When I was a child my great-grandmother lived in a Craftsman-style house on Sherman Avenue in Salt Lake City. Until that time I had mostly lived in a single-story house in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Great-Grandma Glade’s laundry chute was beyond fascinating.
Childhood friends had a father who was an artist, later a professor at BYU. He had a printmaking shop in his garage, and we sometimes got to tiptoe through his shop and see his birdcages full of finches.
And then there was my grandmother’s “welfare room.” The basement pantry was lined with shelves full of home-bottled tomatoes and peaches and currant jelly and other food stores including boxes of cold cereals of types that we never ate at home.
I remembered my childhood sense of wonder about how other people lived when I read a passage from Kate Thurston’s book The Winds of Doctrine, which described a visit Kate and her mother, Mary Lockwood Kemp, made to the home of Seth and Eliza Pymm in St. George, Utah. The Pymms never had any children of their own until they adopted a son late in life.
While the women prepared the meal, Kate read Munsey’s Magazine and Youth’s Companion, publications she wouldn’t have had in her own poverty-stricken home. Here are some of her other memories:
[Seth went to milk] old bossie, for although they have no children, they sell milk and butter and feed a pig and four or five cats that are Aunt Eliza’s pets, along with some birds carefully caged away from the cat’s clutches.
At last, he comes puffing in, the evening chores all done, and finds a lovely supper laid out with a clean cloth and some of the china that Liza brought from England shining under a big kerosene oil lamp, with a bright and shining chimney and a newly trimmed wick….
When the blessing is asked on the food by Uncle Seth, [Kate] is more than interested because of the manner in which it is done. Uncle Seth drew one deep breath and said the blessing all in one breath, having to speak very fast to get it all said, which amused [Kate] very much, but she knew it wouldn’t have been polite to “let on” she noticed….
Uncle Seth had lost a hand in a thresher…. He had always told a story of knowing how it was laid in the box with the palm upward, when buried, without being told, and how his fingers always felt cold, though they were not there, if he did not wear his arm under an overcoat in cold weather….
[Kate] knew that after the dishes were cleared away, washed and put away carefully in the already overcrowded cupboard, filled with china you could see through…that she could play dominoes, and see through the stereoscope the views of distant places of historic interest.
Well, that was a little bit about what Kate Thurston and I found memorable from some childhood visits to others’ homes. What impressed you about the homes and practices of friends, relatives, or others you visited as a child? (Bonus points if the memories reflect Mormon culture.)