The Home Is Gone But Not The Memories
In 1926 Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge, and his wife Ethlene built a craftsman-style house in Gaithersburg Maryland, at what is today 301 North Frederick Avenue. This was my grandparents home. This was the home where my mother (Mary Jane Reed Gartner) was born and raised. Some of my earliest memories are visits to this home as I spent a lot of time there during my childhood.
It’s weird, the things you remember from childhood. Who knows why some things stick in your memory and others quickly fade away. Often there seems to be no rhyme nor reason behind it. While writing a page on this blog about the Reed Family Home, I also started making some notes about some of the arbitrary things I could remember about them and their home. And eventually some of that turned into this blog post.
They lived just across the Frederick Avenue bridge over the railroad tracks from where I grew up, so my grandparents played an integral role in the creation of my early childhood memories. This special post will highlight some of my personal memories of my grandparents home and hopefully give readers a small glimpse of our family history.
Their home had a big front porch, a back terrace, fish pond, chicken yard, and a beautiful back yard surrounded with flowers. In the basement there was a coal-fired, straight-out-of-a-scary-movie furnace, a laundry room, a finished area where my grandfather would show movies on his 16mm reel to reel film projector, and lots of space for me to play paddle ball (hitting a rubber ball with a wooden paddle that was attached to the ceiling with a string).
Some of my most cherished childhood memories are of making homemade ice cream with my grandfather. We used to make it with a “crank it yourself” ice cream maker. It always seemed to take forever. As a child, I wanted the ice cream immediately. Everyone who wanted to have a serving of ice cream when it was finished was expected to take a turn at turning the handle. When I was little, I would always go first because when the ice cream began to harden the churn became harder and harder to turn. My grandfather, or my mom or dad, would always have to take over at the very end. Sweet memories of a simpler time.
The fish pond was a magical place for a young grade-schooler. As a child, I spent countless hours feeding the goldfish bread crumbs and sailing homemade sailboats that my grandfather built for me out of scraps of wood. I remember I used to help him clean the pond. We’d use a net (or sometimes our hands) to capture the fish and store them in a large metal tub filled with water. When I think now of all the hours my grandfather spent cleaning the muck out of the bottom of the fish pond, I can’t help but cringe. But he never, ever complained, so in the end I guess we can say we both had a good time.
There was an alley driveway behind the garage between the properties that we used to call “chicken alley” – mostly because all the neighborhood homes back then had chickens. My grandparents had a chicken yard, too. It was attached to the garage. The nuggets of information I collected from my mom suggests they raised the chickens for eggs and eating. In those days if you wanted a chicken you didn’t go to the grocery store to get it, you went to the backyard chicken coop.
Fortunately, by the time I came along the chicken house had been cleaned out and was turned into a storage shed for my grandfather’s tools. The chicken house is visible at the top right of the aerial photo below. (click image to enlarge)
I have plenty of fragmentary memories from my pre-school years. As a toddler of a little over one year old, I remember I fell and broke my ankle running along the walkway on the side of my grandparents house.
When I was about 8 or 9, I remember watching someone walk down the sidewalk in front of their house with a cardboard box over their head. You’ve heard the old saying, “Monkey see, monkey do”. Well, I went and got my own box. As I was walking up the front porch steps with the stupid box over my head I tripped and fell. The scar on my chin is still visible today. But I remember the fall at their house clearly.
For all of that, the memories of my grandparents’ house are ones I will always treasure. My childhood just wouldn’t have been the same without them. Good times.