Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Joyner Houses Part 2


                            The American Small House

Pencil & Ink drawing done in Art Class in 1960

Building the Greenville House 1947

Back view of the house in 1947
Front view of the house in 1947

After months of researching, I finally found the "label" for the Greenville House. The style of architecture is called The American Small House.  It was built on Granddaddy's farm in a field  - in which sometimes corn, sometimes tobacco had been planted. This type of house is also described in A Field Guide to American Houses  as the Minimal Traditional.  

From 1942-1945, materials to build houses were diverted for WWII efforts.  There were limits and rationing and most people supported the program.  In 1945-1947, returning war servicemen and their families needed housing.  The FHA helped provide loans for building houses.  The veteran usually built a small house, about 1000 square feet, including ways to expand the house later.  Most of the houses were 2 bedroom/one bathroom houses, though some contained three bedrooms, and sometimes a basement. (www.small house  One resource said that there were no halls but the Greenville house had a central hallway and I know that several friends had houses with similar floor plans with central hallways. I found floor plans that had a central hallway.  Usually, the central hallway contained the dangerous oil heater or later, the floor furnace.

The American Small House was a term used to describe the houses the middle class veterans built after returning from World War II.  These houses, usually with FHA loans had to meet specifications of the FHA.  The construction of the house required standarized building materials, components, and construction techniques.  This type of house was used for building federally funded houses for projects such as the Norris Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority hydroelectric project.  Most of the homes had hardwood floors.  Many of the houses were brick-veneered with wood-framed structures.  Load bearing brick walls were used because of the post-war lumber shortage.(

While living in the Farmhouse, Mama and Daddy built this American Small 3 bedroom house across the highway from the farmhouse. The "Governa's" house was built just after World War II in the tobacco field on the Farmville Highway.  My family lived in this house for 17 years before moving.  During those 17 years, the house was the home of two parents and four children.  At times it was, also, the home of one of Daddy's brothers or sisters when problems arose and they needed a place to stay for awhile.  There was a times when we kept my older sister's child, giving my sister quiet time to study for exams.

Floor plan of Greenville house, maybe

The research of American Small Homes never produced the floor plan of the Greenville house.  My brother expained that Mama had the orginal floor plan changed to accommodate the small third bedroom and cellar.  A door was needed for the cellar.  I tried to draw out the plan from memory but it has been 50 years since I last saw the interior of the house. I know that there was a linen closet in the central hallway beside the bathroom but I'm not sure how to put it there because I thought the door to the closet was flush with the wall.  For those who know the house, please excuse any errors.   (I could use the feedback for corrections).   The floor plan was needed to explain several features of the house.  Notice bedroom three.  It was so small that it could hold a dresser and a single bed and maybe a little table.  I remember, as a child, that the room was always crowded.

Explaining the situation of not having the house plans, my brother told me that he had found the General Building Specifications in Daddy files when he was cleaning out house documents when settling Mama's estate.  He emailed the document to me.  As I was reading the document, the document stated "These specifications are for use with plans designed by Standard Homes Company.  That lead me to another afternoon of looking through computer vintage house plans for Standard Homes Company and bingo!  Found it.  Lane was correct in that the floor plan was changed to accommodate the third bedroom and cellar.  What was to be stairs to the attic were enlarged to make room for a bathroom and mudroom and the original bathroom was made into a bedroom.  Those accommodations pushed out part of the back of the house a few feet.  I was happy that my memory of the floor plan was almost correct.

Original House plans from the House Plans Booklet, Plan No 4

There was a closet at the front entry.  It was small, but near Chrismas, it always had Christmas presents locked in it.  I will never forget the Christmas that my brother found the key.  We ruined Christmas for ourselves. 

As an American Small House, there was only one bathroom.  That was not the orginal floor plan placement of the bathroom.  The small bedroom was the original bathroom. Yes, you note that there were two doors on the "moved" bathroom.  Mama had that second door constructed so that children, playing outside and wanting to use the bathroom, did not have to come in the mud room (and we did play in mud), through the kitchen, through dining room, in the hallway, and then enter the bathroom.  But, the second door did produce problems with privacy because we were not allowed to lock the doors.  (Doors in the house could only be locked with skeleton keys when I lived there and the children (or teens) were not privy to them). I would bet that the bathroom back door is no longer there.

When my younger sister was born in 1947, her bed was located in Mama & Daddy's bedroom.  There was a screen over the bed.  I remember it looked something like today's co-sleeper except that it had a screen hinged top.  That hinged top was used to protect my baby sister because my brother would pinch her to make her cry.  The rest of the children slept in bedroom 2, with two cribs and one twin bed.

