Well I guess maybe journalism, writing and all the jazz started at a young age after finding this photo. This is me, I’m guessing I am maybe four in this picture. I actually vaguely remember this camera. But what I remember even more is the house, which is where this photo was taken.
The house that you see (courtesy of Deb Kent Realty) used to belong to my grandparents. They moved into this house in Irvington, a today historic Indianapolis district, in the mid 1960s. It’s “technically” a three bed, two bath home that is over 2000 square feet. A very narrow 2000+ square feet. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
My grandparents have seven children. My mom is the first born, third oldest. That puts you at nine people living here at one point. Plus, my great grandma lived with them for some time too, so now we are at a max of 10 people that lived here at one time.
I remember it being crowded when there were five people there, so I can’t imagine what it was like with 10. But from the stories I’ve heard, it sounded like everyone had fun. Three teenage boys stayed in this narrow hallway upstairs, and then the four girls shared an adjoining large room with a bathroom. Then downstairs was where my grandparents slept.
These are my grandparents, Joe and Joyce Whalen. (Hi grandma… I’m kind of writing a blog about you and your old house…. hope you don’t mind.)
When I hear stories about them, she might disagree, but they were a well-respected power couple. To this day, people hold them both in such high regard. Today’s generation of people refer to other’s parents by their first names (I know I do). But people still refer to my grandma as “Mrs. Whalen.”
While I didn’t get a chance to know him that well, my grandpa was a very respected man in the community. He worked for the post office, was a mail man and knew so many people. He passed away when I was six. My brother never got a chance to meet him in real life, but he told my mom once when he was little about a time the two of them spend time on a boat together talking. ‘Described him to a tee. So perhaps they did get a chance to meet, just not in the normal sense of things. Who knows…. I digress.
Anyway, where am I going with all of this?
Well, my grandma sold this house just over 10 years ago and moved into a nice house nearby.
About a month ago my husband and I were killing some time in the area while we were waiting on a friend and were driving around Irvington. We drove by the street and I noticed a “for sale” sign in the front yard. A couple days later, I looked the house up and was just blown away by the pictures.
I’d posted about the house online and had a feeling a family friend, Jen, who works for local real estate agency, Deb Kent Realty, had the property. Sure enough they did.
After a very fun walk-down-memory-lane exchange on Facebook with friends and family is when I found out Jen’s company had the property. Somewhat jokingly, we asked if we could see it. She was more than accommodating and we arranged a time for my mom, one of my aunts, cousins and me to check it out.
BIG thank you Jen for not only taking time on a Saturday to show us, but also providing me with the before and after pictures of the house for this blog. If you’re looking to buy or sell a house in Indy, check out Deb Kent Realty.
I was just blown away with the small changes they made. Honestly, the house was almost in original condition. The previous owners had made a few small changes, took up the carpet, painted, did some remodeling upstairs but nothing that changed the historic charm.
Jen sent me the pictures (above) of the house that they found when my grandma had recently moved.
In addition, I found these two pictures of the front of the house. The first was my grandma’s flower bed, which we played in often. The second was a rose bush that they planted after my grandpa passed away.
My mom definitely told Jen that if the buyers of the house didn’t want it, she would take it. I can barely keep my small gerber daisy plant Betsy alive, and definitely wouldn’t have a green thumb to even know how to replant a rose bush…
Anyway, fast forward 20+ years to when we saw the house. Here’s how it has changed.
They updated the landscaping and added a fence. Over on the right of the house where the fence is used to be a long black railing that extended the length of the yard. While dangerous… it was also the perfect place to do flips. Yep, we definitely were yelled at quite a bit to stay off it. Typical kids… we never listened.
Sorry, grandma. It was fun.
Once we walked inside, it was a very surreal feeling. While it felt like home, it was kind of like being on an HGTV show at the same time. Even though the upgrades that were made were small, they did a fantastic job. It was like it was a completely different place. And the staging that Deb Kent Realty did (which they do for free, by the way), was just the icing on the cake.
Anyway, as any typical millennial would, I documented my experience on Snapchat.
Later, after this visit, I found out that the “Stay out Eddie” cabinet was actually there before my grandparents moved in. While my grandpa went by Joe, his name was Edward. Also known as Eddie, which is who my brother is named after.
I wonder what was in there that the person didn’t want messed with….
As I walked through the house, a lot of memories came up. Good ones. One of the things I remember the most are all of the family functions we’d have there. Thanksgiving, Christmas, you name it.
This would have been a Thanksgiving in probably 1994 or 1995. Check out my brother’s sweet bib. This picture has my uncle Tony, dad, grandma and my uncle Guillermo’s cousin, Jose. (Thanks to my aunt Shannon for the correction, I’m sure there will be more rolling in as people read this, ha.)
Anyway, this picture is just a TEENY tiny bit of the large holiday events.There are probably 5-10 other people in the house that aren’t pictured here.
