Grandma’s House 42031 Rd. 52 Reedley CA –Rudolf and Elsa Laemmlen Home

dads-slides-491Here is a collection of photos of my Grandma’s home.  With the exception of a few old photos added in, I took the most of these in 1988 when I went home for Grandma’s funeral.  I wanted to capture the home I knew before things started leaving it, disrupting my memories.

To begin, here is a picture of the Rudolf Laemmlen Family who lived here.  My father, Arthur is in the middle between Elsa and Rudolf.  In the front are Wilfred, Henry and Franklin.laemmlen-rudolf-family

I grew up next door to Grandma and Grandpa, and I spent a good deal of my childhood in this home.  I knew every corner and cranny, every cupboard and drawer.  I loved walking over to Grandmas almost daily as I grew up.  This was my childhood home away from home.

Grandma had beautiful flowers of all varieties around the house.  The vegetables were behind the barn, mostly tomatoes that always had “tomato worms” on them we’d pluck off.  I loved helping Grandma hang clothes on the line.  She had some newfangled colored plastic clothespins in the 1960s that made me so excited.  My brothers and I practiced chin-ups on the bar and picked loquats from the big tree on the left.helmuts-photos-of-reedley-1955-1956-65  tomato-hornworm   loquat-tree-fruit

Here’s the home as it was in 1988:laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-1The Loquat tree was still there:laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-3laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-2laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-4Grandpa and Eric walking down the driveway:laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-5laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-6Grandma surrounded her flowerbeds with these large round rocks.  We always searched under them for bugs.  She didn’t like us messing with them or making them loose.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-7The garage to the left and the pump house on the right.  The outdoor bathrooms were here when my dad was younger.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-8

Inside the front door to the right was this den.  This was Grandma’s favorite room.  Her sewing machine is there in the corner under the telephone.  Grandpa’s desk was also here, filled with very old office supplies–pens, pencils, rulers, glue in a bottle with a rubber top, a slide ruler, a couple magnifying glasses, and lots of old rubber bands.  The red rolling chair was squeeky.

Grandma spent many hours in her later years in this rocking chair.  When I was little, I would sit on her lap.  When she died, the rocking chair was what I wanted most, with my memories of her.  She’d run her fingernail through the top of the screw on the armrests as she told me stories.

Sometimes she had a puzzle there on the card table, but usually she would just sit and look out the big picture window at the goings and comings of the farm.  Grandma didn’t read very often.  She preferred doing handwork.  She taught me to knit and crochet.  She taught me all the embroidery stitches and how to sew doll clothes.  She made most of her own clothing and always wore an apron that pinned to her dress at the top.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-14Here is Grandpa’s desk.  The horse postcards looked like his two beloved horses, Sailor and Stargo.  There were gifts from friends in Germany to remind him of his home.  The window at the left looked into the dining room.  The door on the right went out onto the porch.  It wasn’t ever used.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-13laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-46This “divan” was on the east side of the den.  It could be pulled out into a bed.  This is where Grandma and I would take naps in the afternoon.  She said the blanket was made by an Indian.  Grandma snored.  The curtains had mountain scenes that reminded her of her summers at Hume Lake with Uncle Franklin.  She’d take him there each summer to help his asthma.  My favorite stories were about the bears that would come into their camp to look for food.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-15

The dining room.  I still have the wax turkey candles that were in that china hutch.  They were put out at Thanksgiving, and they still are in my home.  Grandma was good a keeping house plants.  She didn’t like us messing with her watering schedule.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-9Grandpa would sit at this table on the left and read and write.  He was a philosopher, always reading his Bible and thinking about the waste of war.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-31


Looking into the living room.  The bed wasn’t usually in there.

The older Grandma and Grandpa got, the louder the TV got!  They had a space heater to keep this room warm.  On the wall (top left) is a wood carving of the Grossgartach Turn which stood on the top of the hill by the Laemmlen vineyards in Germany.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-10laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-28laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-42



The door behind went to the bedroom.  The closed door was the staircase to upstairs.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-27There was an old player piano in this living room on the left as you entered.  I never heard it play, but Grandma treasured it.  It had real ivory keys.  Grandma was so sad/angry when my cousins plucked the keys off and broke a few of them.  The piano sounded old and hollow.  Sometimes we’d get out the old Thompson piano books in the bench and play for Grandma.

The table top clock on top of the book shelf would chime on the quarter hour.  You could hear it all through the house and that sound is my favorite sound from Grandma’s.  I have that clock now, and enjoyed it for years, until the chime mechanism finally gave out.  I had it replaced, but the new chime isn’t so beautiful, so I don’t plug it in anymore, which makes me sad.

