On September 11 — after nearly 60 years in Westport –Barbara Stalling moved away. Her kids are scattered around the country. For the 1st time in almost 6 decades, no Stallings live here.
Her son David — who’s in Berkeley, California — posted a remembrance on his blog, Out Into the Wilds. Here’s part of what he wrote:
29 Hickory Drive
Westport, CT 06880
Those 29 letters and numbers evoke strong, happy memories of home.
My parents bought the place in 1956 when the average cost of a new home was $11,700, the average annual income was $4,450, and the cost of gas was 22 cents per gallon. My dad was 32, my mom was 23.
It’s a single story ranch-style house with a living room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and a separate 2-car garage (although I can’t ever remember a car being in there) near the end of a dead-end road. The backyard, where a small brook still runs, was swampy — but my parents filled it in with rock and dirt. It became the neighborhood playground.
My sister Sue and brothers Ed and Bob obviously moved in before me. I arrived in 1960. Tim came along 6 years later. And there we all lived, 7 of us, along with the dogs (Ginger, Brandy, Dallas and Oakley). We laughed, cried, fought, loved, learned, grew. My siblings and I eventually moved out. My parents remained. My father died in the house in 2003, at 79.
Yesterday my mom moved out of the place, also at 79. She moved into a wonderful retirement home in Trumbull.
I don’t yet know what will become of the place. I imagine someone will buy it, tear it down, and put up something new. But oh, if that house could talk!
Some random memories come to mind:
Sharing a small bedroom with 3 brothers (Sue had her own room, and we called her the “queen”). Always having to wait to use the bathroom. Always feeling rushed in the bathroom because someone else was waiting.
The rotary phone on the wall that still remains. The “cobblers bench” coffee table that still remains with scratches and crayon marks from several generations of Stalling kids (the same bench my friend Bryan Keith cracked when he jumped on top of it during a toga party. I think my mom is still upset about that.)
Waking up on occasion to find large striped bass in the bathtub, caught by my dad the night before, and placed in the tub to be kept wet so as not to lose weight for contest weigh-ins held by the Westport Striped Bass Club. My mom hung laundry out to dry in the backyard.
My dad ran a TV and radio repair shop out of the garage, and it was full of televisions, electronic equipment and giant tubes. The garage always had a unique odor from the frequent soldering of wires.
My brother Ed played drums in the garage and hated being disturbed. I had many drum sticks thrown at me for taunting him.
We also had a CB Radio in the garage. My handle was Goo-Goo Eyes (my favorite striper fishing plug). While I was being a wise-ass to some truckers one night I didn’t realize everything I said was being broadcast over our television. My father heard everything. My CB days came to an end.
We built a deluxe tree house in a big white ash which I fell out of once, making one of my frequent visits to the hospital. I had many adventures in the woodlot behind the house, across the brook, where we sometimes held secret meetings of the “Mustard Club” which required putting mustard on our noses.
Danny Deluca was the neighborhood bully until my sister beat him up. We played kickball on the street, and organized huge games of hide-and-go-seek in the evenings. In the winters we sledded on the neighborhood hills, played hockey on local ponds, and dug snow forts in the big piles left by plows.
When the roads were covered in snow and ice we’d hide out near stop signs and (unbeknownst to the drivers) grab on to the bumpers of cars to “skitch” our way around. In the summer we built go-carts and bombed down the hills. I organized a few fairs in our yard, to raise money for multiple sclerosis, and built a store on wheels to sell lemonade, soda and candy.
The kitchen always smelled good from mom’s ham, macaroni salad and apple pie. The outside water hose hung on the house near the kitchen window, where my dad once got hit by lightning. We would climb onto the roof, run fast, and make the six-foot or so jump from house roof to garage roof. I once caught the bedroom on fire while waxing my cross-country skis.
My brother Bob and I often fought and got booted out of the house. Once, thinking we were banned from home, we “survived” by stealing hot dogs off the neighbor’s grill. Mopsy Akey would sit on the stone wall between our house and the Ragus, where she knew I could see her from the bedroom window, and tease me by showing me her underwear.
From the house I could walk to Burr Farms Elementary School, then Long Lots Junior High, and then Staples High School. I could also walk or ride my bike to Burying Hill Beach, Sherwood Island, Compo, and the Saugatuck Reservoir (where I once got caught poaching trout).
And the trees! The huge white ash trees, sugar maples, red oaks, white pines and hemlocks. And of course the hickories. It’s where I first fell in love with trees, and learned all I could about them. I dug up small trees on camping trips to northern Connecticut, and planted them in the yard when I got home. Some are still there, and have grown fairly large – rooted, like an anchor, to the land I grew up on.
It’s my home – a home that has been saturated with nearly 60 years of life and love.
It has always been home to me, and always will be. Thomas Wolfe wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again,” but that’s not entirely true: All I have to do is close my eyes and remember.
(To read David’s entire blog post, click here.)