The Little House
Allen R. Remaley
To look at it, the little house would have evoked no other description than, “It’s nothing but a shack!” But, at second glance, one could see that there was more to it than just a run-down dwelling. Upon the death of my grandfather, a Pennsylvania coal miner who, after he had consumed some illegal and poison booze, died on its doorstep, Grandmother Sarvey only used the little house as a storage shed, and its contents drew my attention when I was five or six years old.
For little boys, old, locked up places like that little house cast a magic spell. The magic might have come from the fact that the only door to this special place demanded a key, and grandmother had the key. Unimaginable things are conjured up in the minds of those who wonder what might be found behind locked doors and closed cabinets. For me, the little house represented my own treasure island, and in the confines of that little place, I was a twentieth-century Harry Potter long before some English writer invented him.
On occasion, Grandmother Sarvey would allow me to accompany her inside when she wanted to get her hand push lawn mower or some tool she needed for her garden. Once inside the little house, I would always take an interest in the old clothes hanging about the place, the odds and ends of old tools, the boxes of discarded books, machine parts and things I could not recognize. Discarded by young men, my uncles, who had taken part in wars past, army buttons, badges once worn with pride and battle ribbons awarded for being in some theater of war, were lying about and forgotten like the conflicts themselves. Cheap, but interesting looking costume jewelry, beads of all colors and sizes and things from other countries picked up and brought back to this country by nameless travelers, were among the trinkets one could always find in boxes and bowls meant to hold such things. There were old toys my uncles and aunts had played with, and, if e-Bay had been in existence, fortunes would have been made. Old books, letters, photographs and official looking documents with impressive seals which had belonged to members of my family and no longer considered important were left behind in this place. Once grandmother had retrieved what she had been looking for, she would wait for me to become bored with such things, and I would come back out into the sun and reality. Then, grandmother would lock the door and I would wait for the next time she needed something from that storehouse of memories.
The little house was just that—little. The place was about the size of one of today’s living rooms measuring 15’ by 15’. Running right down the middle of the shed was a thin, plaster covered wall. Someone had cut out a narrow arch for a doorway allowing access to each side of the wall so that two, small rooms remained. The little house had no insulation since there was no reason to supply heat to the small building, and after all, no one could possibly live there.
No heating device of any kind had ever been installed in this place. There was, of course, no indoor plumbing, and until the early 1950’s, everyone in our area of the little town used an outhouse. Ours was a two-holer which sat near the little house. This outdoor toilet was always hot and smelly in the summer and bare skin butt biting cold in winter. None of us, neither my grandmother, her boarders, Mom, visitors nor myself, spent much time reading the Sears and Roebuck catalog which served as toilet tissue. We all did what had to be done, and we closed the door behind us when we had finished.