Our Chesapeake Cottage

From Grandma’s Album… Take It Easy! – Our Chesapeake Cottage

Vystavim si skromnou chaloupku! (I shall build myself a tidy little cottage.)

We sang happily as we built our own special cottage in the fall of 1932 when we rented a thirty foot piece of Lynch Cove property on which to build! The site was really a sixty-foot lot, but we could only afford half. The cash-strapped owner needed our dollar-a-foot rent and happily agreed to a smaller parcel. Times were tough. It was the Depression. Daddy had been laid off from his B&O railroad job for twenty-three months.

Grandma at the Shore in the early ’80’s. Grandma sitting on the steps of the sleeping porch. See the green hexagonal shingles? That’s the pear tree in front of her and the large boxwood and lilac to the left of the picture.

We needed a place for our two 28-foot boats, that had been moored in the next creek at the Aurora Club, our social club’s shore place. They also needed money. Fortunately, Pennsylvania Transmission lines needed a big site for its new electrical transmission towers. Aurora rejoiced at the offer, disbanded and sold. We had to move; we did, and then began to build.

At first a boat shed was all we thought of, but then my folks suddenly realized that a tiny kitchen and two even tinier bedrooms would make a place for us to vacation during the summer months. There was space for vegetables and ducks and that would help us get through the hard times.

But . . . how could we start with no money coming in? Daddy said, “Piece by piece, one step at a time, take it easy!” and so we did.

Of course, the first step was to clear a space for the foundation. The weeds were taller than we!

The concrete blocks cost ten cents apiece and we needed many. Gracious! Daddy said, “As many as we can each week . . . just a few. Take it easy.”

Next step: the stout beams to rest on the blocks, then upright stout joists –, then –. Once again, good fortune smiled on us. The Pennsylvania Power people needed their new property cleared of clubhouse and outbuildings. They hired locals, cheaply, those who were unemployed (and who wasn’t!), young men to dismantle the buildings and dispose of the wreckage. Daddy gave the drivers the munificent amount of a WHOLE QUARTER to dump on our new site the next creek over. Free beams and joists – a bonanza! Brother, Mother and I learned how to crowbar out the many nails and held the pieces straight while Daddy built.

In between loads of wood and when we didn’t have nails to pull, we carted wheelbarrow loads of good dirt to our garden patch from the woods next door.

Grandma on the “back steps” (the ones away from the water) That’s the “new kitchen” behind her attached to the house and the water of Bear Creek in the background.

Next Daddy sawed up the remaining planks, varied but good, and up went the walls! Muscles, good health, good will, and time we had, and fun. Our family pride centered on ten-year-old Charles who had climbed to the peak of the roof and nailed the highest timber.

“Piece by piece, take it easy!” Our cottage was taking shape.

Then we bought a duck, and a neighbor gave us a chicken and we children pounded together a small shed out of scraps and splintered pieces of wood for them to live in and raise families. Eggs!

Windows next, of course; but how and where? Ah, ha! Baltimore City was dismantling slums – a place to scavenge for good “double-hungs”. We did and found nine, unmatched, but still good.

Inside the floors were made of good reused planks from the Aurora club. This was good and sturdy, despite our having to pull all those nails out of it. Linoleum was our choice to cover up the floor, so we didn’t have to look at the holes, and was long-wearing. There was another bonanza for the interior walls. In ’33, the captured WWI ships were being dismantled in Baltimore Harbor. They were being broken up, both to make space and to provide fuel for winter heat for the many, many unemployed in the city and could be had for the cost of hauling the wood away, the usual fee of a quarter. The German ship Kaiser Wilhelm had good quality tongue-in-groove paneling in the officer quarters and we spent hours nailing until Daddy came home from work. Repeatedly, I was warned not to hammer too hard, in my zest to prove a girl could do the job, so that they were straight. We painted the kitchen pale green and the bedroom pale pink, very pretty.

It wasn’t yet time yet for permanent covering of the outer walls, “taking it easy” meant that we had to wait for that, but tar paper was cheap and kept out the weather. We could afford the heavy stuff for the roof and bought thinner for the sides. Why not? The spring of 1933 saw our black cottage up and “right & tight” and we had a wonderful place with garden and chickens and cool breezes from the water when the city was too hot.

Grandma on the water steps leading down to the pier.
The grape arbor had been taken down by that point.
The linden tree is on the left border of the picture
and the sycamore on the right.