There were several Hummel figurines in behind the glass doors.  We were not allowed to touch them!  The carved antelope on top were from Frank’s voluntary years spent in Kenya.  Grandma kept doilies and slip covers on all her nice furniture. Here’s an old photos of Christmas in this room in probably in 1962 or 63.laemmlen-cms-abt-1962laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-24laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-41

Straight back through the dining room was the bedroom.  Grandma made these quilts and dozens of others.  The room had a very small closet and a dresser of drawers on the right. Passports and important papers were kept in the top drawer.  You can see it in the mirror.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-45laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-39laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-22

Here is Grandma’s vanity.  She did the needle point on the stool.  I still have this beautiful old piece of furniture.  Grandma sat here every morning to comb and braid her long white hair.  It went down to her waist.  She’d make a long braid, then pin it up in a bun.  I remember the smell of the hair tonic she’d use.  She had a bowl of face powder but I don’t think she ever used it.  She’d use the hand mirror to check the back when she finished pinning the bun.  She used 2 hair combs in the front.  She had a metal fingernail file too and often used it to clean her fingernails.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-12laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-21


The bathroom was just before the bedroom.  Grandpa shaved here.  There used to be his cup of soap, brush and razor like these:

laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-25There was also a bathtub and toilet in the long tiled bathroom.  It was always cold in there.  A window went out to the back yard.  Grandpa usually peed in the back yard instead of tracking dirt into the house.  He had a bush he liked to water out there.  I have no idea when Grandma and Grandpa bathed.  Probably at night after we’d gone home.  I was never once there when it happened.

Here is the kitchen.  On Saturdays Grandma baked.  My brothers and I were there every Saturday morning, never fail.  I loved rolling out the dough for cinnamon rolls and Kuchen. She usually made apricot Kuchen, sometimes plum or apple.  It was delicious.  The baked goods would fill the counter top.  Dishes were kept above.  Tan with brown edges.  Sometimes Grandma gave us ice cream.  Her favorite was berry swirl.

When we were little, my dad made wooden box seats for us to sit on at Grandma’s table so we could reach the food.

laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-16Grandma preferred cooking on the wood stove.  She usually kept a pot of water there for her tea.  All dishes were washed by hand and dried in the rack on the counter.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-17laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-43After the kitchen was the back porch.  You can see one of Grandma’s braided rugs.  The house used to be filled with them.  I remember helping her make them from clothing scraps and old clothes.  I see the haircut box.  That was my dad’s.  He must have brought it over to cut Grandpa’s hair.  We’d sit on top of that box (filled with the hair cutting supplies) to get our hair cut (usually on Saturday nights during Lawrence Welk).

The steps led down into the cellar.  It was dark and scary down there.  Dirt walls.  Shelves of canned fruit.  Spiders.  We went down there when we played hide and seek.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-18Before Grandma had a modern washer, she had a washer with a ringer out in the front part of the garage closest to the house.  There was also some sort of boiler stove out there to heat the water.  We also boiled water there when we butchered chickens.  After the heads were chopped off, the chickens were dipped in a big pot of boiling water before they were plucked.  It made it easier to pluck the feathers, but it sure smelled horrible.

I don’t think Grandma ever owned a dryer.  She hung clothes outside on the clotheslines or upstairs on drying racks when it was cold out.  The big drawers had brown bags and boots in them.  The back door had a spring on it so it would close.  Grandma didn’t like it slamming.  The top of the door had a screen to keep the flies out.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-19laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-44Here is one of my favorite old pictures of Grandma sitting here cutting peaches.  laemmlen-elsa-cutting-peaches

Here is the view from the top of the stairs down to the dining room.  We wore these stairs out with our behinds, bumping down time after time!laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-35At the top of the stairs was this hallway to the bedrooms where my dad and uncles rooms were.  To the right was a bathroom.  You can see the clothes lines.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-37The first room at the top of the stairs was the pantry, one of my favorite places at Grandma’s.  This cupboard had a cloth thumb tacked to the top, to keep the dust out.  Behind the cloth were all the games from when our dad and uncles were boys.  Tinker toys, dominoes, colored blocks, the big can of marbles, anagrams, stencils, an old pinball game, a tennis racket and more. laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-29You can see the clothes drying racks above on the right.  Below are the canning jars and quilt stands.  I have those stands now.  Grandma also kept old Christmas wrapping paper and boxes in this room.  It smelled so good in that room.  Like old things.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-30laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-11The bedrooms upstairs were kept up as they were when the boys lived here for a long time.  By 1988 when I visited, things had changed.  Our favorite things were the amazing bug collections dad and the uncles made while they were college students at UC Davis and Berkley.  They were in cedar boxes up in the closet.  They were expertly done.  We were all bug collectors in our family.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-32Bulletin board in the bed room with awards:laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-33Room by the bathroom with the old trunk brought from Germany.  Grandma stored her handwork treasures and linens there.  laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-34Upstairs storage in the bedroom.  You can see more of Grandma’s braided rugs here.laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-36laemmlen-rudolf-elsa-home-1988-40

