An online diary about the restoration of my 1921 Colonial Revival style house in Chester, South Carolina.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thankful for What You Have to be Thankful For

We were supposed to go to Middendorf SC today to celebrate the holiday with Carole's maternal side of the family. The first time I met Carole, she told me that her people sprung from the dirt at Middendorf. Turn off SC 1 at the remnants of an old store to reach the farmland that the Catoe's have occupied and worked since well before the Civil War. Most of the living Catoes of Jean's, Carole's mom, generation were born within 200 yards of the little brick church at the front of the acreage. The cemetery between the railroad tracks and the church is populated by Catoe's from several past generations. There was a time when Carole's father said he wouldn't be put to rest in that cemetary with all them Catoes, but I think he's mellowed and relented that position the last few years.

A gray, windy November day like today set the stage for my first trip to Middendorf. Carole and I had been dating just over a year. She was anxious in all senses of the word to show me off to the extended family. We spent most of the time, except eating, outside, in the side yard of Aunt Delores' and Uncle Stanley's (past on) house, directly adjacent to the cemetery. Many of the old men related by marriage, not blood, to the Catoes, loitered out there with us, away from the heat and activity inside the house. Including Duecey, Carole's dad. My father died on a cold, cloudy November day like that first trip to Middendorf. I guess that why my memory of that visit is dominated by the thoughts of Duecey silently crying as he and Jean walked thru the graves in the cemetery.

DeShawn is sick. That's why we didn't go today. For the second time in as many weeks, I had to pick him from school early and take him to the doctor. As of right now, we don't even have 24 hours of antibiotic in him, so he's still feeling clammy feverish. Carole's making Thanksgiving for us here. We're still functionally stove-less, she's using the grill I refurb'ed for our Hillarity get-together. Stuffed chicken breast, raw broccoli and carrots, rice and dressing will be followed up with "worms and dirt", gummy worms in crushed oreos. We're to use the white-washed table I rescued and some antique high back chairs Carole bought for dining room furnishings in, what DeShawn calls, the "green room".


Our little Thanksgiving, 2003

Speaking of, the soiree we held in conjuction with Chester's Hillarity Festival was quite satisfactory. With minimal preparation, Carole, DeShawn, and I entertained a dozen or so invitees. Mostly from our pool of friends and family in Columbia, and my son, Ben, from Charlotte, everybody got a chance or two to visit the festival going on a couple of blocks from the house. The weather was prefect autumn with clear sunny skies, about 68 degrees mid afternoon. We setup a table by putting together a 100 year old door from Carole's house and a couple of metal saw horses next to the refurb'd grill. I spent every bit of the daylight outside except for the nickel tours of 118 Henry Street. Since most of our contact with friends and family occurs in Charlotte and Columbia, DeShawn was particularly impressed that folks were coming to visit us in Chester.


Ben and Liz, my twins, visiting during the Hillarity Festival

This past weekend, contact with friends and family was in Columbia. Last week was DeShawn's 4th birthday, so we went to Chuckee Cheese with him on Saturday. Of course, he had a big time, though, my suspicion is that his current illness may have originated there. The little party in Columbia closed a week of small celebrations for him. Prior Saturday, his mommy gave him some presents. Tuesday, his class at school celebrated. Tuesday evening, we had supper with his Uncle Ben, who gave him several presents. Wednesday, his actual birthday, he and I went to the movies.

While in Columbia, I spent some time with Duecey and Jean. Because of helping Carole with her plays, I'd been neglectful in regard to visiting them. We had some high quality time just sitting in their living room, talking. Duecey gave me some old window sashes he'd collected. These windows have become the latest side project at 118 Henry street. I'm going to do some basic repairs and replace the panes with mirror glass. With the sashes turned upside down, the sash lifts will act like coat hooks. Hopefully, the rebirthed windows will find appropriate homes in an entry hall or mudroom somewhere.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Winter's Coming

This will be my 3rd winter at 118 Henry Street. And, just like the 2 past, there's a huge swing on the Progress-o-Meter towards "E" as the days grow shorter and colder. On the daily commute, DeShawn and I have been watching the sun set a little sooner every day. By the time we get home to Chester, usually between 5:30 and 6, it's already dark now. Today, we left Columbia at 5:15 and by 6:30, it was full on nighttime.

The sudden plunge in temperature and the arid dryness caused some new cracks to appear around the back window in the upstairs west bedroom. Saturday morning, I screwed the sides of one crack back into the lathe with drywall screws and applied the first layer of patching plaster. Even with the overhead light supplementing the sunlight from the windows, the lighting was too flat to really see imperfections in the plaster. Easier to rub the wall, and feel the ripples, ridges, and bubbles. Overall, a slow and tedious operation. Leaving for Columbia at noon was easy adversity-avoidance behavior.

Carole's drama students are putting on a play next week. The play is set in Japan after the Hiroshima bombing in 1945, the story of a boy who becomes sick and dies. A couple of weekends ago, I built a set of folding screens as part of her stage props. This weekend, she requested a large semi-circular fan shaped backdrop. The prop is supposed to be similar to the hand fans that the Japanese use to cool their faces in summer. When Carole told me she wanted a fan 8' tall, I had no idea how to build it.

This morning we went to her school right after breakfast. After spending 10 or 15 minutes discussing how she needed it to look and another 10 minutes or so cataloging all the lumber that she accumulated from past plays, a design began to form from the fog in my head. Imagine if you will, the skeleton of a Japanese fan, semi-circular in shape, 8' tall at the center and 16' wide at the base. Long story short, I ripsawed some 8' by 3/4" plywood into 3/4"x3/4"x8' strips for the spines that hold the paper of the fan. Another piece of plywood was jigsawed into a semicircle 40" tall and 80" wide at the base. I screwed the spines in a radial pattern to the semicircle to get the fan skeleton.


The biggest Japanese fan in Cayce, SC (and screens)

Working on these kind of projects for Carole gives me opportunities to try out different construction or woodworking techniques. This time was no exception. Using a radial mitre saw and some basic concepts of trigonometry, I cut a brace for the back of the fan connecting the stand at the bottom to the top of the jigsawed semicircle. Both ends of the brace had to be mitre cut at odd angles to match the angle of the brace. The other neat technique I used was laying out the spines along the semicircle using chord measurements. The vertical spine was attached first, then the two horizontal ones; all 3 meeting at the center point used to cut the semicircle. By taking chord measurements between the spines and dividing by 2, the 45 degree spines could be attached. After the 45's were screwed onto the plywood sem-circle, the resultant chords can then be measured and divided to place the 22.5 degree spines. Using these "chord measurement divided by 2" technique, I was able to place all 15 spines, with accurate angle spacing around the half circle.

This evening, more work was done on our "virtual" home than our actual one. The new 118 Henry Street website is beginning to shape up. The domain name was finalized this weekend and I began posting some test content to measure viewing speed and check out the appearance. So far, things are looking good. Shortly, the gentle readers of this humble blog will be able to see actual images of the people, places, and things mentioned. Shifting from the actual to the virtual, I have enough light to work on something besides my girth this winter.