The House Slim Built
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a traditional holiday that brings family together to celebrate a time of thanks for the bounties of the past year. The holiday was first celebrated as the Autumn Harvest Festival in the year 1621 in what is now known as Plymouth, Mass.
Later in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that each November the nation would celebrate Thanksgiving. Lincoln must have hoped that as war tore apart the country, perhaps giving thanks with family and friends could somehow begin the healing.
Since that first meal long ago, we have used the holiday to rekindle the traditions of being together in the family home. It seems that each year our lives become much more complicated. Electronics that were supposed to make our lives easier have in many ways consumed our lives. I know somewhere at the dinner table tomorrow someone will talk on their cell phone or text a friend, a problem the Pilgrims didn’t have.
To me at the center of the holiday is the family home where dinner is served. For many the meal has a long tradition of being at the grandparents’ house or Mom and Dad’s. For some families, they will be sitting down for the first time in a new home and perhaps with the smell of fresh paint still lingering.
Home is a traditional word that brings comfort to most who think about those holiday family gatherings. Home is the place we grew up and formed our earliest memories. Home is the place that if you close your eyes and remember, you smell warm turkey and pumpkin pie. Home is family.
We were once a country of storytellers before TV and football games filled the time after dinner. Families would sit down together and tell stories of past Thanksgivings and family. We were proud of our history and used the holiday as a way to pass on those special family memories to the next generation. Stories were passed down by word of mouth about generations of family and their struggles. Some stories caused us to laugh until our sides hurt. Others brought tears for families members who are no longer with us. But, most were stories of families and their struggles.
This Thanksgiving I will share a family story with you that I was privileged to read this year. Betty Hardman took the time to sit down and write how her husband, Emery “Slim” Hardman, had built the family home. She wrote the story not to be remembered as a literary master piece, but how her husband of 63 years worked to build a home for their family. I want to share some of Betty’s words with you on this Thanksgiving eve.
“The year was 1959. Our little cottage that we moved into in 1946, just after we were married, was becoming too small for our family as we already had two sons and one more on the way. We were hoping for a daughter. We talked about what we should do. We started looking for another house, but nothing seemed to be the one for us. We then decided to maybe, just maybe, we could build one.
“First we had to find the money we needed to purchase the lot, $2,000. With what little we had in savings and borrowing from our insurance, we made it. We went to get a construction loan from a federal loan company. The man, Fred Peterson, told us to go home and figure on more money than what we had to build the house because it was not enough.
“I was not much help to Slim. I did work on getting things packed up and ready to move and taking care of baby things too. Slim, with my help, started figuring how to add more money into the construction. It was late summer and we were looking forward to school and fall. I was getting bigger! We started getting back to the special things we had to do because our new home was to be all electric.
“Slim was going to do the wiring with the help of electricians from the power company. Slim had to be bonded, which he did, and passed it just fine. After all legal items were taken care of, the foundation was started. That was in September. Concrete was poured and the beginning had started.
“Slim took care of everything and still helped in the evenings as much as he could. I went into labor Oct. 2 and late that night after midnight our little baby girl was born, Oct. 3, 1959. We named her Lorna Jane.
“Before long our new home would be finished. It was beginning to look more like a house now. As time went on, Christmas was soon near. We had a small decorated Christmas tree in the corner window. We also had one at our old home. In fact, we had our last Christmas in our old home.
“Soon the time came to move. Feb. 1, 1960, came and we moved some of our appliances. Slim asked Don Hardman to help him. That evening it began to rain, but they kept loading onto the truck. It was very late when they finished up. The beds were set up and we moved in for our first night in our new house.
“We were still the only building on the dirt street, but soon Mr. Brown told us he was getting ready to put streets in. That would put our house on a hill and our front yard would not be that nice sloping yard we wanted. But in time it became rather nice, especially after it had a name. The house became 1903-43rd St. in Parkersburg, W.Va. How nice.”
“The lots beside us sold and houses were built. We soon had neighbors with lots of kids. All were very good neighbors.”
Betty goes on to write that she has lived in that family home for 50 years. As she now looks around at the neighborhood she watched grow, homes are now empty of good friends and neighbors that are no longer with us. Neighbors Chet and Freda Ostrowski are both there and the Glassers still live at the corner. Her wonderful husband, Emery (Slim) is gone this past January. She concludes that she has medical problems, but at 82 she is still getting around, but not very fast. Finally she writes, “But, I still have this house Slim and I built.”
The above family history is comprised of chosen excerpts from the story written by Betty and given to her family. For her it is important that future generations remember the home and family that love built. They are simple words that a family can cherish for years to come.
Tomorrow she will sit down and continue the family tradition. Betty and her family are just one of many families in America who will follow this tradition started long ago. The Pilgrims lost family members in the hopes of building homes and lives in that new country.
For many, chairs at the table will be empty. But if we take the time to tell stories of our families, we will live on as free people in a great country.
This Thanksgiving remember family and give thanks as we look Thru the Lens.