We decided that we would like to have Christmas in our new house. We spent the two days before Christmas moving our beds, kitchen wares including the Christmas dinner, the Christmas tree and a few clothes in our station wagon. We moved everything in the station wagon. We had a nice Christmas Eve. My mother was there, Jimmy's folks were present and so were my Aunt Samantha, Uncle Alfred and Rich. Poor Jimmy nearly fell asleep - he really had worked hard bringing all the things into the house. After everyone had left and we picked up a bit we realized the stuff for the Christmas stockings was still in Seymour, so we drove to Seymour, picked up the stocking stuffers and the St. Bernard dog, Dolly. She was so big there just wasn't room for her before this trip.
We bought the property for the land. The house was falling apart. Mrs. Wells, the lady who owned the property, said that she would carry our mortgage for a year while we sold the Maple Street property. This seemed like a good idea and very considerate of her. However, when we did sell the house and went to our bank, Ansonia Savings Bank, to re-mortgage the Oxford house they refused us saying that the house was in too poor a condition. At that time the land was of no value. We then went to three other banks. They all knew the house and refused to have anything to do with it. We went back to the realtor, who sold us the house, and asked her what we could do. In the meantime we put in a furnace, and when I say "we" I mean Jimmy and I. Putting in a furnace is no small job, one needs a strong back if nothing else. Jimmy had also put in a sump pump for there was lots of water in the cellar. He also had installed a new electrical panel. Mrs. Gardner, the realtor, said that she thought the Woodbury Bank would give us a mortgage inasmuch as we were doing so much toward restoring the house.
One morning I decided to re-putty some of the windows. I had them spread out on the dining room table. There were 820 panels in the house. Most of the windows were "twelve over twelve," that is there were twenty four little panes of glass in each window. Some of the panes were the original ones. To get back to the morning I was puttying. there was a knock on the front door. When I answered the door, there were three very distinguished gentlemen. They were from the Woodbury Savings Bank. As the morning wore on, it was evident they knew the house. I told them about the furnace and electrical panel and they wished to see it. When we went down cellar they asked what happened to the water, so I showed them the sump pump. They asked if we had fixed the roof-it leaked-I told them that we had not gotten to that yet. They asked lots of questions about the house, but we had not been able to do all the repairs in that length of time. It took us five years to complete the work.
When they left I just knew we would be turned down, but the good news was they would finance the house after seeing all that we had done. Needless to say it was a great relief. In fixing up the house we knocked out walls and ceilings. What a mess! The older girls helped, but Margaret was the one who sand papered the mantels and panels where there was the beautiful molding with many, many coats of paint. The fireplaces had been bricked up and plastered over. We knocked out the plaster and took out the bricks and found five delightful fireplaces.
They also built the kitchen onto the house. The room which we used for a dining room was the original kitchen with the huge fireplace and Dutch oven. In place of fireplaces, they had installed stoves. The hearthstone for the original kitchen had been removed. We found it across the street and dragged it home. We slid it down cellar and jacked it up bit by bit until it was in place. The house was built many years ago and had been in the same family for seven generations when we bought the house. When we went up into the attic after taking possession, the floor was knee deep in rubble. We threw the junk out the attic window to the ground beneath. However, down at the bottom we found all the original fireplace equipment, pots, a teakettle, tongs, etc.
Speaking of junk, in the cellar were just loads of canning jars, some empty and some full. We carried them out into the yard and hired a man to carry them to the dump. Funny, the things you remember. It wasn't too many years after that time when canning jars became valuable. We lost a fortune. Bill also installed a new sill. The sill had rotted away. He jacked up the side of the house and put in a new sill. Not a small job. In the kitchen two rooms had been added by putting up walls and making the kitchen smaller. We took these walls out. However, we wondered if this might have weakened the ceiling, so Bill had some of the kids go up in the attic and jump up and down, and, as expected, the ceiling went up and down (it was a wooden ceiling). So he put a pipe in the middle of the kitchen table which was about in the middle of the kitchen to support the ceiling. This pipe coming out of the table was a subject for discussion for years. Before we finished we papered and painted every room.
There was a small bedroom in the back of the house where the chimney was the entire wall. It had been plastered over, but we took the plaster off and left the brick wall, which I thought was quite nice. At one time the house was used for two families, and one of the upstairs bedrooms had been turned into a kitchen. We took out the sink but left the cabinets, and whoever had that bedroom enjoyed the cupboards. From that bedroom one could go to the attic. We had wasps in the attic every spring.
One year Frank, when he was quite young, had that bedroom and upon finding wasps on his floor asked me to kill the wasps because I didn't cry if they bit me. The back bedroom on the opposite side of the house from the one I just described opened into the attic above the kitchen so whoever had that bedroom had a huge closet. It was a fun house with three sets of stairs. I painted the barns and the house. The barns were painted red and the house white. After the house was painted once, each year I would paint one side, that way it always looked good. We had a dug well beside the house: we also had a big oil drum full of kerosene in back of the house. Somehow the faucet on the oil drum was turned on and not turned off. The oil drained into the well. We could not use the well. Bill did run a pipe down from the well which served the barn.
This was fine for summer time, but we knew as soon as frost came the pipe would freeze so Bill dug a well in the cellar. We used that well for a couple of years. In the meantime we would pump "the oil well" dry and eventually got rid of the oil. When we finally finished restoring the house, it was on the Derby Historical House Tour. If I think of any place as "home," this is the house. We lived there for fifteen years. It is the longest time that I have lived in one place. The four oldest girls were married from there and the three youngest were born while we lived there.