Monday, March 9, 2009

684: The Faulstich houses

When you own a brickyard, it is reasonable to have built a house for your sister, then a rental unit, then a house of your own, all at once and all of brick.  So, as a child, I knew Eva's at the corner, my grandparents' next moving downhill (and with a triple garage for all three behind it), and Henry Faulstich's own.  Eva was perhaps reclusive—I seldom saw her.  Henry was very kind, but my grandparents were not socially intimate with him and his wife, because they drank, and my grandparents were very Presbyterian.  Much later, when I was in university, my grandparents took me out to the brickyard when a 'kiln' was going: such a kiln was the size of a large house and constructed for natural-gas jets to blow into it and keep it red-hot.  Even for a Berkeley undergraduate it was an awesome sight and informed my interest in the development of fired brick in the history of architecture ever after.  Any reader will have deduced that our county not only had natural gas but also adobe: the Franciscan missions of California are built of adobe: sticky clay tempered with straw, needing only lime whitewash or stucco occasionally to endure very moderate rainfall.  Henry's bricks and my grandparents' house were built of fired adobe brick.  He also sold imported large Mexican decorative tiles, better than recent ones.
My grandparents rented the little house, 684 (the Yugo in front of it dates it to my 1990 visit), from 1926, when it must have been new, till their deaths, my grandfather's only in 1973.  It had only four rooms, but a large closet (with a transom window into the kitchen), which my grandfather for years used as a photographic darkroom as well as for storage, housed a Murphy bed, which swung, on a swivel, through a door into the dining room and then lowered; the dining table with its six chairs had to be moved to the end of the dining room (the downhill side of the house) to accommodate the double bed, on which I slept (with my first sister when we were there at once) so long as my grandparents lived for me to visit them.  A smaller closet, as full as Fibber McGee's of the radio comedy show, opened opposite the large one off the little hall that led to the bedroom and to the bathroom.  With the clothes closet opening onto the bedroom, it made the latter a shallower room than the living room in front, just as the large closet narrowed the front of the kitchen, with California cooler, sink and draining boards overlooking the driveway and a refrigerator (I barely remember the first one with a motor on top) under the transom aforementioned.
The lot sloped downward not only to the west but also behind, so there were some steep back steps from the screened porch that had the stationary tub and washing machine, down to a brick-paved walk that continued along the side of the house and behind the fireplace; accumulation of ashes would be scooped out of a chamber accessible there.
At a slightly lower level  between the house and the garage wall a small area was planted with lippia, the only thing that would grow under a huge pepper tree.  I have always wanted a pepper tree of my own.  Lippia, however, though requiring no mowing, attracts honey bees that sting.  Another tree, but I'm not sure if it was another pepper, shaded the west end of the yard.  An open lot, not really big enough for a house, separated my grandparents' house from Eva Faulstich's, and this was often planted with dahlias, chrysanthemums, asters, sometimes also vegetables.  In the narrow plot between the brick walk and the house wall were flowers like lantana.  In front, on either side of the stucco-clad pillars that formed a sheltered porch at the door, were trellises on which American Beauty climbing roses were trained.  To my astonishment, the trellises or ones just like them (but not the roses) had survived rentals since 1973, probably to a low-income family to judge from objects tossed into the front porch, such as discarded mattresses, to wit the 1990 snapshot at the top of this post.  Everything was 'privacy' fenced, though, even the head of the driveway.  In my childhood I could walk from the garages at the bottom of the driveway across under the pepper tree, along behind Eva Faulstich's house, up another driveway to Broad Street and into Hanrahan's store (later with another name, now no longer there), where small purchases were made, not least penny candy.  Licorice whips, or red ones, supposedly raspberry, were in fact a penny apiece and 15" (at least 12") long.  My grandmother said that the opaque licorice sticks were made from floor sweepings, which I did not believe.
This modest little house obviously had been neglected, but no one had tried to remodel it.  The interior, though, cannot have been the same.
[A California cooler, by the way, was open to the air with slats and screen to the exterior.  It was the best place to store cheese, olive oil, butter, not to mention bananas.]