Saturday, October 6, 2007
Posted by Thomas MacEntee
I mentioned "Grandma" and "Grandpa" Austin's house in Grahamsville, NY in the last post. Those of you who remember that special place know what I mean. My great-grandparents, John Ralph Austin and Therese McGinnes Austin, bought the house and surrounding 33 acres around 1944 or 1945 (I have copies of the sale agreement - I just need to find it to confirm the date!). They were living in the city at that time and knowing that retirement was near, wanted a place in "the country."
The picture above was taken about 1973 or 1974 - perhaps it was even May 1975 when my great-grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
This is where my mother, Jacqueline Austin MacEntee spent her summers and couldn't wait to escape from The City (at that time it was Jersey City, NJ). She and her 11 other siblings spent many wonderful fun-filled summers there. Here's what she remembers of those summers:
- playing in the "Doll House" which was actually an old out building across the road
- the double-seater outhouse and having to go in the middle of the night
- the old chicken coop
- the barn and the tractor
- Grandma's garden and how she used to can everything at the end of the summer
- playing with her brothers and sisters
- waking up "Uncle Mal" (Malcolm Austin) with pots of water!
I spent quite a bit of time there as well and my best memories are from about 1975 to 1978. There were some summers when I would spend several weeks there. Here's what I remember about those summers:
- when I painted the back sunroom one summer - a light Hawaiian blue color
- the hammock out by the big rock
- the Morning Glories and Chinese Lanterns that Grandma used to grow
- the "Memorial Day Bush" (we never figured out the real name - it used to bloom around May 30th)
- blueberry picking
- the stone fences full of snakes
- the butternut tree in the back
- the old barn, the chicken coop and the doll house
- no television but lots of conversation
- big dinners with 12 or 13 family members
- the stories Grandma would tell about having no electricity, no telephone and only a wood stove in the kitchen when they moved in
After Grandpa died in April 1976, Grandma would start spending the cold winters in either Ft. Myers, FL with her niece, Ethel McCrickert Hannan or in the San Francisco Bay Area with her middle son Gregory Austin.
As Grandma got older, she spent more and more time at our home, especially if she returned for the winter in April and it wasn't warm enough yet to be in that big drafty old house.
Unfortunately, the house burned down sometime around 1980 - I'm trying to remember and find any news articles that I can about the fire. There wasn't much that could be recovered. One cherished item that we still have is Grandma's old rocking chair from the living room. And fortunately, many of the old photos you see here on the blog were already at our house where she was staying.