January 12, 1999
The other day, when a 1912 picture postcard of the P F Lau home at Twelfth and Market streets appeared in this column, David Payne nearly fell out of his chair. His parents rented that house in 1956 and the Paynes were the last family to occupy it. "I was around nine years old at the time," Dave tells me. "The house sat maybe 200 feet west of Twelfth street and just a little to the north of Market street. We lived there until our rented three acres were sold to a developer who tore the house down and buried the rubble in the basement." The memories that old photo stirred up for Dave are interesting to me, and I thought you would enjoy reading about them, also. Here are a few of them in Dave's own words.
"The young tree in the picture that blocks the upper story windows is in the right place to be a big elm tree that was there when we lived there. Mom sat a bantam hen on some Guinea eggs one time and hatched them. The baby Guineas could fly and liked to roost in that tree. The 'mother' had the hardest time roosting with her babies in that tree but she always managed to finally get up there each night.
"The house had three rooms upstairs. We used two of them for bedrooms for us boys and the third was a large storage room. Mom and Dad used the room on the front of the house shown with a wraparound porch on three sides as their bedroom. There were two other rooms on the ground floor and then a kitchen and bathroom on the back. You can see the 'cellar' door just below the triple windows on the north side. This entrance led to the full basement, which had two rooms and a dirt floor....
"The picture was taken from Twelfth street looking southwest. Dad planted a large garden in the summers when we lived there. When the property sold, construction began immediately on the new Highland Terrace addition. They cut a path for what is now Hillside Drive right through our garden - corn, 'taters, beans and all. The street went west through our chicken pen and then turned north just on the west side of our barn and proceeded to South Boundary. The house remains are buried under lot 2 now. I returned just before they filled the hole with dirt and stood there looking at what had been our house, all piled in a heap in the basement. I remember door knobs, broken glass, pipes and lots of hand-cut sandstone in the debris.
"Highland Addition on the south and west of our five acres was all developed by the time we had to move. I developed an interest in house building while living there. I watched the Highland additions go from a field of love grass to a field of houses. I would go watch the carpenters as they built the houses and watched nearly every house on the hill being constructed. I would study how they set forms, poured concrete, framed, applied Sheetrock and everything....
"The only other house on the hill when we moved there was the one on top of the hill on the north side of South Boundary. It was built by the (Jesse J.) Vivians in the early 1950s.... They tore down an old house that was just west of the existing house and used the lumber in the brick house that stands there now. (After Mrs. Vivian's death about ten years ago, the house was sold at auction but it still stands. Mr. Vivian and the couples only son, Pat, preceded her in death.)
Dave continues: "The old Frisco dam was still mostly intact when we moved to the neighborhood but a large hole had been blasted in it to drain the lake. Only the ends of the dam remained the last time I was there. The mid-section was evidenced only by a bunch of sandstone and pieces of cement lining the bottom of the creek. The creek west of the dam was narrow enough in the 1950s that I could jump across it.... Erosion has now cut through the several feet of lake bottom silt to return the creek, I suppose, to its pre-lake dimensions .... What a trip down memory lane that was! Lots of memories in that picture."
Thanks for your memories, Dave. And if you ever poke around in that old lake bed, you probably will find the remains of my model-T Ford which broke through the ice one winter years ago and vanished from view. All aboard were safe.