Above, Our First House, Moosup, CT. Above, The Outback
Every house Pat and I have owned in our more than 58 years of marriage has had some kind of a backyard.
The very first house owned was an old (1842) white wooden house in Moosup, Connecticut at 36 High Street (shown above). My mother owned this house, which had been rented to various people over the years including my cousins, the Mandells, my best friend, Malcolm Brown and his family, and various overseers at Brunswick Mill.
Pat and I returned from France to Moosup and lived at first in a small apartment across the street from this white house. We would eat supper in a porch that overlooked that house and wondered if we could buy it from my mother. One day, she decided to give it to us; wow! We moved into our first owned home and immediately started fixing it up. We built a garage for the one car we owned and had Larry (at the mill) build a lovely sunroom. During our first summer there, we tackled completely clearing out the brush, trees, etc. in the huge backyard and planted grass. For a few years I cut the grass we’d grown in our back yard and enjoyed seeing what we’d cleared.
Our next move was to a more modern brick house the mill people had built for a new superintendent who my father had hired and who needed a house. This brick house was actually right next-door to the white one. We rented the white one and built a fancy brick wall in the backyard of the brick house. We’d sold the white one and wanted privacy from the large family of children the Mueller’s had.
We moved from Moosup, Connecticut to Pickens, South Carolina in 1967, building a brand new house designed by a Harvard-trained architect named Kirk Craig. This house was a beauty. It was built on one level with a basement on a three-acre plot of land overlooking the Pickens Country Club. Our backyard was mostly woods and our children loved playing there. Steve and his friend, David White, built a tree house in the woods where Steve rode his Honda Scooter, carving out paths to ride on. Years later, Ian and Dora Tait bought the house that had been built down below our woods—where Steve had scooted.
When I was a sophomore in college (1954), I worked one entire summer in West Covina, California (outside of LA), driving a 2-½ ton truck for a sub-contractor to the Anthony Pools Company—‘The largest swimming pool builder in America.’ We built a pool for Elizabeth Taylor, married to Michael Wilding at the time. The construction crew and I hoped to see Liz walk out for a swim in her bathing suit but since every day we moved on to a new pool, I never saw one of our finished pools—or Liz.
Larry Krauss, my boss, had a swimming pool in his backyard. Since I was sleeping in the Krauss front lawn, at night I would child-sit for the four Krauss children, ages 12 and under. They tried teaching me how to swim and I dreamed of someday being able to afford a private pool. I actually learned my swimming skills when we built the Pickens’ pool.
In the early 1980s we built a fine-looking swimming pool in our backyard and turned the barn (which Pat had built to house her horse—another story) into a pool-house and dressing room. Pat designed an attractive garden around the pool brick wall that she also designed. Henry Bates and his son, Bill, from Pickens, designed and built our pool—placing it in just the right spot to take advantage of the sun. The Haskell pool was one of the most picturesque home pools I’d ever seen. I’d always loved water, usually while sailing on it, and I started swimming laps in that pool. I remember actually swimming almost one mile and developed a habit I continue today at age 82.
Our four children grew up in this Pickens house and they all have fond memories of their days there. On one side of us was the Griggs family with three attractive daughters: On the other side were the Welborns with four more attractive daughters. Unfortunately, one sad night, Amy Welborn was killed in a car crash driving back from Greenville. Amy and our Margo were close friends. Tina and Nancy Welborn were also close friends and still stay in touch with each other.
We moved to Hilton Head Island—off the coast of South Carolina—in 1988 where we lived in the family house Mother and Dad bought in 1970. Our backyard was the Atlantic Ocean! We loved that house but, unfortunately couldn’t afford the taxes and sold it in the 1990s—moving to an attractive development called ‘Windmill Harbour.’ Again, we had water in our backyard that overlooked the Inland Waterway.
Approximately nine years ago, in the spring of 2007, Pat and I met with Dave Merline, our estate-planning attorney, and we decided that our Windmill Harbour house was too large for just the two of us—and put it on the real estate market. Unfortunately, this was just at the start of the real estate recession and we finally sold the house for far less than we expected.
We bought our current house at 4 Mossy Oaks Lane in early 20018—across the street from or daughter, Margo and her husband, Butch. We spent the next seven years fixing this house up and finally, in the last few weeks, Pat and I tackled the backyard—a small area behind the garage-apartment we built for Dora Tait to live in. Since there are restrictions against building a fence in this area, we enclosed the area we’re calling THE OUTBACK
with steel trellis and bushes. It is small but a nice pleasant area and, once again, we’ve developed a backyard we are proud of.