I'm just wondering whatever happened to the porch? You know, the one that extended the length of the house whether it be the back or the front porch! The one where so many family activities took place, the one where relatives and friends visited for hours on end. These new homes don't have porches anymore! Oh, I know, some of these fancy decks double as a porch as well as a nice place to sun and a great place to cook on that new Weber grill but you and I know it's really not the same!
In my case, it was the back porch. Growing up, our house had a back porch that extended the entire width of the house, it had a four foot base around it and the rest was screened in. When I was a child, the back porch seemed like it was quite high above the ground. I would guess that at the rear of the house, the floor was about four feet from the ground level. To a kid, standing on the porch looking out into the street as we lived on a corner lot, it seemed like the view was rather lofty!
The porch ran east to west and in the southwest corner was the family trash can. I can't remember a day when that trash can wasn't there. It was one of those cardboard cans, the same color as a cardboard box. I think the capacity was about forty gallons, it was round with metal rings encircling each end. I don't recall having any small trash cans in any room of the house, so if you needed to throw something away, you carried it to the back porch. Weekly, someone's job was to carry this cardboard can to the metal fifty gallon drum in the alley and empty it, then torch the contents and let it burn! Yeah..........that was a few years back!
Sitting regally in the middle of the back porch was a dining table. I think this old table was the good dining room table before the better dining room table was purchased. In the summer time, the family would dine on the back porch at this table. The kitchen opened into the back porch, making it handy, so it was pretty neat, people would drive by and see the family eating on the back porch. Sometimes there would be a nice breeze or a good rain and the back porch eatery was really special! However, probably the best thing about this back porch table was the fact that it doubled as a ping pong table at night. The table was maybe half the size of a regulation ping pong table but we made do. We'd clamp a net across it and my friends and I would play ping pong until late at night in the summertime. We were fortunate that the back
porch light didn't attract bugs since it was screened in. Usually there were three of us and the one sitting out each time would take the winner. Some hard fought ping pong battles took place on that old back porch. And if need be, we always had a trash can handy!
For a few summers, we even had an army cot on the back porch. I can't remember where it came from or why we set it up on our back porch but it seemed to fit right in. I think my Dad, who was always hot natured, slept out there on particularly hot nights and I remember my brother napping on it in the day time. I tried to lay on it a few times but my older brother always ran me off of it!
At the far east end of the back porch was our "catch all" table. This is that table that had a little bit of everything on it. My mother's washing detergent and bleach, those metal frames that fit inside the legs of jeans so that they would dry with a crease, a coffee can full of mostly rusty nails, a hammer and a screwdriver, a can of ant spray, a couple of laundry baskets, an old tape measure and a half used roll of black electrical tape, an old pair of yard gloves, a couple cans of paint left from the interior painting the summer before and a big can of turpentine. The underneath was loaded with some baseball equipment and an old box of toys that would be worth a fortune today! Under the southeast corner of the table was the most important item on the entire back porch, my dog's bed/box! We had an outside dog, named Elmer Fudd,
however, he got to come in and sleep on the backporch in the winter time. We always had a cardboard box for him, full of old rags for him to snuggle into when it was cold. If it got just super cold, we'd drag the box into the house. He really seemed to love his box! I guess this old table was perhaps the most versatile piece of furniture in the house, although it was sort of homemade with a piece of linoleum cut just right and nailed to the table top. It held many household repair items, detergent to clean our clothes and protected our family dog. I miss that old table!
At one time or another, I guess that old back porch held many more possessions than I have named above and it saw a lot more fun and laughter than I've been able to describe but I just can't imagine growing up without that old back porch......it served us well and it served us proud!
Frederick M. Lessly
November 27, 2009
(The author is the retired director of the local public transportation service, he annoys his friends by writing short stories and editorials.)
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