I’m heading back to Albany, New York to spend the Fourth of July with my father and my sisters. It should be an interesting trip.
My younger sister, who owns the house on South Allen Street in which we grew up, has rented out the house for a number of years now. She and her husband have taken care of the place: shoveling the walk in the winter, mowing the lawn and trimming the shrubs in the summer, raking the leaves in the autumn. My sister has decided that it’s time to sell the house, and I agreed with her, although not without some reservations.
I certainly have a lot of memories about that house. I’ve now lived in my present place in San Francisco longer than I lived in the house in Albany, but I think I could write volumes about my memories of our family home in Albany.
When I was born, my family lived on Park Avenue in Albany, a two-family structure owned by my paternal uncle, John Danko. Uncle John’s great grandson now owns that building.
My family bought the house on South Allen Street in 1961. It, too, was a two-family building. In 1961, my parents actually only bought the lower flat, and a few years later my cousin Al bought the upstairs flat. Al didn’t live there; he bought it as an investment and rented it out.
Later, and I don’t remember exactly when, my parents bought the upstairs flat from Al and rented it out themselves. I remember several different families who lived upstairs from us, three of which included children who were the same ages as my sisters and I. Regardless of who owned the upper flat, my father always maintained the yard and shoveled the walk in the winter.
The house included a full basement and a full attic. My sisters and I used to play in the basement. It was cool in the summer (we didn’t have air conditioning) and warm in the winter (the oil furnace was located in the basement).
My father built two model railroad setups in the basement, an O gauge system complete with a tunnel and landscaping, and an HO gauge system. I can still smell odor of the transformers. When we weren’t playing with the trains, we lowered a cover made of plastic sheeting that my father had rigged to the basement ceiling with pulleys.
On two occasions, my sisters and I put on shows in the basement for the neighborhood kids. In one show, we lip-synched to my cousin Al’s 45s from the 1950s. The hit of the show was “Purple People Eater”.
We also spent time playing in the attic, although the attic was mainly used for storage. In the summer, the attic was stiflingly hot and, in the winter, it was bitterly cold. During my senior year in high school, I set up a room in the attic where I could study without being disturbed.
After my sister moved out of the house, she left quite a lot of the family memorabilia in the basement and attic. Now that she is planning to sell the house, we’ll have to clear everything out. I think we’ll have to rent storage space somewhere; there’s just so much stuff. I know that two sets of my maternal grandmother’s china are stored there, all of our grade school and high school report cards and projects are there, and lots of books, toys, games, furniture, magazines, and LPs, are there, too. I don’t know what else I might find. I could find some real treasures.
While in Albany, I be spending a lot of my time helping to clear out the attic and basement. Going through all those boxes is sure to be a bittersweet experience.
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko