1952 AUGUST 23, MOVED INTO QUONSET HUT
After going through 14 moving experiences, 8 school changes, 7 different cars and 10 great dogs, I was ready to settle down with some stability! I was hardly prepared for what was about to transpire.
Our new homestead was rough and tumble compared to what I was used to. I thought maybe we were here to just help Leona clean up things after the passing of her husband Elmer, the civil engineer. Then while still living at Windsor Village, Mother and Dad started to transform the quonset hut into living quarters and I realized we were taking on the biggest remodel job of all time!
Quonset huts were manufactured by a wide range of independent contractors in countries around the world but the first were manufactured in 1941, when the United States Navy needed an all-purpose, lightweight building that could be shipped anywhere and assembled without skilled labor. The original design was a 16 ft × 36 ft structure framed with steel members with an 8 ft radius. The sides were corrugated steel sheets. The two ends were covered with plywood, which had doors and windows. The interior was insulated and had pressed wood lining and a wood floor. The building could be placed on concrete, on pilings, or directly on the ground with a wood floor.
As the original design used low grade (non-strategic) steel, a more rust-resistant version was called for. The United States used an all-spruce ‘Pacific Hut’ in the Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II. After the war, in the United States, the military sold its surplus Quonset huts to the public and Elmer, our civil engineer friend, bought one of the all-spruce huts and set it up North of the chicken house.
The 16 by 36 foot HUT would be our home while working on the barn. Mother and Dad rebuilt the porch on the South end of the HUT where the hand water pump was located. The pump is just visible to the right in the photo. The out house, a one holer, was behind the chicken house, about thirty feet away.
Work began on the inside, setting up and venting the wood/coal stove that would serve as our cook stove and heater. We went to Grandpa Wolff`s with baskets, barrels and boxes to get coal from the old coal bin in the basement. The old coal burner had been converted to gas recently Grandpa was glad to get the coal bin cleaned out.
Grandpa and Grandma Barrett were frequent visitors and helpers. They really enjoyed the whole idea and came down to see the progress and pitch in.
Dad added celotex insulation to the curved interior walls and ceiling. This helped some I guess, but we still got our butts burned in the kitchen area while shivering in the living area!
No electricity yet so it was kerosene lanterns in the out house and kerosene lamps in the house. The telephone service was to walk the quarter mile to Leona`s house up by the highway.
As the HUT began to be livable, we started to concentrate our efforts on the barn and all the debris and salvaged materials from Elmer`s construction projects.
Oh, there was also the not so small issue of the years accumulation of manure in the barn.This obviously had to be removed and became the top priority. A building contractor had been selected and his starting date had to be determined!
Elmer not only rescued old building materials, but he also rescued all the stray dogs and cats that he came across. This photo shows the South side of the barn with the dog kennels and the cow barn to the left.
The photo of the chicken house shows the cat pins in front.
Leona provided the dog and cat food for the six dogs and eighteen cats that we took care of until she could find homes for them all.
Elmer also rescued a ram he named Fritzy, and we adopted him. We had to keep an eye on him because he enjoyed ramming us if we were`t watching!
With all of this going on, Leona decided to start a flower shop business in her home and wants Mother to help her get it up and running. Mother, always up for a challenge, made trips with Leona to the Chicago Mercantile Supply Company to help pick out floral and business materials.
We had work, weather and varmint obstacles to contend with, but we always kept an optimistic outlook and we had fun! As some examples, here are a few out-takes from an early letter that Mother wrote to Grandpa and Grandma Barrett following one of their visits.
“Thursday night, 11:30P.M. 9-4-52
We`re still hauling junk and will be for some time. Ha Ha! Boy oh boy our activities for the week sound like a radio horse opera, but here goes anything for a laugh!
P.S. What does one do for hornets in the out house,? or does one do without??? Early Sunday, we found some siding we could use for the quonset hut to keep wind out from under it. Marv was nailing away like mad and hit his sore thumb. Then he knocked a blood blister on another finger. I was handing him siding and nails. Out of a clear sky, big bumble bees swarmed down on us like jets over Korea! One stung me on the shoulder and Marv was chased clear to the out house. then he ran indoors to check on me.
Then he straightened up, stuck out his chest and bravely announces, “No little bumble bee is going to scare me out!” He took his trusty little hammer-AND a flit gun and had a nail in his hand with the hammer and flit gun, when he raced for the back door yelling,” Ma open up here I come.” One had sat on his head, but he could`t get his footing to strike. I knew that “high forehead” was good for something, eh?
So-o-oo that ended the siding job. We hauled wood to the back pasture and burned some up here on the hill. The wind was so calm we could have sent you a smoke signal, when, out of the clear blue sky, an easterly-North-easter blew up. We sent a smoke screen toward Leona`s that slowed all traffic on 67 for a while–the water I so zealously applied only increased the smoke, since we were burning dead grass on top of the wood. Some farmers aren`t we?
The three of us finally got to bed in one piece—more or less, and awoke to Monday morning all sunny and ideal for work. We again tackled the bumble bee blitz–and you can imagine who won out!
I retreated as gracefully as possible to the task of sanding the chest of drawers, preparatory to painting. Marv sat it in front of the chicken house so I could work in the sun. The sun being my idea. Now, don`t jump to conclusions, I got no sunburn. But from there on in the day went from bad to worse-if that is possible!
The furnace man came and we talked to him, finding out nothing except that we need about a 120,000 BTU unit. He said he could tell better when the downstairs is finished. The well man still hash`t come yet, but we expect him any day now! I painted in the garage for Leona today too!
Cliff, from Marv`s work, came up Thursday. Marv, Cliff, Skip and Bud were in the back pasture unloading wood when—-poof, a storm came up. Dora Mae and her mother-in-law and I raced for the quonset. The wind jerked the front door out of my hands twice before I got it shut.
We raced to the kitchen to look out for the men, when we saw the wind blow over the chest I`d been working on. A second later, a tree came crashing down on top of it, and another tree blew down! Dora Mae said she didn`t know who was shaking the most me or the quonset!!
In the meantime, the men were having their own storm trooping. The wind blew Marv off the truck (unhurt) and blew the dog pen gate open, letting Lassie in with the other four females. They say she`s a killer and boy she was out to prove it. pieces of dog were flying and not from the wind.
Oh boy, with an ideal banked storm shelter, I had to be in the paper shell quonset. Woe is me, poor me. I no felt so good. We people were all O.K. but that stupid Lassie and two others looked like stretcher cases. They are O.K. by now but still limping around—-the dogs I mean. I was lamenting the fact that the wind and tree had crushed the chest, and Cliff says, “Just thank God it wasn`t YOUR chest instead of THE chest,” and he was right. The weatherman said the winds reached the 60`s and 70`s. Were`t we fortunate?
Cliffs drove out as Groves drove in and it started raining again. The kids played in the barn while we sipped hot coffee in the kitchen. They left about 9band we got to bed without any calamity. P.P.S. Does Uncle Sam let this kind of fiction go through the mail??
It was too hot for Marv to sleep, so he got up and repaired our little front porch stoop, the wind had blown cockeyed. He mended the door and he and I caulked one of the living room windows and then he carried a kitchen cabinet down from the barn and I resorted my kitchen storage space. He put up the clothes racks, then we ate and he took off for work.
Today–ah-h-h today!! It has been just a good old mediocre day. Filled with good news too!! Mr. Nealis can start on the downstairs the 1st of next month. Marv worked until 4 this A.M. and his boss was a little put out because he refused to work longer.
Oh yes, one of these days just past, Sunday I THINK, we found time to paint the pump, pump porch and back porch and true up the screen doors so they don`t sag like our achin` backs!! We also managed to find time to eat and sleep a little.
It is now 2:20 Friday A.M. and Marv isn`t home yet. Working no doubt overtime. I can`t get a fire going in the stove no matter how I hold my mouth. In desperation (and to keep from freezing in our beds) I lit the kerosene heater. I am a coward and afraid to go to bed with it lit—we`ve undergone one storm and high water and I`m not ready for fire YET, so I`m sitting up with the stove and keeping it company. Marv got home at 5:00. I woke him at 10 when the contractor came for estimates.
Went to Anderson for some hooks, nails and clothes props for the hall. We got Skip some school clothes and got home in time Marv to dump us out and head for work.
Don`t you envy us? Never a DULL moment, though by now my BRAIN is, so I`ll close and hit the hay, figuratively speaking!!!
Save this volume I`ve written, I want to type it up—it sounds like the Arkansas Traveler on an Indiana farm!!
Love, Gerrie, Marv, Skip and bees.”
SCHOOL AND CONSTRUCTION START
Of all the schools I had attended, this was the first school bus I ever rode. Our neighborhood gang was small compared to past groups, just made up of three families and that was counting mine! Barbara Seybert, Jeff and Mike Hanna, me, Steve and Shirley Seybert made up the new gang.
