This is my sixth post, for age 6, of the October Memoir and Backstory Challenge hosted by Jane Anne McLachlan. My previous posts: Baby Speed Eater, Two Tales, Curls, Most Magical Christmas, and Kindergarten.
In November 1968, when I was 6 and a half, we moved to the small town of Louisiana, Missouri into my fifth house. Today seems like a good day to step back a bit and write about my dad’s career and the places we lived.
My dad was a computer guy from so far back in time that he got his college degree in mathematics at Purdue because they didn’t have a computer science program yet. His entire career was spent at Hercules, a chemical company that got started in munitions. In old westerns and other movies, sometimes, you’ll see the Hercules logo on crates of explosives. One of the plants he worked for in New Jersey made nitro-glycerin. The plant in Utah made rocket fuel. In Missouri, the production was fertilizers and other agricultural products including food additives. In his early career, my dad specialized in setting up the initial computers at the various plants and using them for technical applications and, later, business ones like accounting and payroll.
After working in five different places in less than ten years, my parents were always prepared to transfer again. But, as it turned out, we stayed in Louisiana, Missouri for good. My dad retired from that plant after 38 years with Hercules, the last 29 of them in Louisiana. This notion that we might move at any moment made roots difficult to develop, so it wasn’t until I was gone that I really thought of Louisiana as my home town.
I’m piecing together evidence from photographs and notes my mother made to come up with a history of all the places that my parents lived after they were married.
The first two houses were in Kenvil and Kendall Park, both in New Jersey. I have always had difficulty keeping the names straight.
Kenvil, New Jersey. July 1960 to January 1964. I was born in May 1962 and Dale was born in August 1963. I don’t have a great picture of this house, but I love that porch. Apparently so did my parents because the only exterior photos I have feature that porch.
Kendall Park, New Jersey. January 1964 to November 1965.
Cumberland, Maryland. November 1965 to July 1966.
Granger, Utah (a suburb of Salt Lake City). July 1966 to November 1968. I believe this is the only house my parents ever owned. Every other house was rented because we were never sure when we might be transferred. This is the first house where I have clear memories. It was a split level house with the bedrooms and family room in the basement. There were windows down there but they were high, near the ceiling.
35 Ordonia, Louisiana, Missouri. Hercules owned a neighborhood called Ordonia across from the plant about five miles outside of Louisiana, Missouri. One section, Little Ordonia, had more houses, but they were smaller and one-story houses. We lived in number 35 from November 1968 until the summer of 1970. I don’t seem to have a picture of that house.
There was an ice storm that first winter. This is a photo of sliding down the hill on the cardboard from refrigerator boxes. The houses in the neighborhood were all alike, so the ones across the street are much like ours.
This is my best guess at a floor plan of 35 Ordonia. I’m not sure how the kitchen and living room joined up, though. I remember that my brother’s room functioned as part of the hallway, which wasn’t the best design in the world, but maximized the small space.
6 Ordonia, Louisiana, Missouri. Number 6 in Big Ordonia is the house I think of as where I grew up, living here from age 8 until I went away to college. Big Ordonia had fewer houses than Little Ordonia, but they were larger with two stories.
Ordonia was an idyllic place to grow up in many ways. Our dads walked to work. The kids owned the neighborhood, especially in the summer time. Even as little kids, we roamed the streets on bikes because there was so little traffic. We were surrounded by pasture which we called “The Field.” On the other side of The Field there was a tree-lined creek, an area we called “The Woods.”
The whistle at the plant blew at 8:30, noon, and 4:30. Our days were measured by that whistle. Speaking of sound, it was a noisy place — the setting was rural, but we lived across from an industrial plant, with noises emitting 24 hours a day. And who knows what was emitting from those smoke stacks? I was not the only person who grew up in Ordonia and then dealt with cancer at a young age. But it would be hard to prove anything now.
Within weeks of leaving for college, my parents moved into town. Hercules decided to get out of the housing business and shut down Ordonia. The houses were demolished for scrap or moved whole. The housing market was bad in Louisiana, so my parents rented a house on Margaret Drive that was for sale.
In 1989, the house on Margaret finally sold after my parents lived there for over eight years. They rented a house up on a hill with a terrific view of the town and the Mississippi River. That’s my mother in the turquoise shirt. I think that’s Uncle Marvin and his car in the carport.
That was long! And picture intensive. I hope you enjoyed the guided tour of my family’s houses.