Sunday, October 17, 2010


One of the things about the Internet that has turned out to be most fun for me – and exceedingly helpful for genealogists – it to be able to go back in time and see the houses that have some significance in the stories of our family life. That, of course, is if the house still exists and if Google happened to photograph it!

Here is the house that I lived in between the ages of 2 and 6. It is in the 1900 block of Henderson Avenue in Long Beach. Actually, it wasn’t a house; it was an apartment and we lived in the downstairs corner unit next to the vacant lot. You can see the door clearly. I found the address of the building on a Long Beach Voter’s Registration list online. I used Google Earth to take a look at that address and it certainly seemed to be what I remembered. Just to be sure, I looked at a picture in my baby book taken there – and sure enough, her I am on those very same steps, along with my grandma, my aunt Margie, my little sister Ginnie Lou and some of my friends. Mother noted it was taken at my 5th birthday party.

And next is a picture of me taken in 1938 sitting at the side of the house next to the vacant lot, having a tea party with some little neighbor children. And Google Earth shows that the vacant lot is still there, still vacant. That's 72 years, guys! Imagine! Do you think something was built there and then torn down in the ensuing years, turning it back into a vacant lot?

There are a couple of things about this place that I remember very clearly. First, it is the place we lived when my sister was born on August 1, 1937. It only had one bedroom, and since the baby slept in the room with mother and dad, I got to sleep on a little pallet in a corner of the living room. In the daytime the blankets would be put in the coat closet and at night they would come out to be made into my bed again. I also remember that every night my folks would listen to the radio and I would fall asleep to the sounds of the song “Moonlight and Roses” that ended the program they listened to.

In the back yard out between the garages there was an incinerator where the apartment residents burned their trash. The clotheslines were nearby, so all the women made sure the clothes were taken in the house before the trash was burned. No one wanted ash on their clean clothing.

The milkman came each day, usually very early, to deliver our milk. The ice man stopped in front of each apartment to carry in the big blocks of ice which were put into the iceboxes that were still being used during that time. He would jump into the back of the truck, use an ice pick to separate the blocks, grab a block with a huge set of tongs and sling the whole thing over his shoulder to carry in the house. He had a rubber pad that went over his shoulder for the block of ice to rest on. Each family had a sign to put in the window if they needed ice. After all, it was ice, not electricity, that kept our food cold. We also saw the garbage truck come by and empty our garbage pails into the back of the truck. To this day I can still remember that horrible smell. And the mailman came twice a day – once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

It was during the time we lived on Henderson that mother began taking us to Sunday School at the Baptist Church on Hill and Olive in Long Beach. That is where both my sister and I were “dedicated” (Baptists didn’t baptize children but did have a little “Dedication” ritual). There is an entry in my Baby Book that says Ginnie Lou and I sang “Brahm’s Lullaby” at that church when I was 5 and my sister 3. My folks were not church-goers at any point in their life, but they always made sure we went to Sunday School at whatever church was the nearest to where we lived. I have to laugh that when our family moved to our next house we were sent to the First Foursquare Church around the corner. Believe me, this was quite a change from a Baptist church.

Looking at that picture from Google Earth of the Henderson Street building brings back so many memories, of course fortified from what my mother posted in the amazing book she kept for me. I'm sure the book itself has far more pictures in it than my own children will ever feel necessary to look at. But it gives me great pleasure to think on these things -- how time flies, the way we were then, how much our culture and our clothing has changed, and probably most importantly, how our families are all linked from generation to generation.

Have you used Google Earth to find your old houses?

1 comment:

Olga said...

I did. I wrote about my mother's family home in Olyphant, Pennsylvania last winter and found a picture of the house on Google. The current owner happened upon my blog and contacted me. Technology can be unbelievably amazing.