You'd think there would be photos of a place where so much life was lived.
But it was a different time. There wasn't a phone in everyone's pocket with a camera embedded inside. You had to roll film inside the camera, catching it in the spool before advancing. I'm sure I'm not the only one who didn't get film inserted quite right a time or two and then finally figured out that I hadn't been taking photos for awhile.
You had to send the film off to be developed. There was no such thing as looking through a phone gallery to see what you got and immediately deleting the photo of Grandpa with his head cut off.
So I suppose it's not all that surprising that I couldn't find a single photo of the house where Randy's parents made a home after Melvin came back from serving in the Korean War.
On this coming Saturday, June 4, we'll begin the process of turning that farmstead over to a new family. There will be an auction to sell Melvin & Marie's house and some acreage.
As is usual in a small town, the rumor mill has been churning out information. For the record, Randy and I are not selling our own home. We are not moving away from Stafford. We do plan to close the chapter at the farmstead that has served as a Fritzemeier farming home base since the 1940s.
After wheat harvest, we'll have a farm sale of our equipment. Since Melvin & Marie's old house serves as the farm base, the house won't be available for the new family until after August 13, when our farm sale is scheduled.
Yes, there is some nostalgia. Yes, there are some mixed feelings. But it's also a feeling of relief not to be responsible for another house. After Melvin's death, we've used it for employee housing. And every time there was employee turnover, we put more money into that house. And, we've spent more money at that house, repairing damages, than we've spent in the house where we've personally lived for almost 37 years.
So it's time. But it's also been a time to think about what the farmstead has meant to our family. As I said, I couldn't find a single photo of the old white farmhouse where Melvin and Marie built a farm and raised three children - Randy, Lyle and Kathy.
|Lyle & Randy by the old house front door - Undated photo|
There were a few pictures by the door or in the yard.
There were family Christmases.
|Randy, Lyle, Kathy - Christmas 1969|
|Randy & Lyle, undated Christmas|
And Marie and Melvin often hosted the extended Fritzemeier family Thanksgiving and Christmas parties, where Marie served her frozen banana punch and Melvin was responsible for the mashed potatoes. Those extended family gatherings fell by the wayside as that generation passed away.
And there were plenty of parties among friends. Melvin and Marie hosted many a card party or Modern Homemakers EHU party at their house.
I shared a few of those photos with a family who was planning a memorial service for one of those friends.
"These photos of our parents ... made me laugh. They show a side of our parents that I never knew, hidden as it was in their past. I’m somewhat envious of their lifelong friendships."
It's true: People don't take entertain like they used to do.
But for the first time since the 1940s, Fritzemeiers won't have ownership at that place. Melvin's parents, Clarence and Ava, purchased an old farm house and some acreage back when Melvin and his sister, Gloria, were children. Before that, they'd rented several other places. But this new-to-them home was the first they'd owned. It also included a barn, a tin hay shed and some other outbuildings.
Eventually, they added a granary and some grain bins. They did take a photo of a new upright silo when it went into the farm yard.
|I used this comparison back in 2018 for a blog post of Randy's grandpa on the left and Randy on the right. |
It's always been the farm's home base. The guys pulled the combines and tractors and discs in front of the shop to work on the inevitable broken parts. Sometimes, they pulled under the shade of big old trees, hoping to find a little relief from the summer sun for those repairs. Maybe those trees helped them avoid a little of the stereotypical "farmer's tan" - but not for long.
|Big helpers - Randy & Lyle, undated photo in the old farm house kitchen|
When Randy was a child, he remembers the sand pile by the wash house, where he and Lyle built many a road and "farmed" many an imaginary field. They climbed the trees. They batted balls. Randy remembers his dad trying to teach him to kick a football. Evidently, Melvin was a good kicker and punter for the Stafford Trojans. Randy says he must not have gotten that gene.
|This photo was taken in Stafford (not the house that's for sale)|
Randy remembers playing with his Hornbaker cousins, who lived just down the road, and with his Ritts cousins, who sometimes visited from Ohio in the summer. When Gary, Ron & Marna came to visit, they built bike paths and played a board game called Tripoley.
He learned to ride a bike on that dirt driveway, doing his share of daredevil tricks. He wasn't the only bike rider in the family. Randy's grandma Ava is on the bicycle in the far left of the
photo. (If anyone can ID the other people, we'd love to know!)
Randy remembers putting up hay in little square bales and then driving it into the farm yard, where they filled a couple of sheds for the winter. It was a great muscle builder for junior high and high school boys.
|Melvin with a calf in the farm yard|
The corrals were the backdrop for years of feeding and working cattle and the scrapes and bruises that go with that.
|Marie and cattle - I'm pretty sure this was taken to send to Melvin when he was in Korea. She definitely didn't dress up this much for her normal day on the farm!|
The homestead welcomed a menagerie of dogs and cats throughout the years.
|Grandma Ava and dog Tiny|
|Marie & "old Fuzzy" cat - as it says on the back of the photo|
After Randy's sophomore year in college, Melvin and Marie moved a modular home onto the site, replacing the old farm house. That brick split level was one where they welcomed me as a new member of the family 41 years ago.
And, honestly, I don't have many photos of that
house either. There are photos of the people who lived there and
the life that was lived. Honestly, I didn't dig through my tubs of
photos in the basement to see if I could find photos of my kids playing,
with the house in the background. No time for that with other things to
do. (We did have a wedding last weekend. I can't wait for the official photos! And, if I'm honest, the packed-to-the-brim tubs from my kids' lives are overwhelming, and I have plenty of other spots to declutter first!)
|Visiting Grandma & Grandpa at Halloween. Of course, Grandpa had a surprise for them, too!|
Since Melvin and Marie's house was only two miles away from ours, Jill and Brent were frequent visitors. They stood on chairs and helped Marie cook. They pulled pots and pans out of the cupboards. They played with the toys that had been put away in the closet from Randy's and his siblings' childhoods.
Marie would hide plastic Easter eggs for the kids year 'round. Other than at Easter time, they didn't have anything special in them, but it was the thrill of the hunt, I guess.
We gathered around a pickup bed to shuck corn. Jill and Brent would
wield their own washrag from Grandma Marie, using her method to try and
remove the silks from the corn cobs. After their attention span waned,
they'd run around the yard, playing where their ancestors had played
Randy says he remembers when the new house was moved in. He remembers watching it come down the road, toward the farm. I can't believe they didn't take photos. If they did, I don't know where they are.
Not all that long ago, both of us got tears in our eyes as we watched the semi depart from that farmstead with the final group of feeder calves that we'd raise and feed from the time they were babies to watching them go through the sale barn.
(We're still involved and retain ownership. We're just not responsible for the day-to-day tasks.)
Yes, there are more memories than I can list.
And we hope that will be true for the new family who will live there, too.