Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Tire Iron, A Bag of Nails, and Some 2X4's

When my parents first moved to their new house in Tinley Park, from Chicago, they had two children and one on the way. I was the one on the way. I am not sure if they bought the large house because they meant to keep having children, or they kept having children to fill up the large house they bought. Either way, they kept on going until there were eleven of us.

This prolific reproduction by my parents, meant that every few years the house needed expansion. The first phase of expansion came when my mom was pregnant with my first younger sister, and consisted of finishing off the attic into two bedrooms. One for the two girls and one for my brother and me. Before you could say rhythm method, my mom gave birth to two more children and with no end in sight, the house needed expansion again.

My dad decided that the only way to go was up, so very early one Saturday morning, my grandfather, my dad, and a bunch of his friends began to cut into the roof of our house. One of the great things about those days is that apparently you didn't need architect plans or building permits, because I don't think anyone on site knew exactly what they were doing. They just seemed to have a vague idea of how to put up a dormer, and went at it. While my mom stood in the driveway watching her home being dismantled, my dad and his friends slowly pushed the roof up with the help of old fashioned auto bumper jacks and pieces of two by fours.

The most amazing thing about it, is that even with this rickety setup and a bunch of kids running around between the jacks, nobody got hurt. Even more amazing is that those guys got the job done and by the time the sun set, we had a large dormer on our house that eventually added two more bedrooms and a bath. Even more amazing, is that I have seen that house recently and the dormer is still standing.

Despite all those efforts to make our old house comfortable, it still couldn't hold our clan. That's because my mom and dad still had five more babies in their future, and in 1963 we moved on to a larger house on the other side of town. My dad only expanded the new house once. Probably because the town had finally enacted building codes.


  1. the way I've always heard this story is that either grandpa or great-grandpa fell off the roof...or was that a different home improvement story?

  2. I thought I did that story. Your grandpa was on a ladder behind the house. It was an aluminum ladder with no rubber feet, and he rode it down from the second floor to the pavement below. It sounded like a machine gun as it slid down the clapboard siding. It wasn't during this remodeling. I think he was painting something up there.

  3. Alan, I do believe it was during that dormer phase...maybe painting it after the fact. I just know that I was in the hospital for one of my surgeries and heard about it second hand. Boy was I bummed to miss the excitement! Also, remember my room was a little "closet" off the boys room? I had to go thru your room to get into it...that was a nightmare!

  4. What a get time to be alive. You see that group of kids on the stairs in their P.J.'s You can just tell how much they loved each other.