When my brother and I began sleeping on twin "big beds", our younger sister's crib was moved into bedroom 2.  Our older sister was moved into bedroom 3.  Much later  there were three twin beds bedroom 2.  As older babies, I can remember a gate being on the door so that we couldn't get out.  The oil heater in the central hall was very dangerously hot.  We were not allowed in the hall without an adult guiding us through the hall.  One day, our mother was hanging clothes on the clothes line.  I do remember that my brother moved the oak dresser to the door by the gate, pulled the drawers out as a ladder and got out of the room.  I followed him and went and told my mother that my brother had gotten out of the room.  (I've always been known as "the tattler")

The central hallway was later used frequently because the oil heater was replaced with a floor furnace.  One could get burned on the floor grate if not careful and we learned to walk around it. (The furnace was just below the grate.)  I had several friends with grate burn scars on their butts or legs from falling on the grates in their house.  With the forced air from the furnace, the hallway was used to dry clothes on a clothes rack in the winter, drying hair by standing over the grate and letting the hot air dry the hair.  Daddy was always fussing at us to make sure nothing was put on the grate, whether it was winter or not.

Another danger in the house was the cellar.  It was located under the central hall.  The stairs to the cellar were located behind a door next to the inside wall of bedroom 3.  Coming from New Hampshire, most everyone had a cellar or basement in the house in which my mother had lived.  She thought all houses should have them -- so she insisted on have a cellar in the Greenville house.  Daddy, the builder, and relatives tried to convince her that they would hit the water table when digging the cellar.  She had her cellar but it was like a dark, dank pool under the house. At times,  Daddy got a sump pump and emptied the water.  He tried several times painting it with a sealer and thought he wasn't doing it right, so he hired someone to do it.  Nope, it filled with water.  Daddy wanted to seal it up but Mama wouldn't allow it.  So, the door to the cellar was always locked and we weren't allowed near the door, even as teens.  I guess we grew up insensitive to mold and mildew because that had to cause damage to the house.  (I believe now that it is filled (with soil or concrete) and I wonder if the stairs to the cellar are still there.)

Other rules -- for the outside.  Two maple trees were planted in the front yard.  One can be seen in the front view picture of the house.  We were not allowed to play in the front yard without supervision but even then there was a rule.  A rope was tied from maple tree to maple tree and one better not cross over that rope.  Those were the days of physical punishment and Mama used paddles -- you know the ones that had balls attached with a rubber band.  Hated when the balls fell off because the paddle then became the property of Mama.  I think our aunts and uncles gave us those paddles knowing that Mama might need one.

The rope to the maple trees was later removed.  It had to be removed so that the rope wouldn't grow into the tree.  I'm not sure when, but my brother said there was no rope when he began mowing the lawn.

Playing on the side porch
In the summer, playing outside was a must for Mama's sanity.  Many of our toys were in boxes on the side porch.  We even had a record player on the porch.  After breakfast, we were asked to play on the side porch.  It was cooler on the porch.  In two of the introduction pictures, you can see us playing on the side porch.  Notice, there were no side rails on the porch.  I don't remember any bad accidents from falling off the porch -- in fact, if we did fall off the porch, I don't remember it.  The porch wasn't very high from the ground.  We spent many, many hours playing on that porch.  I imagine that there are still juice stains, food stains, and watermelon stains on the concrete because we ate our lunch on the porch in the summer or on the picnic table in the back yard.  Then there was always a nap after lunch.  Bedroom 2 had a kitchen timer on the dresser.  If any of us got up before the timer went off, the timer was reset with added minutes.  I think it was believed that a nap or rest time was very important to prevent polio - no vaccine yet.

When we weren't playing on the porch, we played in the back yard, under the willow tree.  In the picture below, it is small.  It got rather large.  A picnic table was under it and we used the table for playing and having lunch there under the willow.  It was fun running through the limbs and leaves hanging down.  I remember my brother and younger sister playing "elevator" in the tree.  He went up the tree and threw a rope over a branch; he tied a paint bucket to the rope and they took turns being pulled up the tree by standing with one foot in the paint bucket.  Mama saw it out the window.  She ran outside and very calmly took the rope from my sister, and lowered by brother down. I don't remember what she said to us, but she took the paint bucket and rope back in the house.  I was not the tattler in that incident.

Also, noted in the pictured is the clothes line in the back yard.  There was no electric dryer in our house until the early sixties.  Everything was dried outdoors.  One night the clothes, including sheets, got left on the line.  It had been raining and they got hung out late.  The next morning, everything on the line was gone.  Clothes were never left again to dry overnight.  If any clothes were still wet or damp, they were hung on a huge drying rack in the central hallway.

As I got older, we all got lessons on how to hang clothes out on a line.  We were expected to help if we were home, especially in the summer.  Monday was washday.  If one did not hang them right, they came down and were hung again, the "correct" way.  When we got an electric dryer, it was remarkable.  It certainly changed the house keeping schedule.

As the Willow Grows
Daddy hated that willow tree and always wanted to cut it down.  It was a real pain for him because it grew in the septic system, including the tank.  He would have to dig to the system and get the roots out.  I can still see him in wadding boots, knee deep in poop.  One year, an electric storm split the trunk of the tree.  He was hoping for it to die, but of course it didn't.  It had plenty of water and fertilizer!

