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Travels with DOD: The Abandoned House

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Curiosity is my constant companion. Must give credit where credit is due: Both my mother, Ida, and father Dale were curious people. Ida kept a Webster's Unabridged about ten feet from the kitchen sink so she could look up a word she wondered about. She had a terrific vocabulary and was a voracious reader (these things tend to go hand in hand). My dad, too, read stacks of books, with history, science and biography his favorite fields. My childhood, I realize now, was the heyday of magazines, with Popular Mechanics, Farm Journal, National Geographic and The West Virginia Hillbilly all gracing our coffee table and continually renewed. Oh how I loved reading them. 

As a result of this parentage, I find it impossible to drive by an abandoned house, if I have time and privacy to investigate. I'm still telling you about all the things I saw and did on April 10, 2017, in commemoration of DearOldDad's passing. 

They are getting harder and harder to find. But one doesn't go looking for abandoned houses. One just comes upon them.

And the upholstered chair outside the side door just calls to you.

And there sits the washing machine on the back porch,  just where Frieda Ruigh kept hers. 

And you've just got to go inside, though it's dark and spooky and the floor isn't so good.

World's Greatest Grandpa mug is no surprise. The last people to live here were likely old, old, old. 

The kitchen window. Oh, man. I'm loving this place. I'm seeing it in its glory days, and in its decrepitude, too. 

I'm certainly not the first to go snooping here. Someone's laid a cookbook out on the drainboard.

To my great surprise, it's a microwave cookbook, which spends a great deal of time explaining how microwave cooking is very different from conventional cooking. No kidding. I look around but don't see the oven in question. 

I do find a treasure in the rubble: a handblown tumbler from the Princess Anne Inn, Virginia Beach, Virginia. It looks to date from somewhere in the early 60's, judging from the turquoise font. It is now on my bedside table.  I do a quick Google and find this article from  The Virginian Pilot, Dec. 28, 1997.

The Princess Anne Inn, a fixture on the Oceanfront for 35 years, closed its doors in September in the wake of stepped-up city enforcement of the state's fire sprinkler law. The hotel was one of 33 resort inns cited by city fire officials last February for failure to comply with a 1990 law requiring inns three stories and higher to be equipped with fire sprinklers. Others either met the Sept. 1 deadline or their owners had signed consent orders drafted by the city attorney's office promising to complete sprinkler retrofitting within a day or two. 
Next, I search for images. Oh yeah. That's the one. A grande dame in her time. I think the newspaper article has it wrong. That place was built before 1962! The cars alone there look like mid 1940's to me. 

I run and fetch my tumbler. Its lines please me. The curved bottom reminds me of some of the  hand-blown glassware produced in the big West Virginia glass factories. No two were alike. My mother loooved to stop at the factory outlet glassware stores. I did, too. My DOD, not so much, but he humored her. 

As I look at the tumbler, I wonder if this is an apport from DOD. We used to, very occasionally, drive to Virginia Beach for vacations in very dark, very cold, very smoky motel rooms, where we would nurse our raging sunburns at night. Because there was no such thing as sunscreen, just suntan lotion. Which did nothing more than allow you to fry in your own oil. 

DOD hated the beach with a passion, because you couldn't grow anything there, and there was nothing to do or produce. And he wasn't much for water, or lying in the sun. As I think back on it, I remember him taking off in the car when Mom would take us to the beach. He probably hightailed it for the nearest agricultural land, to see what they were growing, check out a diner or two. 

I'm very pleased to see the similarity in font between tumbler and publicity postcards. I think we have now seen the Princess Anne Inn. And the tumbler is never going to go into the dishwasher if I have anything to say about it. And I do.

I also find a porcelain flower arrangement that has become an apt catcher for bat guano. I see where they've been hanging on the wall above. You can see more pellets in the background. I smile very broadly at this discovery.  Accompanied, by some of my favorite people.  This little knickknack I leave in its place. It's just too good there, brimful of bat-bockie.

I'm so struck by the verdant spring green and sun outside, in contrast to the gloom within. My iPhone does a wonderful job with the light, where my Canon would quail and fail to capture any of it.

I turn a corner and find a gunfight going on. I'm betting on Yellow Guy.

I absolutely love the evidence left by other curious explorers before me. 

And I love the scenes. Every window, a painting: shouting spring and whispering decay.

Colonial motifs were very popular in the 1960's and early 1970's. I grew up with colonial motifs. 
But the layers go back further, to the pale posy times of the 1930's.  I adore peely wallpaper, this stratified record of popular taste through the decades.

Moved to go outside**, I wander amongst the plantings. Pheasant eye narcissus is going nuts, having multiplied itself a thousand times over.

**family joke

This shot says it all. What once was, what is no more, and what persists. Still, they persist.

 And the souvenirs I bring home: my Princess Anne Inn tumbler, two spice bottles (one still full of very fragrant powdered cloves, which I throw out); one missing its lid, to use as a vase for Baby Moon narcissus from Murr. And a keepsake block from the Nelsonville (Ohio) Block factory. I have one at home, but it's broken in half. This one weighs in at a whoppin' 8.5 pounds, twice the weight of your average brick. It's my new doorstop, and the broken one has been demoted to paperweight.

You have to bring something home, right DOD? Otherwise it'll all go when the fire department burns the place down, or it collapses in on its wonderful self. It sure has been fun exploring this abandoned house with you, on April 10, 2017. I'll lift a tumbler to you tonight.


Loved that article! I like old houses too, but am a bit leery of exploring them after putting a leg through a floor and getting chewed up pretty bad.

I usually collect a stone or a brick when visiting old cellar holes. But I didn't collect one from the old Leeds' family home's cellar hole, nor had anyone else, despite stones and bricks being valuable commodities in South Jersey AND the cellar hole going back to the early 1700s, possibly earlier. Non-NJ people wouldn't make the connection, but the Leeds were a prominent (and still are a prominent) and wealthy family in South Jersey. Someone mounted a smear campaign against them, claiming that their wealth came from deals with the devil. And hence the legend of the Jersey Devil came about, the claim being that Mother Leeds was a witch and her thirteenth child was a devil.

Oh, I loved exploring that abandoned house with you! How I would love to have "profiled" the people that lived there from their detritus. (Profiling is something I enjoy doing at garage sales and estate sales. You can tell a LOT about a person from his/her belongings. Books, especially, are quite telling.)

Posted by Anonymous April 16, 2017 at 5:14 PM

Appreciated that you explored with your DOD. I think snooping around abandoned places pays homage to those of the past. And snagging the glass was perfect, a bit preserved. Needed a dining set recently, and couldn't make myself buy new. Wanted something that was solid and had the authentic dings and dents and worn spots (and even little pen marks, probaby of a child filling in a worn spot) of a life before it joined ours. Sounds like your dad was mighty special. Kim in PA

I love the Easter Egg of one blogger mentioning another.

Julie -- Yesterday, I took a hike in a local state park. After climbing up a very rocky hill to get to a narrow, seldom used trail (a short cut!), I stopped dead in my tracks. Ahead of me were two does; one of them leucistic! She was mostly white, but had a couple darker patches here and there. I was thrilled, and thought of you right away. We just looked at each other for a few seconds ( I think they were as surprised to see me.), then they turned tail and darted away. This certainly made my day!

Posted by Anonymous April 19, 2017 at 3:33 AM
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