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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    « Wordless Wednesday: Family Home Tour Edition ca. 1946, 2010 | Main | Surname Saturday - Who are the Schiffbauer boys and why are you making mischief in my photos? »

    Family Home Tour Update, in Which Together We Enjoy a “Happy Crappy Day”

    Memory is a strange thing. Recently, my sister and I joined my mother and her sister on a “Family Home Tour” of their old homes in Orange County. For many families, this would involve two or three stops for photos and then adjournment for lunch. Our day was quite different.

    Grandfather Brown was a house painter and wallpaper hanger by trade, and found a steady market in exchanging work for housing. For the family of four, this meant frequent moves to a new home, sometimes around the corner or down the block, at other times a bit further away.

    Mom made a list of the homes she remembered, numbering them in order from their early years in California until the house that she “was married from.” She was able to name 13 houses.

    Her sister, two years older, made a similar list. Auntie named 15 houses.

    We knew it would be an interesting day when we started off. It was typical Los Angeles June Gloom, cloudy in the morning with a promise for afternoon sunny skies. As we navigated the freeways from Pasadena to Orange County, Mom casually remarked,

    “Well, it sure is a ‘Happy Crappy Day.’ That’s what your Aunt Lucy used to call a day like this, ‘A Happy Crappy Day’ not good for anything except playing cards and drinking.”

    I nearly crashed the car. Oh, this was going to be a very interesting day.

    The Aunt we would be meeting was the third-grade school teacher Aunt, not to be confused with Aunt Lucy of the “Happy Crappy Day.” Auntie would never be caught playing cards and drinking in the middle of the day; in fact, she might play cards, but iced tea is her drink of choice. She never forgets a birthday or special occasion and she makes me want to be a better Aunt to my nieces and nephews. She is, in one word, “Wonderful.”

    We met Auntie and my sister in Santa Ana and spent some minutes working out our route. After determining that we would not be going to their earliest homes in Anaheim, it seemed prudent just to get in the car and hope someone could navigate us to the first address.

    After a few rough starts involving wrong turns and misremembered landmarks, my sister quietly deployed her iPhone GPS. The site of the first house is now an apartment building, although modest houses across the street are witness to an earlier neighborhood character.

    The fun really started on North Broadway, now a busy commercial avenue. Both Mom and Auntie remembered the house numbers where they lived, and we even had a photograph of one place with the address written in pencil on the back. The problem was that the photo just didn’t look much like the present day structure. We couldn’t figure out how the porch was remodeled to look like it does today.


    1424 North Broadway, Santa Ana, CA, ca 1941

    1424 North Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 2010

    Across the street, however, between the motion of buses and cars we caught a glimpse of the house both sisters remembered fondly. I would remember it too! The grand Victorian is a bit tired, but still the best looking old building on the block.


    1315 North Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 2010

    From Broadway, we proceeded to Ross, Halesworth, Willard Junior High (now a modern bunker-style school), Santa Ana Bible Church, 17th Street, and then on to the City of Orange where they lived for nearly six years.

    As we attempted to pinpoint each address, it became clear that memory is a very funny thing. Mom remembered the houses by events and people – the Anaheim flood, a visit from step-sister Lucy, boys picking her up for a date.

    Auntie, on the other hand, recalled each address by what school she attended and what grade she was in at the time. Often, she even knew the name of her teacher.

    When the two sisters didn’t agree on an address, or location, the stories became richer and more colorful as one attempted to “out-remember” the other. I circled some blocks so many times, I am sure the man sitting on his porch reading the paper thought we were checking out the neighborhood for a burglary. My sister was a good sport and jumped out of the car to snap photos when a consensus was finally made.

    After twelve stops and nearly as many photos, we were all brain-tired and thought we had done a good day’s work. We managed to find most of the places on both lists, and to come up with some questions for Part 2.

    Last stop on the Family Home Tour, lunch at PJ's Abbey in Orange,
    California, former First Baptist Church of Orange where
    Mom and Auntie attended popular musical programs.

    Next, I attempt to reconcile the home lists made my Mom and Auntie with old letters from the Family Archive.

    All Photos from the Kinsel Family Papers, privately held by Denise Levenick.

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    Reader Comments (12)

    LOVED this post! My mom and sister did a similar tour 17 years ago in Grand Rapids, Michigan!

    June 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiriam Robbins Midkiff

    That is so neat!! You are so lucky to be able to take the trip down memory lane with your mom!! Very cool!

    June 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

    Sounds like y'all had a great day!.

    June 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerri Buster

    We sure did have a great time together. I think "new" family history is as much fun as the old stuff. Thanks for leaving a note.

    June 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFamily Curator

    What great memories! I bet this meant a lot to your mother and aunt; especially being able to do this with you and your sister.

    June 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoan Miller (Luxegen)

    That was a lot of moves! Wonderful that you could do the tour as a group. I've lived in many places and still find it sad to revisit most of them but I'm not really sure why.

    June 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterApple

    We recently did a tour like this in Boston. I found the addresses of several ancestors' homes in the census records and directories 1880s - 1930s. We drove in circles, consulted the GPS, brought maps, and almost got a parking ticket, but we found most of them and got photographs. One had recently been razed, and one was gone and now a synagogue stood in its place. Since we have New Hampshire license plates, the cops, mailmen, dog walkers and even the meter maid all tried to be helpful. We probably looked like the hicks from the sticks!

    June 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Wilkinson Rojo

    How fun! My mom moved quite a few times growing up too. We've only returned to a couple of the houses. Several were demolished when the freeway came through. It would be fun to go try again, while we still can.

    June 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Goodrum

    I so want to do this! Hopefully when I go down east in October, Mom and I can put together a few mini tours, from both sides of the family. Addresses mean more than we realize! How my father would cite "816 Stevens Ave." as their first home, where they brought me (their first child) home from the hospital, and where my mother would walk to the corner store, with me in the baby carriage, showing off her new baby. My dad had many addresses as a kid, since my grandfather had a hard time holding a job, and they'd have to move often. Such stories! Thanks for the inspiration!

    August 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPam Schaffner

    I loved this story (although I'm reading it late). What a great "team effort" and lots of fun. Also good insights into how we remember -and how competition can kick off my details. Thanks for this interesting and amusing story

    January 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPauleen

    Loved this! What a surprise to see the Victorian at 1315 N. Broadway, where I lived in the late 70's/early 80's. I actually lived in the back studio upstairs for 3 months until the 1 bedroom downstairs became available. I snapped it up! It had an awesome Victorian fireplace and is by far my favorite apartment of all time. I love revisiting the homes and apartments I have lived in....many of them vintage.

    April 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

    And what a surprise that you found it here! More chapters to the story. Thank you for stopping by, Cindy.

    April 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterFamily Curator

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