Saturday, July 30, 2011

Former residents return!

I heard voices outside and wondered about the source.  A couple came to the back porch and the husband said that he had lived in the house from 1956 to 1960 and asked if they might tour the house.  I was quite excited to meet Mr & Mrs Paul (Chuck) Todd and welcomed them into the restoration.  Chuck had moved away from the house at age 13, but had great memories of the home.  One great mystery that he solved, was," when did the ceiling fall in the southwest bedroom upstairs".  It has been the boys room for many years and had been such for Chuck and his brother Mike during their years.  Chuck told of the day that he went into the room and lay down on his bed.  After a few minutes, he got back up and left the room.  Moments later the ceiling and plaster medallion fell.  The weight would have been tremendous and injury would have certainly resulted had he stayed on his bed.  Chuck's father had the ceiling rebuilt with sheetrock and lowered to the top of the window trim.  This was the giveaway that the ceiling had fallen and a search through a hole revealed the missing plaster and cornice.  It required a lot of work from professionals, but the ceiling, cornice, and walls have returned to 12' height.    Chuck also told of the fun they had on a wheelchair ramp built onto the west side of the house by Mr and Mrs Long when they had plans for senior housing in the mansion. 
     We walked upstairs and through rooms of his past.  It was funny as he said "oh, that was the girls room", much as a 13 year old might have dismissed his sisters.  The same room hosted the Crist "girls" for a number of years.  At the kitchen, he related how he once squirmed through the passthrough window to unlock a door and let his parents into the house when a key had been forgotten.  "I would never make it today", brought laughter from all of us.  Even an old soda cap removal tool brought back memories to Chuck.  Colors were discussed to the best of a 13 year old's memory and he told of his father having the basement fireplace built along with other work by Mr Ratliff and how much they enjoyed the large room for meetings.  His father worked for State Farm Insurance and had an office at the back of the house just where Judge Christ  presided for so many years.  It was Paul Todd's work that led to the famous home swap between the Crists and Todds as Paul Sr was promoted and the family moved to Texas.  Today this is a more common event and even expected, but in 1960 it was tramatic for the family.  Mrs Todd was working on a needlepoint of the Benjamin House in her last year and it was finished by Chuck's sister.  The Benjamin House has a way of growing on a person.  When I have spoken with Eddie Jo Johns, Chuck, Mike Todd, or the Crists, it is clear that the home has stayed an important part of their life.  Marilyn and I have feelings for the home that have grown from admiration for architecture to a sense of being a part of something important to the area.  It is so great to hear from others who care and have experience with the home.  Just this week Mike Rash related a story to me of how he helped paint on the curly steel lentils above the windows of the house when he was about 19.  Being up a long ladder on a windy day spurred him to climb down and suggest a different job on that day! 

 For the Benjamin House to survive, the home will always need community support and interest.

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