Saturday, April 25, 2009

Homes Tour Memories

Model A built by Alfred Conitz

E. Conitz Sr. home from the back
Hulda Conitz Keeling and Asta Viemann Hawkins

Wall Detail of House I've Never Been In
carved wooden knot

Bedroom of House I've Never Been In

Alfred & Ellen Conitz's washpot
Today is the big spring homes tour in Calvert. I worried about the event when big storms hit in the wee hours of the morning. But, it looks like it turned out to be a nice, warm, spring day.
Hope they have a good attendance this year. Lots of music and events going on, besides the home tour.
I couldn't go but I thought I would share some of my "Pilgrimage" memories with you. (That's what they started out calling it when they first started having the homes tour. This year it is called "Showcase Calvert 2009")
People were excited about sharing their history and showing off their posessions and homeplaces when the tour of homes and interest in antiques first started. There was lots of painting and cleaning and getting ready for the influx of tourists that everyone hoped would come to discover Calvert. At that time, we lived in the little house near the school, which wasn't very antique. But Mama urged Daddy to mow and clean up the yard, anyway, thinking of what the neighbors and visitors might think. Daddy finally bowed to Mama's wishes, while going about his usual business and not really wanting to get into the spirit of the event.
Just before the event, Daddy said that he had some antiques too and he was going to display them . Mama had a fit and told him not to do that. The neighbors weren't too happy about it either. But that made Daddy just that much more determined to show his antiques .
He put the old iron wash pot from the back yard, on the front lawn. And pulled the old truck that he had built out of the shed out by the horse pen, and put it in the front yard. He also pulled the old baggage wagon that he had rescued from when they tore down the Calvert train station, from under the carport and out where tourists could see it.
Mama and the neighbors were not amused!
But Daddy was proud that he was participating by showing his antiques.
The rest of us tried to act like we couldn't see the items in our yard, since he wouldn't move them.
During the Pilgrimage, Daddy enjoyed visiting with all the people downtown. And Mama helped with the open house at the Methodist Church. I don't remember when they started the art show at Reba's Calvert Arts & Crafts, but, when they started that, she was involved with the art show and helping at Conitz Dry Goods Store, as we all were, when we were in town.
The red and black Model A truck at the top of the page, is the truck that Daddy built. He took part of Mrs. Peterson's old car that was cut in half by a train, and old parts from various cars, including one that had a rumble seat, to build a truck. When he built a shed in back and started hauling old cars home, he announced that he was going to build his own car. Everyone told him to quit that foolishness-he couldn't build a car. But, he spent a few years doing it and eventually had a truck that looked like the one on the Walton's tv series. It was black, as were most cars.
Daddy announced that he was through, started the car, asked us to ride to town. We all refused in fear the thing would wreck or blow up! But, Daddy drove the truck to town to show it off, then drove it back home, just to prove that it would run. He tinkered with it a bit, put it in the shed, up on blocks, and never drove it again. He just had to prove that he could do it.
When the Pilgrimages started, each year, Daddy would drag out his antiques. Even when they moved to the new house. And it did pay off.
One year, during the Pilgrimage, a man visiting town, saw the truck and bought it. He fixed it up, painted it red and black and drove it in parades.
Daddy was grinning from ear to ear, every time the man came to Calvert and took him for a ride in the truck. The photo of the truck was taken on one of those visits. Daddy is beside the truck, Mama and her sister are also in the picture, and the owner and his friend are behind them. The man belonged to a Model A Club and owned several old Fords. I think the name of the club is the Brazos Valley As.
The picture of the E. Conitz Sr. home is the house where I started life. We lived there until I was almost 4 years old-in the upstairs part. Great-grandpa, E. Conitz Sr., and his son, Gus, lived downstairs, that is until Emil died when I was 1. Gus continued to live there unitl he died about 10 years later. Mr. and Mrs. Burns rented the downstairs part while Gus had his special places in the house, like his basment room and the attic.
The Victorian houses in town were not all that unusual to me since I had grown up around them. Now, of course, they are very interesting.
In the picture is Hulda Conitz Keeling and her cousin, Asta Vieman Hawkins of Houston and Galveston. Hulda did grow up in this house, with all of her brothers and her parents.
During one early Pilgrimage, the house was not open as part of the tour, and was basically abandoned. My mother and her sister wanted to see what the house looked like, now. My grandfather still owned the house, but had not rented it out since the last people left a big mess. At this time, the yard was all grown up in weeds, so we waded through, hoping to look inside. The door was open and the screen door was just hanging. So we went inside.
They were horrified to find that fluroescent lights now replaced the hanging light fixtures and chandeliers. Hardwood floors had been covered with bright turquoise shag carpet. The wood paneling had been torn out and replaced with turquoise and green sheetrock. The staircase had been painted with white paint that was now peeling and turning yellow.
We learned that the nest to the last renters didn't have utilities, so they used the wood paneling to build fires in the middle of the music room floor. Wires were hung across the house for hanging clothes and for dripping blood from chickens they killed. The floor also became a bathroom. When my grandfather discovered it, he made them leave. The next renters cleaned it up and put in the "modern touches", but they didn't stay long, either. After that, my grandfather didn't want anymore renters. He offered to sell it to me, cheap, but I didn't have a job there, or money, or a way to take care of all that needed to be done to the house. Besides, I had a little bit of a fear of the place, as I do of all old places, especially if there is no one else around.
