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“Our House…is a very, very, very fine house with two kids and a dog.”
Sixty five years later, 15 Echo Terrace will be handed over to one more special family who will add its own love, creativity, and energy to this magical home. Michael Cresap Cox and Beatrice Emblen Cox grew up in Woodsdale. Dad on Pine and Mother on Poplar Avenue, during the depression. They were very fortunate to have had loving honorable parents, as have my sister, Sally and I in this fascinating chain of “family.”
Next to the furnace, on shelves I had never noticed, were childhood (1922) toys and wonderful tools, from a set of scales and a candy thermometer, to planing tools and a two handled bark remover with worn wood I knew Pop Pop Cox had used. Next to tools were Hannah Ophelia Cresap Cox’s tiny red crystal beads in a black box, a wonderful kitchen match holder, and on and on. I put everything with that special, gripping energy in a plastic container, which resides under my mother’s bed. The Emblen clan’s treasures were kept in the attic in cupboards as well as in multiple cedar chests. Documents about the Nichols family have been dutifully turned over to family genealogist Jay Frey…whew! One knows not to throw out 19th and 20th century papers and photos…right? Not many people have a cousin, as we, who has documented our heritage. Even cousin Nada Beneke took some piles home to peruse. We are lucky. Cresaps have a national society and even a newsletter kept up by a cousin in Reno. Wheeling is often mentioned, as Dad and I were the last descendants in Ohio County. Mother showed us the secret removeable panel where good jewelry and some cash were hidden. The honest auction packers presented more jewelry and cash found toward the back. I found a bag of coins in a drawer Dad never mentioned. After awhile, we simply forgot where we had stashed items during the genesis of our two years of packing.
The Kids: Sally (1947) and Susan (1949)
Today family dynamics and geographic locations are scattered from Sally in Myrtle Beach, to my son in San Diego and nephews in New York and Los Angeles. This makes distribution a nightmare. Why, because no one really wants anything. Our kids are all contemporary with homes filled with the things they love, just like their grandparents left to Sally and me. My son Michael only wanted the brass silent butler that had all the pennies “Pope” accrued playing poker with his friend Henry Hupp while Michael watched. Sally took only a lamp with parakeets at the base. Of course, we slipped quite a few treasures in her suitcases each time she came to help. During her final visit a few weeks ago, I noticed she spent about three days listening to each cassette recording (and there were MANY) our father had made. I thought it strange, but I trusted her intuition and kept my critical curiosity at bay. Then she showed me recordings of our parents speaking with our sons, when they were all very young. The true treasure trove! I would have pitched them or put them in a box never to be opened for decades. I still haven’t played the couple she gave me, as I don’t want to start crying. Bless her patience and fortitude. I grabbed one of the 8 cassette recorders found throughout the house. I, on the other hand, have our mother’s beautiful bedroom suite (she was born in the Victorian bed) and much, much more. Sally kept saying, “Oh, you just love it, you have to keep it.” My husband, Bill Hogan often refers to the growing piles in our house, but then he revels at the uniqueness, and I am rather good at shoving things in hidden plastic containers. I saved the treasured books which will end up with nephew Robert when he gets a bigger NYC apartment. And art for LA nephew Brian. The great grandkids, Raina, Celia, and Koa will soon be receiving odd gifts such as hats and beads and back scratchers accompanied by a few stories about their Pope and Mama Bea. Not sure who will get the burgundy gummed false teeth in a beautiful box from the Flapper or Deco era….two sets no less.
We were always a “mutt” family, and our multiple breed dog nearly got our dad arrested. Our parents received a summons, as our Wrinkles, while roaming freely, had impregnated a neighbor’s full bred, “credentialed” dog. These were the days when spay/neuters were uncommon, though Wrinkles was soon to be part of the new trend. During the late 1950s 15 Echo Terrace was home to two white mice, Sweetie Pie and Mr. Stubbs. By the end of summer there were well more than 300 of them living in communes. Segregated by Marshal Wheeling Stogie boxes (just like in The Green Mile film). All were contained with an open, 3’ X 6’ radiator heater box. Neighbor Louis Troll and I shared a pet opossum (I think we killed it by using a lot of flea powder), moles, injured birds, etc. I spent so many wonderful summers with him roaming the magical forest behind our alley and hill. I haven’t seen Louis for more than 50 years. Sally, on the other hand, loved books and playing outside as well with her friends. Many Christmases I gave her stuffed animals, and she gave me books. We would trade by the end of the day.