Memories of this home are dear to me.  I hope there will be a place in heaven where we can return to our childhood homes, and slip back into the times when we lived in them.

Here is an ariel view of Grandma’s house from the 1960s.  The large trees around the house are walnut trees.  Vineyards are on the right and orchards on the left.  The house is in the trees–you can only see the long shed and the barn on the right with more walnut trees behind it.  Our home is the farm to the left.  You can see the field we walked through to get to Grandmas.clifton-place-42129005Below is the farm I grew up on at 42129 Road 52 a few miles south of Reedley.clifton-place-42129009

Here are a few of the treasures I have from Grandma’s House:elsa-laemmlen-treasures-12elsa-laemmlen-treasures-22elsa-laemmlen-treasures-23elsa-laemmlen-treasures-15elsa-laemmlen-treasures-16elsa-laemmlen-treasures-20elsa-laemmlen-treasures-6elsa-laemmlen-treasures-8elsa-laemmlen-treasures-5elsa-laemmlen-treasures-2

I just found a document I wrote many years ago about memories of Grandma’s House:

There were all kinds of things to do at Grandma’s house. My favorite was getting the button boxes and button jar out. Grandma had saved buttons for years. She had 2 large boxes full, plus a large glass jar. She would let me spill them all out onto the floor to play with them. I spent hours sorting them. By color, by size, by shape, by favorites. There were a few pink-magenta buttons that were my very favorite. When Grandma died, I got her buttons. They are a favorite memory.

It was fun to go upstairs an look around. The rooms were still left the way they had been when Dad was a boy and lived there. The same bed spreads and quilts on the beds, the bulletin boards with ribbons and high school awards, the wonderful smell of moth balls and the stacks of bug collections high up in the closet. All of my uncles and Dad collected bugs and had incredible collections from their college years. Franklin had a lot of exotic ones in his collections. Sometime we would get them down and look at each specimen. I loved the bugs. Paul and Eric and I also became bug collectors each summer.

Grandma’s house had a cellar. The stairs went down from the back porch, under the house. The walls were old cement, and in the back was a dark narrow room carved out of the dirt, lined with shelves full of jars of fruit–peaches, apricots, berries, and grapes. It was spooky in there. A lone bulb hung on a wire with a string dangling to pull to turn on the light. That place was even too scary to go into when we played hide and seek. There were spider webs and it smelled musty. And it was always cold in there. Grandma had a deep freeze down in the cellar too. She kept her ice cream down there. Vanilla with berry ripple. Always the same. She liked a little dish of ice cream after a meal.

The living room had a player piano. It never worked very well–at least I don’t remember ever hearing it play. It was old dark brown oak, I think. There was a nice grain in the wood, and the keys were real ivory. I know that because my cousin, Donna, got in trouble several times for popping the keys off and breaking them. Grandma got quite upset about that. Sometimes we’d play a piece on the piano for Grandma. It sounded like an old hollow instrument. It was a tall upright, and there was a sliding door opening in the front where you could load the paper rolls for the player piano. The songs were punched out holes that the little teeth would grab as the scrolls turned on the rollers.

On top of this piano was the old clock that chimed the hours. That clock is now in John’s office, and everyday, every 15 min. it chimes and reminds me of Grandma’s house. It’s a warm memory feeling every time I hear it.

The living room had a book shelf with the old photo albums in it. Photos of our family in Germany. We didn’t get those out very often. Grandma had taken great care to keep her photos in albums. Those were pictures of her life in the olden days.