Murry Alford drove that bus route all the way through my high school years. The bad part about this route was that we were among the first to be picked up for an hour long drive that went up highway 67 to Anderson. We picked up kids on West 53rd Street and turned South on Main Street and then cut back to Madison Avenue and Huntsville Road. The good part was, we were among the first off on the way home!!
I am third row, fourth from right, and my teacher was Mrs. Wolfe!
This building was the old Pendleton High School and when a new high school was built this became the Pendleton Grade School.
I made more friends at school, but with the distance factor, this didn`t help during play time at home. I made a good friend while living on Noble Street and luckily our families became good friends too. Mabel and Bob Groves and their son, Johnny Bill, would visit back and fourth quite often. Johnny and I would have sleep-overs and week long visits at times.
They lived out in the country too and we went in the neighbors woods and cut down sapling trees and built a log cabin fort to play and camp out in. I really hope those were not black walnut trees. Hey, we were just kids!! We used firecrackers inside tin cans as our fort cannons to ward off the evil doers!
Well I digress, again. The contractor started on the septic system first as we were finishing up prepping the inside. While digging for the septic tank, he hit gravel and water at 5ft but managed to finish it up alright. (The precursor to the IMI gravel pit!) This shows the double septic tanks installed and ready for backfill.
While Nealis worked on the plumbing, we sterilized and waterproofed the cement blocks in the downstairs area. The bags of cement for the floor are ready, just waiting on the gravel.
We finally have electricity to the quonset!! The contractor set up a temporary utility pole for construction purposes and we ran a line to the hut. No more homework by kerosene lamp.
Dad had a hard day helping Nealis dig and set the septic tanks and now it`s off to work the night shift at Circle Engraving in Indianapolis.
Nealis dug the drain tile and plumbing trenches in preparation for pouring the cement floor. The water supply lines and drain pipes were fastened to the cement blocks which would later be covered with knotty pine boards to finish the walls. We took out the left stall sliding door to put in the bathroom wall.
The first cement pour was in the future bathroom.
With all of this going on, Dad and I took time to dig a little natural spring pond. Dad figured that with the water constantly filling the pond, we could pump the water from there to use on the yard and future flower beds. (always thinking ahead)
With the small pond, we had to have some ducks too! Donald, Daisy and Lazy were soon adopted.
Started well drilling 10/24/1952. Hit limestone at 102ft. 10/27/52. Pumping water at 125ft. 10/28/52. Dad would come home in the mornings from work and find the rig still drilling and mumble, “Geesh $4.00 a foot!!!”. This view is from the North and the quonset would be to the left.
Nealis and his brother started pouring the cement floor on 10/28/52. Great progress! Then the water heater and plumbing to the well pump was finished.
Nealis and his brother eating lunch in the kitchen. The kerosene heater helped as the fall weather was taking a turn. We had to remember to keep a water jug on hand to prime the hand pump at the quonset hut, especially on these freezing nights. No water meant a trek to Hanna`s house for water also phone use if needed.
After the plumbing was complete, Nealis started adding furring strips to the cement blocks in preparation for nailing up the knotty pine boards. Dad was painting the utility room in between putting the knotty pine siding on the sliding stall door that we left in place for the utility room.
11/10/52 Dad did all of the house wiring except the 220 volt lines. He used 12 gage wire and soldered any wire splices in the junction boxes. This was well above the building code requirements as was the double septic tank set up, but that was Dad his whole life! I have to say, the lights never dimmed when the well pump or furnace kicked on!
In the background, the new window was installed for the future breakfast nook and the brick planter that Dad made as a partition. While laying the bricks and pointing the mortar with his fingers instead of using (or buying) the proper tool, his fingerprints got worn off!
This is a good time to point out that all of this work was being done with hand tools. I don`t mean hand power tools. I mean hand saws and brace and bit drilling and hammer and chisel!
Adding another brick planter outside the breakfast nook as a retaining wall, resulted in less fingerprints. They used some of Elmer`s old salvaged timbers for a walkway flowerbed retainer, and dug out for a patio.
He ran the wiring through the block wall for the porch lights and figured out how to make and install a Dutch door for the kitchen entrance.
They had the Floor Store install the asphalt tile squares in the bath and kitchen area leaving the utility room floor painted cement. This was after sanding and shellacking the wood walls.
Just three months after moving into the quonset hut, we moved into the downstairs of our Barn House on 11/27/52! Now there is just the upstairs and a hay loft to remodel!!