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A personal parade of homes

August 9, 2011
By Joyce Schenk, COLUMNIST
The word “home” conjures up very different visions for each of us. But whether it be a cabin or a castle, home continues to be “where the heart is.”

Recently, the subject of homes came up as I chatted with a friend. After we parted, I found myself moseyin’ down memory lane, recalling the places that had served as home to our family over the years.

Way back in 1956, shortly after George and I were married in Texas, we took our turn at the American Dream by purchasing our first home.

The little place, advertised as a “cozy starter home,” was a doll house of barely 1,000 square feet. It boasted two bedrooms, a carport, a sloping lawn and blue morning glories by the door.

Unfortunately, since we were totally unschooled in the fine points of home buying, we failed to research the neighborhood. Thus we learned the hard way that the value of any piece of real estate is directly linked to location, location, location.

We soon realized that our sweet little house was only a block away from a busy railroad switching yard where most of the activity took place overnight. In addition, a nearby oil refinery belched out acrid fumes on a regular basis.

Fortunately, a year later we moved from Fort Worth to Erie, Pa, to be near George’s family. After renting for a few months, we found a not-quite-finished three-bedroom ranch-style house for a low down payment and a manageable mortgage. Once again, we eagerly joined the ranks of homeowners.

During the dozen years we lived on Sparkhill Avenue, our family of two grew to five.

In this family-friendly neighborhood, our home was a magnet for the kids who routinely gathered on the broad front porch or in the backyard sandbox and wading pool.

My favorite spot was the dooryard garden with its colorful array of iris, phlox and roses.

After a few years as suburban homeowners, friends introduced us to the charming community of Findley Lake, just across the New York State line. Eventually, we bought a wooded lot there to serve as our family’s weekend retreat. But in time, we fell under the lakeside community’s spell and decided to move there permanently.

We drew up our own set of plans for a chalet-style home that would fit perfectly into the wooded setting. In early summer of 1969, we sold our suburban home in one day and moved into a camper, advertised as “suitable for a hunting camp.” Roughing it in this rustic accommodation, we started building our “Fern Ridge Chalet” from the foundation up.

Although the girls started school from the trailer, we were finally able to move into the house — very much a work in progress — in November.

Surrounded by virgin timber, this unique place was our home base for eighteen happy years. In addition to a community of salt-of-the-earth neighbors, we also enjoyed frequent visits by families of white-tailed deer, pheasant, raccoon and flocks of visiting birds.

Of all the homes we had before or since, Fern Ridge provided us with the most unforgettable family memories of love and laughter as our threesome of tots became teens, then adults.

We learned what all families come to realize — whether the structure is a farmhouse or a flat, a modular or a mansion, home is where the heart is. And the heart is where those we love dwell.

If this has brought back memories of your own favorite home, I’d love to hear about it. E-mail me a hundred words or so about that special place and I’ll share it with our Moseyin’ Along family. Send your recollections so

I hope you enjoy your trip down memory lane as much as I have.


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