Grandma’s bedroom had two twin beds with simple four patch quilts on them. There were windows in the back of the room looking north into the garden bushes and walnut trees. Grandma had a large round mirror over her dressing table, where she would sit and comb her long silver-white hair. On the sides of this dressing table were white cotton doilies with crocheted edges where she laid her brush and comb and her hair pins. There was also a little dish where she would pull the hair from her brush and wrap it around her finger and put the curl of hair in the little dish. Grandma wore her hair the same way every single day of her life. She told me she had never in her life had a hair cut–she always had long hair. When she was sitting at her dresser, on the bench covered with needlepoint, her hair hung to the bench. It was thin and beautiful. She would braid it all into a long braid in the back, then wrap it into a bun, and secure it with old fashioned hair pins, the tortoise-shell-colored looped ones. Later she used silver ones. Then she used clear-colored hair combs in the front, to push her hair forward a bit in the front, so it wouldn’t look flat on top. When I was younger, she would wear a hairnet. As she got older, her hair got more white. It was so beautiful to see it all down and cascading down her back as she combed it after a bath.

Grandma’s room also had a dresser for Grandpa between the windows. The top drawer had treasures like old passports and documents with his socks. His clothes were in the other drawers. There was a small closet with a door, and in it hung Grandma’s Church dresses. They smelled like Grandma. Grandpa had a good smell too. Once I sat behind a man at a football game who smelled just like Grandpa. That was the best football game I ever went to. I smelled him the whole afternoon and thought of Grandpa.

There was a bathroom in the hall by their bedroom. It had a small tile floor, and a sink and a toilet and tub. The tub looked old. It was deep and felt cold to the touch. There were towel racks and a heater on the wall, so you could turn it on when you got out of the tub to warm up. Grandpa had a cup of soap and shaving brush by the sink. There was a medicine cabinet behind the mirror, and deep cupboards for storing linens by the sink. There were throw carpets on the floor. It was always cold in the bathroom. The upstairs had a toilet too, but I don’t remember that one ever working. It was installed after the house was built. When dad was a boy, they showered and had bathroom facilities outside in the chicken house by the pump.

The main room of the house was right in the middle. Dining room, and TV room. Grandma and Grandpa each had reclining chairs and they would sit there to watch TV. Grandma always had hand work on her lap. Her fingers were always busy. She did applique and knitted and crocheted. And, of course, there were her beautiful quilts. She made a quilt for each grandchild, given to us when we graduated from High School. My Sun Bonnet Sue quilt is on Claire’s bed right now. It’s another of my treasures from Grandma.

There were doilies pinned to the arm rest and head rests of the 2 chairs. Grandpa had his reading materials and Grandma had her stitching. Grandpa was a writer and loved to read and write and be philosophical about life and truth. He was always reading papers and articles and he wrote volumes. He read often from the scriptures and knew them well. He also read the Book of Mormon and felt it contained good teachings and he often said that there was nothing in it that he felt objection to. He even told me once that it would do my other uncles well to read it–they might learn something!

There was a big dresser with a mirror in that family room. The top drawer was where Grandma would hid her chocolate bars and Chicklets gum. Always the green and yellow boxes with mint flavors. She kept linens and table cloths in that dresser. In the corner was a corner hutch with the nice dishes and my favorite little wax Thanksgiving Turkey candles. Those live with us now, and are still put on ever Thanksgiving table. When I was little, I’d always go to Grandma’s on Thanksgiving afternoon to help her set the table and get out the silver and nice plates. I got to decorate the table with leaves and nuts and those little turkeys. They watched the goings on of the family from the hutch the rest of the year.

The last room on the main floor was the kitchen, the heart of the home.  Grandma’s kitchen had a black wood-burning stove in it that they kept burning all winter. We’d help carry in wood from the woodpile. The wood pieces had to be small to fit into the stove and were usually plum or peach wood from old trees that came down, or from the pruning. We had grape wood too. It crackled more. The top was flat and there was a tool that you could use to lift the opening in the top out with. You filled the stove from the front, but could also open it from the top to stir the fire, if needed. Grandma would heat water on the stove for her tea, or warm food there. She had an oven and electric stove as well. I liked the smell and sound of the fire burning. It kept the kitchen warm. The house was cold in the winter. They used a little space heater in the TV room to keep their feet warm, and blankets on their laps.

The kitchen had white shelves and cupboards, a tin counter top by the sink, that drained into the sink. The sink was large enough to wash a lot of dishes in and a window above it out into the front yard. There was a wooden table with a gray top of maybe Formica, with silver around the sides. This is where the eating was done, with the exceptions of Thanksgiving and special gatherings. The table was in the corner with a bench along the back by the window. That’s where we would sit. When we were small, we had special bench seats to put on top of the bench so we would be tall enough to sit at the table. There was a counter top where the baked goods were kept all week, until they were replenished the next Saturday. Above that, in the cupboards were the dishes. Cream-colored with a brown rim. Different little bowls just for ice cream. There was an old refrigerator with a pull-up black handle. It had a small freezer at the top.

