On Growing Up


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On Growing Up

Recently I was going through old files and personal stuff and I came across an old photo album.  In it were childhood photos I took with my brownie and of course they triggered a lot of memories.  There were a lot of shots taken in Carmel, California.

My family moved from rural Arizona to Carmel in 1954.  What a marvelous change that was.  Where before we had desert now we had the Pacific Ocean and arguably some of the most dramatic coast line in the country.  Where before we had scrub brush and cactus now we had pine trees and moss.   I loved it.

Lee De Forest

Lee De Forest

I particularly liked our house.  It had been owned by Lee De Forest, an inventor who developed the vacuüm tube which opened the way for most electronics, in particular radio,  television  and talking films.  I doubt the house was ever a primary residence for De Forest.  I think it was his “place in Carmel”.  But for us it was our home.

Dad paid about $17,000 for it, a lot of money in 1954.

Susan and the Carmel House

Susan and the Carmel House

Here you can see part of it.  That is my sister, Susan, in the foreground.  The house was “U-shaped, shingled with three bedrooms and two baths.  And it had a secret room!  There was a broom closet that on the right side had a nitch containing the water heater.  As you felt along the corner of the nitch you would come to a little slit in the wall large enough to insert your fingers.  There was a latch and, when you lifted it, the entire back wall would swing open on a hinge revealing a room about six feet long and four feet wide.  Wow!  Great Stuff.  I don’t know why he had the room.  Probably to hide booze during prohibition.

Unfortunately my parents were not romantics.  They made it into a pantry.

The property consisted of four lots and the house was built in the middle on part of each lot.  It was half an acre and covered with pine trees.

Carmel yard

Carmel yard

Here you can see my younger brother, Walter and my sister standing among the trees.  As you can see my brother was in his cowboy outfit.

King of the Wild Frontier

King of the Wild Frontier

This was the age of Davy Crocket and the coon skin hat.  We all had to have that.

Somehow I got access to some wood and my friend across the street and I decided to build a tree house.  We called it Fort Bars Tail.

Fort Bars Tail

Fort Bars Tail

Here you see it.  Now you gotta know this was a great tree house.  Hanging on the tree is the rope ladder (which we could pull up if someone undesirable attempted to join us).  To the left was the porch.  What you can’t see is the trap door on the inside which allowed us to go down below without going outside.  We ran out of lumber on the lower level, so one side was fabric.  We spent many hours playing in our tree house.

Later, I got access to some more wood and I dug out a hole and used the wood for a roof which we sodded over.  So now in addition to the two-story Fort Bars Tail we had an underground fort.  Its only draw backs were the black widow spiders that liked it too and the sap that got all over us from the roots I severed in the digging.

My plan was to dig a tunnel from the underground fort over to the tree house connecting the two.  However life moves on.  Before that happened my dad took a job in Guam.  Carmel receded into personal history and this became our house.

House in Guam

House in Guam

I liked Carmel better.

So fast forward ten years.  My parents had rented the house while they were overseas.  A fire started and the house was destroyed.  They came back to see if anything could be salvaged and to arrange for the demolition.  I drove up to see if I could be of any help.  After a while there really wasn’t anything more to do.  I found a shovel and was poking around with it.

My dad looked at me and asked.  “What in the hell are you doing?”
“Well I was trying to find that old underground fort I dug.”
“Well you are digging into the cesspool.”

Dad sold off the lots over time, putting kids through college and other things.  I wonder what a half an acre of property in Carmel would be worth today.

More to come
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About Thomas L. Tribby

Professional artist: painter, sculptor, print maker. Maintains a studio in West Palm Beach, Florida
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