Fifty-eight years ago today, at a time of day which could be confirmed by looking at my birth certificate, I was born. It was that day my Dad, already with a wife and two children (I was number three of six) and living in the cramped Weatherspoon Apartments in Sanford, called Calvin Caviness (I think) to start framing his new house in McCracken Heights, at least a half mile, maybe a whole mile, north of the city limits proper of Sanford.
The footers and the foundations had been laid months before May 26, 1952 but the house was not on its way up, and now was the time to take leap to more space and a home that would last and last and last, one that would be home, really home, for a long time.
Today, those houses are not built. Most new homes are just temporary structures, made to last not so many years before overhauls are required in the kitchen, in the bathrooms, in other areas before trying to sell and move on. Very few families live in the same house for enough years to call it home, a life-long home.
We did. In Sanford. In McCracken Heights. To prove it, I can produce a record from Progress Energy that says the house…the home… at 526 Forest (legally it’s Forrest but we called it Forest) Drive in Sanford has been a continuous customer without interruption or transfer of service to anyone else since January 31, 1953. It was Carolina Power and Light back then, or may it was something else, but even today, as we are close to selling the home, nearly three years after Mom passed away and now just days away from 13 years after Dad died, the memories stay with us.
That was a home, not just a house. It’s where six siblings grew up though from oldest to youngest 16 years apart. Lots of memories come from the home, more about the house and family activities than about our own mischievous doings. There’s the hardwood floor on the main and second floors of the unique split level house and no wall-to-wall carpet except in three lower level concrete slab bedrooms. There’s the beautiful pine paneling on that level in the hallway, in the den and in Dad’s office, up the stairs, in that hallway, and in one bedroom.
There’s the Paris wallpaper with views of the Eifel Tower and the Champs d’Elise in the dining room that had a table with enough leaves to expand it to seat 23 and a built-in buffet with glass covered wooden cabinets. If the walls in that room could talk, we would hear stories about lunches and dinner with Dad’s business associates and relatives from both sides of the family, the Pomeranz members from Dad’s side and the Overton and Brooks aunts, uncles, cousins and souls (some lost; some found) on Mom’s side.
In the early 1960s, that dining room was used for a middle of the night emergency meeting of the Roberts Company Board of Directors as a fire engulfed its headquarters just four blocks away. It was the scene of food for celebrations of births, weddings, anniversaries, presidential elections, of Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas breakfasts.
The living room would have better been labeled as the life room where music flowed from the “record player” and the radio and where the ivory keys of the Steinway Baby Grand piano were tickled over and over by the long fingers offered by Mom. It never took long for someone to encourage Annie Laurie to play, and she was the best, often performing from sheet music but much better when playing from memory and by ear. What would you expect from a Meredith College music major?
The house was built with three bedrooms up stairs—the master for Mom and Dad, one for our sister Suzanne and one to be shared by our brother Rob and me—and one down downstairs for visiting business associates and a relative here and there. Then along came brother Brooks, so Rob, the oldest, moved to the guest room and Brooks moved in with me. And, on the adjoining lot, Dad built the Guest House—for visiting business associates and a relative here and there—and a swimming pool. But then along came the twins, sisters Sarah and Laurie who got the bedroom assigned to Brooks and me and we moved into a temporary partitioned area of the playroom until a two bedroom addition was built.
That playroom was the site of many Halloween gatherings. Mom dressed up as a witch, offered the neighborhood trick or treaters a special brew (fruit punch) and told ghost stories. Birthday parties galore and just a big room for play; that was the play room. It was also where, one Christmas, Santa Claus left a huge Lionel train set and board with track laid out in an interesting design. None of us saw it as we made our way to the living room that special morning. I remember Mom and Dad suggesting to all of us to go look in the play room to see if Santa left something there.
The kitchen was less of a gathering spot as it is in many and most homes today. It was a work area where Mom ruled with assistance of Janie and Hazel and others who helped her with food prep and laundry and house cleaning and raising six children while Dad worked. He also had an office, and that small room had as many memories of his efforts to create income as the rest of the home did from a family perspective.
The back yard was huge, again by today’s standards. From one end to the other, it’s at least 150 long with a tall wooden fence bordering two sides. The lot has a depth of 200 feet. In McCracken Heights, the main house is by far the largest in the neighborhood and the Guest house is the smallest. Together, the Pomeranz Estate stands tall. That back yard was the site of many baseball and football games, horseshoes, tether ball and short game golf. Easter egg hunts, a wedding and reception, and many, many, many family evening dinners on the back porch, only interrupted by the sound of race car driver Glen McDuffie testing his tools of trade one street over or by a neighbor in just a bathrobe trying to slip past along a walkway to the Guest House: “The showers are full at my house; may I use your Guest House shower?”
We—meaning you and me, not just my family—have memories of places we’ve lived and what it means to growing up. So, what is being written here is nothing really special except to me and my family and a few neighbors and friends who can relate. But, what’s important, especially to me, is that I like to take credit for the start of something really good and lasting.
It was 58 years ago today that the order was given to drive first nail into the first board of the frame that actually start the house that has always and will always be my home. Today, as I do every year at this time, I celebrate two births: mine and our home. Thank goodness both are still alive.