My daughter begged to stay when we got ready to leave after looking around the abandoned house, saying that this was her house! I had a creepy feeling and just wanted to run out of there. My mother and her sister just shook their heads and looked like they were going to cry. "What happened to all that beautiful wood paneling!" They asked, over and over.
Fortunately, the house was bought by someone who was able to do a lot of work on it. It was changed, somewhat, but, at least, it was preserved and was liveable again.
It has been sold again a couple of times, and each owner has made their own changes. But the house lives on as it was, in my memory and pictures.
At the time that the house was built, prior to 1900, Emil Conitz Sr. was partners in a lumber yard, among his other interests including his grocery store. So the house was built using the finest materials available.
It would be nice, now, if we had kept the old places, and could have kept them as they were in their better days. The ladies in the family always wanted a new house, or new things, wanting to get rid of the old things. It was the men who wanted to stay in their comfortable old homes, but finally would give in to the women, and move on to new places with them.
We didn't usually go on the homes tours, since we were in the houses at times, anyway. Better to stay out of the way and let the tourists have plenty of space. Occasionally, we would be asked to help out in one of the houses, and that was always nice.
I really liked dressing up in the Victorian attire, and even had a lady in Calvert, Dot, make several dresses that I designed. And, of course, it was nice that we had the dry goods store so that I could get my material and patterns there. Just made changes to make those clothes look like the Victorians might have worn.
More on fashions another time.
After we moved away from Calvert, I had this dream about going back and looking around the town. New people had moved in and changes had been to the homes (which has actually happened, of course.)
Someone, in the dream, asked me if I had seen the inside of the home that they had just fixed up. I can tell you where it was, but there is no house there! I think it was the back of the Foster house, beside where their barn used to be. I can see the house across the street, too.
I went in through the kitchen and they invited me upstairs to see the bedrooms. We had to walk through the bedroom in the drawing above, to get to the other bedrooms and bathrooms. This bedroom has really stuck in my mind, so I drew it.
There were windows across the east wall, covered in sheer white ruffled panels. A writing desk or dresser was the only furniture on that side of the room. There was a low wall to divide the room, pale yellow, topped with white wood. At the opening, there was a white carved wood feature, like a knot. That is the detail that I have added below the drawing of the room.
A hardwood floor was exposed as a sort of hallway through the room. The opposite side of the room had a row of closets, painted soft green, and a matching floral rug covered the floor on that side of the room. The bed was there, covered with a chintz type of floral spread.
I don't know why that room has stuck with me so much. I could see the house across the street through the sheer curtains, and that is very familiar to me.
I guess I went on my own homes tour, in my sleep!
At one time, I thought about going block by block, and telling about each house on the block, maybe taking a picture to go with it. It would have been introducing people to, not just a place, but a way of life-Calvert. I never got around to doing that, and, now, I find that I have forgotten a lot. Should have done that some years ago. I didn't think that I knew as much as my relatives knew. But, now that they are gone, what they knew is also gone.
Since I can't go to the event in Calvert, today, I can still remember. Hope you enjoyed my little walk down memory lane.
It was on this day, April 25, when Calvert was getting ready for tourists, 34 years ago. We laid Jamey to rest on this day. There was to be a big art show in town at the newly refurbished utility building on the weekend. I took Jamey's drawings, and displayed them on Daddy's baggage wagon. I couldn't be concerned with my own things. I was still wondering "What happened? Is this real?"
A couple of days later, a tornado hit the town and demolished that building and others. I was going to wait out the rain in the car, that day, since I was sitting in the cemetery at his grave, when the rain started. We didn't have things like tornado warnings. When it started to lightning, I rode around north of town. When I got back into town and the rain let up, there were tractors and farm equipment all in the highway, and their building was gone. I drove past the cemetery and a piece of tin had scooped the ground and crumpled against a fence, just where I had been sitting.
When storms blew up last night, I watched the weather channel, remembering this time all those years ago, and hoping that there would not be another tornado. For a while, it looked like a hook was forming on radar, so I didn't attempt to sleep until it had all moved on. I hoped that there would not be storms or damage in Calvert, before their big event today.
Greta Watkins of the Frame Gallery in downtown Bryan, reminds me that next Friday is the big First Friday in downtown Bryan. There is always lots to do there. Entertainment, food, art, music, carriage rides. You can see more on the Downtown Bryan Association website.
Get Well Wishes go out to all those on the sick list! Hope everyone recovers quickly!
Be sure to see the Face Book group, Calvert, Texas.
Also, click on the link at the top of my page, to join BrazosValley_Sketchers.
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