Grandma stored her pans in a pull-out drawer under the oven. She didn’t like to clean her pans. I suppose they were sanitized in the heat with the next baking event.

Grandma and Grandpa ate simply. Grandma would take fruit juice and water it down until it was more flavored water than juice. They didn’t use ice cubes in their drinks. That would have been frivolous. Breakfasts were oatmeal or a soft boiled egg in the shell and bread, or just a piece of bread and some tea with milk in it. Lunch was the main meal of the day–some kind of meat or sausage or chicken and vegetable usually with potatoes, and then a German supper of bread, Wurst, cheese, and maybe a piece of fruit. I don’t remember eating foods that were already prepared–everything was made from scratch, and much was from the farm. We had our own chickens, and eggs and of course all the fruit you could want. The walnuts and raisins for baking came from the farm. The apricots were from Mr. Murray’s tree down the road. All the rest of the canned fruit was our own. Grandma had a prune tree, a quince tree, a pomegranate, lots of walnut trees, and oranges, grapefruit, lemons, a huge loquat tree in the back yard, and even a banana palm that never bore fruit. I think that reminded her of their trip through the Panama Canal on their honeymoon, where they bought a stock of bananas for 25 cents.

In the winters, Grandma would sit in her chair with a cookie sheet on her lap filled with cracked walnuts to shell, or filled with raisins to stem. She always kept her fingers busy working.

The back porch was our main entrance to Grandma’s house. Cement steps curved up to the door with a screen on it, that had a spring that pulled it closed behind you. Grandma didn’t want flies coming in. The back porch had a cement floor and a big deep sink for washing up after work. Boots and coats were left there. It had windows all around the corner of the house to the front and to the back yard. There were bins that pulled out under the counter where Grandma kept brown bags and rags and things. There was a long narrow closet on one side for brooms and cleaning things and such. And on the left were the stairs that went down into the cellar. It smelled like cats down there.

I think I knew every inch of Grandma’s house. I loved to explore there and see what I could find. I always hoped that some day I would live in that old house.

The back yard was shady with big walnut trees and the loquat tree.

Grandma loved flowers and planed red Cannas around the sides of the yard to separate the yard from the fields behind. There was a chin up bar where Grandpa would sometimes show us how strong he used to be. He was quite fit well into his old age. There were green painted Anacondrack yard chairs that weren’t very comfortable. They had a funny slant to them and usually some bird poop on them.

Off the yard was the wash house, and garage. The old black Crysler Mercury car lived in the garage, along with old horse implements and tools. It had a garage smell of oil and rags and tools and dirt. The windows were dirty and it was dark in there. The garage was small. The car barely fit, and the door had a rope handle to raise and lower it. There was a pad lock on the door for security.

The wash house had the old washing machine in it. When I was small, Grandma still used it. It was like an old white open tub you put the clothes into, and you could watch them swishing around. When they were clean, you would ring them out and put the clothes in tubs, then take them over to the ringer. Grandma wouldn’t let me help with that part because it was dangerous and she didn’t want our fingers getting smashed between the rollers. She would feed the laundry, one piece at a time, into the rollers. I got to catch it as it came out the back, smashed flat as a pancake. Then we’d take them in tin tubs out to the clothes line and shake them out and hang them to dry. The clothes line was at the back of the yard–several heavy wires between the posts.

There was a wood stove in the wash house too. I remember plucking chickens in that room. There was a big tub for boiling water for the laundry on the stove in the front corner. Sometimes we would bring our chickens to Grandmas to butcher there because of that stove. I remember almost getting sick from the smell of scalding bird flesh. The boys would chop the heads off the chickens out in the back yard, and I remember the fun of letting them go and watching them run, headless and spewing blood all over the grass. I remember one headless hen ran clear out of the yard before falling over dead. It was pretty funny to watch, and the fun of it distracted from the gore of it.

When we butchered chickens, we usually did about 50 at a time. The heads were chopped off with a hatchet or a machete over a wood block. Dad did those honors. Once the blood was drained from the flopping birds, by holding them by the feet, they were dipped into the big tub of boiling water. That was Grandma’s job. I was with her in the wash room with the stinky birds. After they were good and dipped, the plucking began. Grandma would tell me stories of how they raised their own geese when she was a girl in Germany, and they would save the breast feathers for their down pillows. She still made all of their pillows when they came to America. Chicken feathers aren’t soft enough to make pillows out of. And I can’t imagine they’d ever smell good enough either.

There was one other building in the yard–the chicken house.


About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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