Sunday, June 03, 2007

Blogging the Past: The Kimber 'Stead

[I have started uploading scans of old family photos to Flickr. This is one of them, taken in 1966.]

About 1960 (not sure of the exact year), my (Eliot's) grandparents Ellen and Ellery kimber left the Parkdale fruit ranch where Ellery had been foreman for almost 20 years (and where my father, Bill, had grown up) and bought 4.6 acres on the Hood River in Oregon. This little piece of land had a small house and a nice little "beach" right on the river, as well as an acre or so of open, flat bottom land suitable for cultivation. Eventually the property include water rights to the middle of the Hood River.

Ellen and Ellery, then in their 50's, expanded the little house to add a comfortable livingroom and master bedroom, updated the kitchen and bathroom, and generally modernized it to 1960 standards. They also built a generous carport and, later, a little A-frame greenhouse.

All this happened when I was an infant and toddler so I don't remember the construction, but I was around for some of it, based on the photographic evidence.

This land, which we generally referred to as the "Kimber 'Stead" or just "The 'Stead" was where I spent several weeks every summer until I graduated from college and continued to visit regularly until my father and I were forced to sell it following the passing of Ellen and Ellery in 2004.

While we loved the property neither Bill nor I could practically use it and it couldn't really generate much rental income, so it made more sense to sell it, which we did. (Ellen and Ellery had deeded it jointly to Bill and myself years ago, keeping a life estate, in order to avoid loosing the property should they have used up their savings on health care at the end of their lives.)

As it happened, it was that inheritance that allowed us to easily afford the adoption and buy the lot in Austin and build our dream house. So we feel that, while we lost a treasured family asset, we gained a greater treasure (Dada) and stayed true to the spirit of the place by building a new Kimber 'Stead (albeit, a smaller one). I think that Ellen and Ellery, always practical and unsentimental New Englanders, would have approved.

I like to think that it is from my grandfather that I got what little facility I have for building things and for growing things, although I will never have the natural and intuitive ease he had--it always seemed like he could build anything and make anything bloom.

My grandmother was a librarian by training and profession, eventually becoming head librarian of the Hood River County library (there is now a meeting room in the library named in honor of Ellen and Ellery) and help instill in me a love of books and words. She did crosswords and acrostics almost every day of her life until very end, when her eyesight failed her.


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