The Slide Years: The Porch

By Eilene Lyon

The Slide Years is a series in which I select an image my dad took from 1957-1982 with Kodachrome slide film, then I write a stream-of-consciousness essay – a sort of mini-memoir.


I found this picture in the earliest batch of Dad’s slides from 1957. This is his family’s cat from that period, a calico named Fluffy. She must be fairly young in this photo, because I remember Fluffy in later years.

Fluffy is sitting by the side steps to the front porch on Reatha and Everett Halse’s house in Corvallis, Oregon. Coincidently, I took a photo of another pet in the same location two decades later.

Grandma’s house (Grandpa was gone before I came along) had what I considered to be a very large front porch, running the full front of the house, with a roof overhead for protection from the weather.

SCAN1709
Reatha, Everett and one son in front of the house with the large porch. Funny how they didn’t bother to move the overturned wagon in front of the photographer, or the tricycle off to the right side. Note the juniper shrubs on either side of the steps. (Courtesy of S. Halse)

 

SCAN1681
Everett Halse on the front porch holding my older brother, Steve, the only one of his grandchildren he ever got to meet. (Courtesy of S. Halse)

The side steps led to a driveway and a single-car garage behind the house. Much different from the way they build homes today, with a two- or three-car garage front and center, and a miniscule porch at the front door, if there is a porch at all!

The large porch was a great place to play outdoors if it happened to be raining. On warm summer nights, that shady cove stayed comfortably cool. Occasionally, family would gather and we kids would line up on the wide rails instead of sitting on chairs. If Mom or my uncle decided to play guitar, we’d have a good ol’ sing-along. I can hear Uncle now, crooning the ballad of Charlie on the MTA:

Well, did he ever return?

No he never returned and his fate is still unlearned.

He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston.

He’s the man who never returned.*

SCAN2200
Uncle sitting in the same rocker as in the Fluffy picture, playing guitar with my brothers doing their best to impede the music. Mom is at the far end of the rail with a line of neighborhood kids, mostly Maddoxes, I’m sure.

It wasn’t always just family gathered on the porch. The Maddox family next door (Mormons) had a passel of kids who’d gladly join in the fun. Eventually the Maddox house burned to the ground. The lot remains vacant to this day, becoming overgrown with blackberry brambles.

The junipers by the front steps eventually grew so enormous that Grandma’s living room and the porch fell in deep shadow. Someone wisely yanked them out. A myrtlewood, endemic to Oregon and California, also towered above the porch roof after growing for many years.

520MW5th
The remodeled house in 2013 (new owners) with the giant myrtle tree hiding the porch and front of the house.

When I lived with Grandma for a few months after finishing college in the mid-80s, my “rent” payment was the task of painting the house. Starting with that porch – which now seemed utterly and ridiculously enormous. Grandma got a bit peeved with me when I suddenly up and moved to Colorado and left the painting job unfinished.

Our house here has a fairly small front porch, and we live out in the country, so few people are strolling by. Only The Putterer and I sit out there together, along with the dogs.

Do people still enjoy gathering on front porches on warm summer nights? I sure hope so.

SCAN2199
Photo of our family dog, Taurus, in 1978, standing at the top of the side steps from the porch, almost like Fluffy, above. (E. Lyon)

*lyrics from “M.T.A.” by Bess Hawes / Jacqueline Steiner, recorded by The Kingston Trio

29 thoughts on “The Slide Years: The Porch

Add yours

  1. The front porch is a very special place for we boomers. I have many memories from my childhood home. All mundane and hardly worth mentioning – and yet, noteworthy for the fact that people don’t sit out like they used to.

    I wonder if we’ll see more use this spring and summer if we are still required to remain confined to home… it will be one way people can engage from a safe distance…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think if the stay-at-home orders persist well into spring or (shudder) summer, people with porches will be taking advantage of them a bit more.

      You’re probably right that it’s a generational thing, like riding our bikes everywhere unsupervised (and without helmets) and playing kick-the-can until dark.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Our first home Larry and I bought had a front porch. The house was built for returning soldiers after the second world war. We were the only house with a porch on that street. We didn’t use it much. It was always in the shade and narrow. We sat out back more, used the carport like a patio! But, I do love a house with a wide front porch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That seems odd to have only one house on the whole street with a porch. I think one thing about porches is that for me, it would be about sitting still, and that’s not something I’m good at!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It odd. We were the only house on that block from that time. Now I have a back porch, where I’ve always enjoyed morning coffee and afternoon cocktails.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. When we added on a few years ago, I requested a front porch like the one I grew up with. I don’t tolerate swings in temp anymore, but my husband sure enjoys having coffee out there, listening to the radio, chatting with neighbors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just love old style porches, even if I don’t spend much time sitting around enjoying them. If I lived in town, it might be a little different. But we do have a nice deck that faces the road, so we can shout out hi to our neighbors who walk by.

      Like

  4. Our first home had a big porch much like your Grandma’s. We always intended on using it, but it was either too cold, windy or buggy to stay outside for long. (Nebraska)

    The picture of your uncle with the guitar made me think of the old Andy Griffith Show!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really enjoyed this installment of The Slide Years! My dad used to sing the ballad of Charlie on the MTA! (He grew up in a suburb of Boston.) The house in Vermont where I spend most of my growing-up years also had a very large porch. We spent a great deal of time out there when the weather was warm.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love all your porch pets! The house I grew up in just had some concrete steps in the front, with a giant hideous concrete sculpture of a fruit bowl on the top one. We didn’t have any pets, but there were about a million tiny red beetles (ants?) crawling on the steps in the summer, and I used to enjoy mashing them into pretty crimson streaks across the concrete until my mother yelled at me for staining it. Nowhere near as nice of a memory as yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😆 I can totally relate to your buggy experience. Sounds like you were totally porch and pet deprived as a child. We didn’t have many pets and usually not for very long when we did. Pets have been a much bigger part of my adult life.

      Liked by 1 person

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