The washing machines in the 50's for us went from a hand cranked wringer washing machine to electric cranked.  As a child I remember both.  As children, we were told horror stories about women and children getting their hair or fingers caught in the rollers so if your hair was down, you were not allowed in the kitchen.  The machine was kept in the mud room, by the bathroom door and pulled out on washday.  When the clothes were washed, they were put threw the rollers and then put in the bathtub to rinse.  (That made the back door to the bathroom very convenient.)  Once rinsed, the clothes were hand rung and then, were run through the rollers again.)

Also, in that mud room  was an electric roller iron machine.  All the sheets, pillowcases, and flat pieces were ironed on the electric roller iron machine.  The machine had to be pulled away from the wall when in use and took up most of the space in the mud room.  No one could come in or go out the back door ( it was actually the right side door but we called it the back door) when the roller ironing machine was in use because of space and safety.  When I was about 12 years old, I was taught how to use it.  I was only allowed to do the bed linens.  And again, according to Mama, there was only one right way to iron them.

We thought the back steps was a wonderful place to hang out.  Our parents thought otherwise.  If you look carefully at the picture below, you see the wringer washing machine.  It had rollers on each leg and was moved to the kitchen sink so that it could be filled and emptied.  Mama was pretty stressed out on washday.  In a week, two adults and 4 children could produce many, many loads of dirty laundry.  It always took most of the day to get the job done.  Sometimes Mama hired someone to help her so it could be done in one day.  Later when Mama got an automatic washing machine, life changed.  The laundry didn't have to be done all in one day.

We didn't have air conditioning as long as we lived in that house.  (We moved to Belhaven in the summer of 1963).  In the pictures taken in the summer, you notice that the windows are open. Some windows are opened at the top and bottom.  Daddy believed that the hot air escaped at top and cool air came in the bottom.   I loved watching the air blow the curtains.  It was if the curtains were laughing and dancing. We had fans in several windows but they were only allowed to run in the hottest part of the day.  The fans were not allowed to blow in the house.  They were used to suck hot air out of the house and one had better not change that method.  I got caught doing it one time when I was about 12 years old and never touched the fan again!

When we became older, the planned expansion of the house occurred.  The addition of two large bedrooms was completed in the attic.  Regular sized windows had been constructed in 1946 in the attic, planning for expansion.  Because the floor plans for the stairs had been used a a bathroom, stairs into the attic were constructed in a closet in bedroom #1.  Bedroom #1 became a den because traffic would no longer allow it to be used as a bedroom.  There are no pictures of the upstairs bedrooms -- don't know why.  The entire attic was constructed in knotty pine tongue & grove lumber.  When selling the house, the two bedrooms upstairs could not be claimed as bedrooms because the rooms and stairs didn't meet building code.  The upstairs had never been heated and placement of the stairs going up couldn't reach the gables.  Even average height people had to bend their heads when reaching the top of the stairs.

Everyone in the house was excited to expand out of the crowded rooms.  We didn't seem to mind that the bedrooms up stairs had no heat. In the winter, since there was no heat upstairs except the small amount that rose,  Mama heated sock covered bricks and put them in our beds.  When we got in the bed, we put the bricks in the floor.  In the mornings, we dressed downstairs.  It was too cold upstairs.  In the summer, a huge window fan ventilated the upstairs.  All the girls had bedrooms upstairs, my brother took over the small bedroom downstairs and Bedroom 2 became our parent's bedroom. I don't remember how they worked out the closet space because their bedroom had only 1 closet. I think Mama used the closet in the den for some of her clothes.

In 1963, Daddy was transferred by Wachovia Bank to Belhaven.  We moved to Belhaven, NC in late June.  Daddy waited to move us at the end of the school year because my brother and I were graduating from Rose High School in Greenville.  In the picture below you will notice the concrete planters on the front stoop.  You will see those again in Belhaven.  Daddy didn't want them moved because they were so heavy but, he wanted Mama happy so they are on the front side walk in Belhaven.  When we sold the Belhaven house and settled Mama's estate, we left them with the Belhaven House (The Joyner Houses Part 3 to come).

The Greenville house was rented until Daddy died.  He wanted to sell it but Mama couldn't part with it.  He hated working on the house, though he was able to visit his family in Greenville when he went.  The house was sold in 2004 or 2005.  Mama took a loss on the house because it was not in good repair.  Very little maintance had been done to the house.  The first person to buy the house did some work on it and improved its looks, as seen below.  Can you find 5 changes to the front of the house?

When the house was sold again, further improvements were completed on the house and it looks entirely different.  I think one of the owners installed central heat/air , the cellar was filled in, and the staircase leading upstairs were changed to meet code.  Also, I think bedroom 3 was converted to a bathroom.  The red bricks were painted white. (Doesn't that increase the cost of upkeep of the house? Maybe there was a problem with the bricks?)

Land in front and behind the house is no longer forest land and farmland.  Where there were fields of corn across the highway, there is now a subdividion.  There are subdivisions, apartments and a nursing home behind the house.  The house is no longer "in the country" but note all the tall trees that were not there when the house was built.  It is 67 years old and evidently very livable.  The American Small House has "served Americans well for over 70 years, and will continue to do so for many years to come" as stated by Amber Rhea in The American Small House: Boundless Possibilities.

Latest Picture Taken by Google Maps

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