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Mom and Dad loved gardening, and the back yard contained two beautiful rock gardens full of flowers and myrtle ground cover. The 89 year old miniature Japanese Maple Dad brought from his Pine Avenue childhood home died last year, a year after his passing. But, by golly, the annual sweet pea vines still come barreling down through the myrtle with fragrant pink blossoms. I asked graffiti artist Sam Starkey to paint a HUGE bird on the side of the garage for Dad that would face the garden and awning under which he spent his last treasured years, even bundled up in the cold. It was a big to do as the caretaker, Dad, and I watched Sam “do his thing.” After about five minutes Dad was overcome by the spray paint fumes, and we all three ran into the house. It is a wonderful mural. The front bank is another matter. It is somewhat steep with a winding path from the bottom of the property on Echo to the house. At one time, the row of houses in the semi circle had a shared landscape design which was a highlight during the 40s and 50s. I spent many hours sitting up high in our big maple tree. Our parents’ current next door neighbors, the fantastic Greenes’ six children were always welcomed by our father to build forts and hide their treasures in the multiple earth “cubbies” children so love. Mother cherished showing their mother Deborah all kinds of gardening tips and that you could have house plants. (We do not know what we would have done with the wonderful neighbors who cared about and for our parents.) Between the woods behind the houses and the large grassy area on the side of the alley and massive front bank, the playing places for our gangs were unlimited. We used to sled ride from the top of the alley to Edgwood Street “back in in the day.”
The House: Windows, windows, windows
The five bedrooms are of various sizes, one being a 1935 converted sleeping porch. The section of the former porch from the master bedroom, full of windows, would make an incredible walk in closet. I had the smallest bedroom, because I was the smallest. Until my 16th birthday, when I made the move to the attic! Bliss, freedom, private bath with tub supported by lion paws. The bed was in the alcove next to three windows from which I watched the world there and beyond. I would wake up in winter and immediately look down to the streetlight below to see if there were snow flakes. I would reach out the window to see how deep it was, and turn on my little, yellow plastic radio to see if Ohio County Schools were canceled. Don’t all kids have that first moment of wonderment on a snow day? The sunroom next to the living room had our player piano around which we sang and sang, just the four of us or with relatives and friends. My faves were Tennessee Ernie Ford’s ’16 Tons,” “If You Knew Susie” (of course), and Sally’s favorite “The Whiffenpoof Song.” I kept those rolls. And, there were three cartons of them. Yes, the wallpaper needs changed, and yes, the carpet will probably all be removed for the hardwood floors beneath to come back to life. The steam heat furnace, I was told, is perfect for kids or anyone with breathing issues or asthma. The old radiators don’t knock like they used to, which was our white noise during the winter months. No, there is no central air. It is why the house was built with so many windows, which were always left open during the summer to catch the cool breezes from the forest behind our hill. Now, a couple window air conditioner work like magic.
Nooks and crannies galore live in that basement. Converted in the 60s to a “rec room with bar” it was the site of Sally’s friends gathering during the teen years, or parties for our parents and friends. It was where Mother hid girlfriends for my surprise 16th birthday party. There is a coal cellar Dad created into a bedroom for himself when all the grandkids arrived with their spouses and kids. During their first 50 years, he converted underneath the entire length of the front porch to a workshop complete with many power tools and a dirt floor with some bricks near the equipment. The houses’ locust support posts are still visible. A few years ago we had the complete basement rewired by Erb Electric, as the 30 plus power strips Dad and Uncle Bob had strewn among and above the paneled ceiling were a tad much. The electrician said “it was a miracle…” Now, we’re wired like Fort Knox with outlet boxes in so many places under the porch and beyond that I hope for a tinkerer like our dad to find this house. Sally and I can witness, as did the Hagedorn Auction crew, that there is enough storage space within 15 Echo Terrace to fulfill the dreams of any hoarder or gifted space “recreator.”
Time to let it go
The entire house contents are packed and ready for the move for auction. I continue to choke back tears, as I have yet to let it loose. Sally cries each time she arrives and departs. The suffering is the same, yet expressions so different, as I still see some weeding that needs done, and Sally sits in South Carolina feeling guilty that she is not in Wheeling helping. She is the absolute best sister in the world, and we are so fortunate to have experienced all the love, honesty, freedom to think and be, and creative passion from Mom and Dad, aka Bea and Mike, during our extraordinary years growing up in the house at 15 Echo Terrace, Wheeling, W.V. 26003 — Woodsdale 3548 (the original phone number before Dial Tone).