From the time they were big enough to make their own beds, my girls always had rooms of their own.
I was not so lucky. The eldest of four brothers, I didn’t have a room of my own until I was 13. When first we moved to the Elkland farm in 1957 I didn’t even have a bed of my own. Russell and I shared a mattress on the floor. I don’t remember where David slept, and Stephen hadn’t come along yet.
In due time Russell and I got bunk beds to share. Later came the room of my own. It was not the sort of accommodation featured on current home improvement shows. Rather, it was more akin to a miner’s shack in a California gold mining camp; but, it was mine.
The room idea came about as I approached my teens with three brothers close behind. Dad’s solution was to simply put a partition across the middle of our screened back porch, using only “repurposed” materials. I’m not sure where the tongue-and-groove pine boards for the wall came from, but the door had formerly opened to a closet before that space was appropriated to enlarge the “boys’ room,” one of only two in the main part of the house.
Never fully installed in it’s previous duty, the door had no latch — just a screen door spring and handle on the inside. Dad covered the screen windows with partial sheets of thin plywood — old sign boards salvaged from my grandpa’s shop in Springfield. On the west side he installed a single-paned window (probably an old cabinet door), which I later replaced with two four-pane windows from the lumber company in Buffalo, which Dad subsequently appropriated for the feed room on his new barn addition, giving me back the cabinet window.
Situated on the northwest corner of the house, my room was heated only with what could drift through the window to my brothers’ room; otherwise, Dad had planned none at all.
Lacking any insulation, the plywood window covers and the thin partition boards offered little protection from the cold — especially when northerly winds sifted snow through the cracks and old nail holes.
Roughly 8 feet wide and a dozen feet long, the room had space enough for a bed across the end, a Victorian-era salvaged linen closet in one corner and a small desk just under the bedroom window. I don’t recall what we had on the concrete floor, if anything.
A single incandescent ceiling bulb lit the room. I eventually equipped it with a long pull cord fed through and eye hook in the ceiling, suspending an old spark plug over my bed so I could operate the switch from under the covers.
The first winter or two my only additional heat was a smoky old kerosene heater.
One Christmas, though, Santa was good enough to bring me an electric blanket. I was toasty every winter thereafter.
As crude as it was, that back porch room was mine alone — a genuine “man cave” before anyone ever heard the term — and it served me well until I left for my second year of college in the fall of 1968.
I can’t recall if Russell had it next — he started college about the same time as I went back — but I’m sure David and Stephen each had it in turn.
When we sold the place many years later, the room had changed little from the time Dad nailed up those thin plywood sheets. It was still cold in winter, hot in summer, and every teenage boy’s dream — no carpet to vacuum, no bathroom to clean (it was outside) and no worries that Mom would even risk trying to straighten it up.
It was a room of our own.
Copyright 2023, James E. Hamilton; email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of his works in Ozarks RFD 2010-2015, available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or from the author.
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