One disappointment we experienced was the twilight when we first, proudly, turned on the lights. Electricity was being run to the areas surrounding Baltimore City in the early 1930’s, one of the CCC projects. We had not thought of electricity at all, but a neighbor needed a fourth family to bring it in, so we scraped up our share of the costs. The problem was that our little cottage had been more open than we thought, since we couldn’t afford screens yet. We flipped the switch to turn on the lights and promptly fled the hundreds of wood beetles lining our ceiling! Obviously, we closed up, burned an insect bomb and headed to our city home till the next weekend.

Finally, in 1934, 23 months after getting laid off, Daddy was back at work and we could afford to finish the outside. We went shingle-shopping. Our choice was hexagonal forest green. Soon we could afford screens and shelves and cupboards.

My job was the family painter, since that was my passion. I did the trim in pale cream: windows, doors, frames, roof line – very pretty and neat (not garish) as the song stipulated, skromnou (tidy). “One step at a time, take it easy!” We could see that we were nearly done!

Now a bedroom for the brother in 1934, Bonanza number three! A dismantled rail coach provided seven free windows that Daddy nailed long sturdy straps to so that we could lower them into a well to open them.

Now we had a beautiful sunroom facing the water with a davenport from home which opened for sleeping at night and Mother’s rocker for our evening songfest and story hour. Nase chaloupka, our tidy, little cottage by the water was finished at last.

I think this is what Baba and Dedi had in mind. This is a picture of a traditional village home in Bohemia

Chaloupka (the song they sang) (colloquial translation by Anja)

Vystavím si skromnou chaloupku,
všecko čistě, jako na sloupku,
stromoví a křoví vůkol ní, budou dávat chládek k ovění,
odtud nedaleko k háji, besídku si spletu s májí,
až to všechno řádně dovedu, pak tě dívčinko tam povedu.

I will build a modest cottage,
all clean, and tidy forever,
a tree and a bushes around it, they will protect my little home
near to the grove, people will envy me,
When I can get everything perfect, then I will bring my girl home.

V chlívku bude s kozou kravička, a u sroubku z drnu lavička,
stáj a ovčín v jednom pořadí, pod kolnou pak orní nářadí,
stodůlka a šest kroků sáze, vůkol plot a kousek hráze,
až to všechno řádně dovedu, pak tě dívčinko tam povedu.

There will be a cow with a goat, with a goat with a lamb,
In the stable there will be sheep in a line, under the hayloft
I’ll have an orchard, a yard, a fence and a watering place,
When I can get everything perfect, then I will bring my girl home.

Na zahrádce mimo zeliny, budou také vonné květiny,
podzim rozličného ovoce, bude víc a víc rok po roce,
Ptactvo bude v houští cvrčet, a potůček veskrz hrčet,
až to všechno řádně dovedu, pak tě dívčinko tam povedu.

In the garden outside the greenhouse, there will also be fragrant flowers,
autumn of different fruits, will be more and more year after year,
Birds will twist in the thickets, and the brook all the way,
When I can get everything perfect, then I will bring my girl home.

Na dvorečku v kurnik kulatý, pro svou radost kvočnu s kuřaty,
kachnám, husám a vší drůběži, sama budeš sypat večeři,
něco pro dům, něco v práze, na trhu se prodáva-vavalo draze,
až to všechno řádně dovedu, pak tě dívčinko tam povedu.

In a courtyard in a round cubicle, for your cook’s pride, we’ll have a chicken,
ducks, geese, other fowl. You will have dinner for yourself, something for the house, something to raise, the others to sell in the market,
When I can get everything perfect, then I will bring my girl home.

Jizbu prostou, sklípek klenutý, na mléko a soudek přepnutý,
z něhož když k nám známí doskočí, džbánek čerstvého se natočí,
a v komůrce bude lůže, ve které se dve směstnat může,
až to všechno řádně dovedu, pak tě dívčinko tam povedu.

A simple jar, a vaulted cellar, for milk, and a keg for beer
from which, when we’re thirsty, the fresh jug will pass from hand to hand,
and there will be a bed in the chamber where the two can have plenty of fun,
When I can get everything perfect, then I will bring my girl home.

Jestli se ti to tak zalíbí, pak tě hoch tvůj vroucně políbí,
pak se zeptá budeš-li jej chtít, byť i o vše přišel, ráda mít ,
a tak potom budem svoji, pak nás žádný nerozdvojí,
až to všechno řádně dovedu, pak tě dívčinko tam odvedu.

If you want, then your boy can kiss you,
he asks if you want to be his, even if everything goes awry,
and then we will be by ourselves, no one else will be welcome.
When I can get everything perfect, then I will bring my girl home.

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Page added and published 8/24/18 (C)M. Bartlett
Last updated 8/24/18