and with ice makers build in the door.  Hardwood floors remain popular.

The house on Elam Street had only one bathroom, with one shower and no tub, a commode and a sink. Maybe a linen closet.  A metal latch on the door to keep out intruders but frequent knocks to see when you were coming out! My retirement home has two and a half baths, a beautiful master bathroom with double vanity which is a must for most people, shower and tub. My full guest bath may go months without anyone using it!

At Elam Street our bedroom did have a small closet but I think we had a piece of furniture called a “chifferobe” to keep some clothes.  My retirement home has a large walk-in closet, but not as large as in our last home. We did have a closet company come install systems in three of our other closets and pantry to be more efficient.

The house of Elam Street had a hodgepodge of rooms. The bedroom I shared with my two brothers was not a bedroom like we think of today, it was a large room. Then my parents had their bedroom. A large living room at the front door was where the preacher and the Avon Lady was invited in to sit. Today’s retirement homes have two or three bedrooms and a great room rather than a formal living room.

Our Elam Street house had a front porch with a glider set and a back porch where my brother Alan used to love to play with the cat, who was delegated to outside. Only Snuffy our dog was allowed in the house.  Today’s retirement homes may have a small front porch, but most have a nice rear patio, deck and/or sun room. That is my sun room at the top of this blog.

There was no garage or carport at our Elam Street home. In the Winter, we had to get out the ice scrapers and go to work to clear the windshield.  When the first cold weather came, you better go get some anti-freeze for your car’s radiator or it would freeze up. Most retirement homes have a nice two or three car garage with automatic door opener.

The yard at the Elam Street house was nice and large with several pecan trees.  We had a lawn mover but I don’t remember cutting the grass as a problem.  The chore was raking all those leaves from the pecan trees! No leaf blowers back then, just good old fashioned raking. We would take the leaves out to the edge of the street in a waist high pile, then burn them. Everybody would be doing the same thing. Then the next weeks we would be gathering the pecans to sell to the man with a scale in back of his truck that could come along and buy our big sacks of them. My brothers and I would use that money to go to the State Fair in Macon and have the best time.

In my retirement community, they say landscaping is included.  Kind of.  Well mowing and edging is for sure.  I don’t own a lawn mower and that is nice. I would be arrested if I tried to rake my leaves to the street and burn them!

We were outside quite a bit usually playing in the yard, eating figs from our large fig tree or capturing a large June Bug from the same tree and tying a thread to the leg and letting him fly circles around us.  Never did that? You missed out. Lightening bugs were abundant at dusk. In the yard, we had fights from time to time, played with the dog, swung from the tire on a rope hung over a tree branch, or sat in another glider set in the back yard and talked. In the neighborhood we played softball, tried to pole vault using limbs, fished at the creek, or build a go cart and rode down the hill in back of our house. These days I am outside more and more since I retired, usually walking or at the bocce or pickleball courts or some other activity. Sometimes it’s nice sitting on the rear patio watching the sky and the North Georgia Mountains.  This part seems to be coming full circle to where I started.

When I announced to my old neighbor that I was moving to a retirement community, she said “Oh, is that where you are going to end up?” Maybe, but I can’t think of any place better.

Robert Fowler



By Robert Fowler

Robert Fowler is President of Retirement Media Inc. and publisher of Robert and his wife Mary Ann live at Village at Deaton Creek, a Del Webb Community in North Georgia. Robert has visited many 55+ Active Adult Communities and blogs about Active Adult Community Living.

One reply on “First and Last House”

Oh Robert, take me back please. I am so glad you wrote this. Yes, as we have said before, memories are good. You did a wonderful job with contrast and comparison, how it was and how it is today with homes. I remember when you shared about your dog. The first and the last house such a difference. As usual it was an interesting blog.

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