Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another piece of the puzzle

As a military kid, we were constantly moving when I was growing up, and my parents also moved many additional times that were not required by the service. It was a crazy lifestyle for a kid, and I am still trying to construct my own history. It’s very difficult to do, as I do not have anyone to ask anymore (father gone 1967, mother gone 1993, no siblings). I might run across an old, hoarded and sometimes inherited piece of paper – a letter, postcard, receipt – and from that I find an address or date to help complete the puzzle. Sometimes, all I have are memories, which was the case here. I had no address, and all the landmarks had been destroyed.

Daddy was transferred to the North Pole, on the DEW Line to keep an eye out for the Russians during the Cold War (and in his case the "cold" part was literal), an 18 month assignment with no families allowed (what I know about that one deserves its own post), so my mother and I ended up waiting this one out in Carterville, Illinois. It was a really small town with a population at the time (1960-1961) of about 2,600 people. The house we lived in was a tar paper shack, which was a little wooden structure covered in a paper-based material that is tar-coated to be water-resistant. A lot of it (most of it, really) has a fake brick appearance. The house, although it was right in the middle of town, had no electricity, heat, or plumbing. I have no photos of it (Daddy took his camera with him to the Arctic) but found this pic on flickr that resembles it very much. Click to view larger at its source. Seems like our shack was in better shape, even though the front steps were rotten enough for Grandma to fall right through one of them once.

Mother would attach a water hose to the neighbor’s faucet, and ran the hose through a hole in the wall of our little cottage, that was our running water. I am assuming that she had permission to do that. There was a wood-burning potbellied cook-top stove in the house for both cooking and heat. She chopped wood for it every day. I don’t remember any furniture (I guess it was in storage). I do remember sitting on the floor playing with paper dolls while mice scampered around. I am not bothered by mice (luckily).

In the backyard, there was an outhouse, and establishing the boundary of the property in back was an active railroad track. My mother planted a food garden back there, and I remember homegrown corn and strawberries.

I tried to locate the house by looking for the railroad tracks, but Google maps didn't show any. I had to search online for an old map of the town that showed the old tracks.

On Google satellite view you can see the path going through that was left by the old railroad.

I tried locating it by finding my Grade School, seen below, but it has apparently been bulldozed as well, replaced by unremarkable modern buildings.

Look how close we were to the train!! I am amazed. The house next door to the east was even closer.

Here is the current Google street view of the place. It still holds a little house, but an infinitely better one. I got a kick out of the way the residents were captured sitting in their car, with the car parked in the yard, and one of them is sitting in the hatchback! That's a little bit hillbilly, but they've got nothing on us.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

That was a tough life for you and your Mom. I hope your Dad came back from the DEW Line fairly soon and moved you to a better place.

Blueberry said...

He did miraculously show up at the door one day, and we moved, and moved, and moved. ;-)