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