Sight Unseen

I’ve been chatting with a new Facebook friend. She’s in Philadelphia. As we talked about Ordinary Days and moments that become memories, my thoughts scurried back to 1960 and a turn-of-the-century three-story in the historic Germantown section of Philadelphia.

Dan and I married in August before he began his senior year in college. A math and physics major, he had a job lined up with Philco Radio Corporation before the second semester began. After he graduated, we headed for Philadelphia where we had rented a furnished apartment, sight unseen. I think it may have been on a list of recommended rentals sent to us by the company. I remember seeing photos of the large home that had been converted to six apartments.

After driving half-way across the continent, we arrived about mid-afternoon the Friday before Dan was scheduled to report to his new boss on Monday. We carried everything we owned from the trunk of our car, up the stairs, to our apartment. It had a fairly large living room, a bedroom with enough space to walk around the double bed, and a bathroom that could be reached by inching around the bed. If the door didn’t swing in, it wouldn’t have opened. The kitchen wasn’t visible at first. But, I opened a set of double doors and there it was… tucked away in a closet. Although we didn’t need heat in June, there was an ugly metal radiator in every room… uh, both rooms. All in all, we thought this apartment was heaven after living in a twenty-seven foot house trailer all our married life (two semesters).

The landlord was gracious, a small man who shuffled across the hardwood floors in the biggest fuzzy house slippers I’d ever seen. And, the house must have been beautiful in it’s heyday. I’m not sure when that might have been. Germantown was established in 1681 and played host to Revolutionary era events. As evidence of it’s age, a narrow drive led to a park-like setting in the back where there once might been a carriage house and stable. But there was no place to park an automobile. “Park your machine on the street,” the old man said with a wave of his hand.

A path under a Rose covered archway led to clotheslines for the residents’ convenience and a huge cherry tree provided morning shade for this yard and evening shade for the neighbor’s. The landlord gave me permission to pick roses for a bouquet. “And when the cherries ripen,” he said. “There’ll be plenty for everyone.”

If I ever decide to write a murder mystery or a suspense, this could be the perfect setting with it’s many rooms on three creaky floors plus a shadowy attic and musty basement… Somewhere in all this, there must be a secret panel hiding a passage to places thus unknown. Wait! I have written about this place. In my imagination this seed of an idea becames a mansion, completely revamped and modified to fit another place and time — Myrtle Hill, Oklahoma more than fifty years later… I’m working on it. Just you wait and see.


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