Going through some of my mother’s things I found these blueprints for her family home in Drake Saskatchewan. Although my grandparents no longer lived there after I was born I still visited the house many times because my Uncle Earl and Aunt Lenora had taken over my grandparents’ farm and home. I have many fond memories of happy times with my cousins in that house and so it was great to find these blueprints. I asked my Aunt Viola the only surviving member of my mother’s immediate family if she remembered the house being built. She was 3 years old in 1925 when they moved into the house and can’t really remember a time before she lived there. My mother was born in this house shortly after her family moved in.
This is how the completed home looked. My aunt thinks my grandfather ordered the house from somewhere and it came with all the lumber pre-cut and ready to build. I did a little research and found out this kind of house was called a mill cut house or a mail-order house. You picked a house design from a catalogue and then tens of thousands of pieces of lumber and every single other building material that you would need to construct it were loaded into boxcars and sent to the customer’s hometown. In Canada, the Eatons Department Store was one of the main sources of these ready to assemble homes but on the prairies, various Grain Growers Associations also provided this service to its members. That makes sense because in the corner of each page of the blueprints its says Saskatchewan Grain Growers Regina. My aunt thinks my grandfather put the house together with the help of a carpenter. One thing that is interesting about this floor plan of the basement is the little square labelled Dumb Waiter on the right-hand side. My mother remembers what a cool feature that was about their house. When I was interviewing her for her life story she said…… We had a dumb waiter in the kitchen. It was behind doors and had several shelves. We could place items on there that needed to go into the basement and them lower them down with a pulley system. This came in especially handy when my mother was canning and we had to transfer all the jars to the basement. We kept potatoes, vegetables and onions in cold storage down there. Our basement also had our cream separator and storage areas for wood and coal and my mother’s washing machine.
Mom said the parlour was where her parents visited with company and it had a desk for her Dad that was always covered with his papers and it is also where they kept the piano and their organ. Mom said the kitchen had a wood stove and her Uncle Alvin who lived with them chopped the wood and kept the stove going. Mom’s uncle had epilepsy and he was nearly blind so after his parents died in the influenza epidemic he came to live with my grandparents.
This is the upstairs floor plan. See those stairs over on the right? Mom said…….
Wooden steps with a bannister led upstairs. I remember my sisters and I used to sit on those steps holding hymnals and Bibles. My brother Earl played the role of the pastor and we pretended to have church on those steps. Beside the stairs was a beautiful stained glass window. Not many houses had them in those days. My Dad always bragged however that our house had the best of everything and I guess that included a stained glass window.
My Mom shared the bedroom right beside the stairs with her sisters. They liked to play with their dolls in the long walk-in closet. One of the bedrooms upstairs was for my mother’s maternal grandmother Maria Jantz who lived with them and the other was shared by my Uncle Earl and Paul their hired man.
Can you see the bathroom over in the right-hand corner? Mom had lots to say about that!
The bathroom was at the top of the stairs. We were one of the very few families to have an indoor washroom. We had a washstand and basin. There was a claw foot bathtub. My mother heated water and filled it up every Saturday so we kids could take a bath. My sisters and I took turns bathing in the water one after the other and then my brother Earl was last. I’m sure the water was pretty cold and dirty by the time he got into it. In wintertime, we brought in snow and put it in a big barrel beside the wood stove in the kitchen to melt and then used the warm water for our baths. We had an indoor toilet as well. It had a pail and my Dad took out the pail and emptied it every morning before the rest of us woke up.
I’m so glad my mother kept these blueprints. They tell a story not only of a house but also of the family that lived in it.