From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Grandma's Basement Apartment

1950s decor remembered


My dad's parents (Grandma Nora and Gramp Hill, as we called them) were divorced as far back as I can remember. During my childhood, Grandma lived mostly in Ainsworth, Nebraska, but Gramp Hill lived in Missouri and then in Kansas.

Grandma had some rental houses, and one of them had a basement apartment where she lived for a while. It was interesting, even exciting, to visit there because we didn't have a basement and besides, it was Grandma's house!

Looking back, I realize that the decor was very 1950's. Grandma had a dining table and chairs, a china cabinet, and a little writing desk that were all made of blonde maple. I have been trying to remember what her living room sofa and chairs were like.

Grandma's lamp shades had a bright blue sky,
red cattle, and brown horses! This lamp was
 photographed in San Antonio by Michael Coté.
I do remember the cowboy lamps in Grandma's living room. The lampshades had photographs of western scenes on them, and the fabric of the shade was laced to the wire rims, top and bottom, all the way around. When the lamps were turned off, the shades looked dark and blotchy. But when the bulb was lit inside the shade, the pictures were pretty, with cowboys on horses tending herds of cattle under a bright blue sky.

Grandma had a matched set of smaller lamps, as I recall, and a matching larger lamp with a two tiered shade. All three of them had the western lampshades I've described. I've been looking on the internet for a similar lamp, just to enjoy seeing it. So far, I've had no luck finding one with colored photographs!

Another intriguing bit of decoration that Grandma had was a little gumdrop tree made of clear plastic. It had a gumdrop on the tip of every branch and extra gumdrops in the tray under the tree -- when we arrived!


Grandma's renters had some things in the storeroom in the basement, including a stack of MAD magazines. She said it would be all right if I looked at them carefully, so I read them every time we visited, taking great pains not to bend the pages. That was my introduction to Alfred E. Neuman.

One time, my little sister Charlotte and I spent the night at Grandma's basement apartment. Grandma tucked us into the twin beds in her guest bedroom -- one little girl in each bed. During the night, Charlotte woke up and became frightened. She cried, " I want my daddy, I want my daddy!" and Grandma had to take her to bed with her.

In later years, Grandma liked to tell that story. It pleased her that Charlotte had wanted her daddy -- he was Grandma's son, of course.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.