Of my grandma’s seven kids, at this time three of them lived in Indy. Then others would come in from out of town. So you would easily have 20+ people there. We’d extend this table in the narrow dining room and play spoons.
My grandma would always use her nice china that would have to get hand washed.
You’d often have to just find anywhere you could to sit or stand. This is my aunt Shannon and cousin Jenny right in front of the dining room window sill. Sill? Is that the word? I could have totally Googled that but I’m feeling incredibly lazy.
Or here’s my dad and brother in the living room. I think my mom had taken that fish tank at some point. I also remember that table, and possibly sustaining injuries after running into it.
One of the most frequented rooms in the house was the kitchen. When she was younger, my grandma made cakes. From weddings to showers, she was a go-to. Here is a cake she made me for my 16th birthday. She recently told me that they updated the back sunroom or mudroom of that house for her to have a larger space to make the cakes. However, she usually didn’t get to making the cakes until night and it was dark and creepy back there, so she went back to going back and forth between the kitchen and dining room table.
I spent a lot of time growing up in this house. My grandparents babysat me a lot and when I got older, it was where I went when I got off school early.
Then when driving up to the house, which is located on Johnson, just south of the Irving Theater or Lazy Daze when it was still open, there were two ways to get there. Johnson was smooth and Julian was bumpy. When we were on our way I’d always tell my dad my preference of taking the “easy way, easy way” or “bumpy way, bumpy way.”
To this day I usually mix up my route on my way to places I go to often.
And of course I can’t forget to mention the cat.
This is “Sasquatch,” or as we called him, “kitty.” For those of you who have met Chloe, this guy takes the cake. He didn’t mind sitting in the same room with you, but he wanted to be left alone.
Did it stop me?
“Don’t pet the cat, kitty bites!” They’d tell me.
Eh, the bites, scratches and hits were worth it. And now I have a cat that loves my husband and me but just wants to be left alone when it comes to other people. Comes full circle.
My grandma and the cat made quite the team. You see, there was one problem with this house… somehow bats made their way in. Not all the time, but often enough to where she needed a system in place to get them out.
I remember on quite a few occasions the cat would find and corner a bat. She would then grab a giant fish net that had a trash bag inside, capture it, and let it go outside.
She might have been internally freaking out, but it never seemed that way to me. I’m sure they did this many times.
But it wasn’t all serious, they had a lot of fun in that house, especially wth my grandpa. I’m sure I missed out on a lot, but he did make me laugh. And many others.
I’d spend a lot of time sitting on the corner of this chair. I remember his tattoos and that duck thing that he’d set the remote in. (See it on the side there? I know, the bows are distracting).
I’d also spend a lot of time at my grandma’s old house going through old pictures and documents she had. I don’t have a picture of it, but I remember finding a great great great grandparent, aunt or someone that looked a lot like me when I was in the third grade. Or I guess they came first, so I looked like them. Genetics are a crazy thing. This one above is from my grandparent’s wedding day. When my cousin Jenny got married this summer in Denver, they shared this picture on a neat sign-in table.
Grandma, I have to say, you still look a lot like this!
As for me? I’m still a nerd and was excited to have gotten a chance to take a walk through this house again. It brought up a lot of good memories. I thought it would be sad, but it wasn’t. It was just fun. And now I totally understand how it feels to be on HGTV.
It reminded me of being four or five and reading books with my cousin Amber on the living room floor. Or sitting in the back computer room (the one in the picture above with a blue wall) and answering a call from my uncle Tony’s then girlfriend, now wife Mary’s, call during Thanksgiving. Or running out to the Arby’s around the corner with my grandma and picking up chicken fingers, curly fries and cheese.
Come to find out years later I’m allergic to peanuts and potatoes… so now both of those things are just distant memories. (AH I do miss them).
My cousin Lili and I would have many sleepovers there too and those were always fun. Right cousin Lili?
My grandma had a hideaway bed in the living room that you had to watch your fingers otherwise you might have lost them. Thankfully, I still have all 10 digits. It was very long, beige and had a rippled pattern.
The cat was usually quiet during the day, but at night, he would talk to all the neighborhood cats through the window. Loud. Very loud.
Coming back to present day, the housing market in Irvington has skyrocketed over the last 20 years. Jen told me within a couple weeks, there were quite a few offers on the house. It’s currently in the process of being purchased.
I’m sure the people that move in won’t know the history of this house, just as there was a history before our family that we don’t really know. Or I don’t. My family might. I’m just one of many people that has memories here.
Just think, there are all the friends and family members of my grandparents, then my mom and her six brothers and sisters who had friends come over.
The neighborhood was a tight unit. When they weren’t at this house, they were at somebody else’s. And again, to this day, they all still call my grandma “Mrs. Whalen.”
So to end probably one of my longest blogs of all time, it was just a really neat experience. Irvington is made of several historic homes, so our story is just one of hundreds.
Everyone has their own story. This is mine.
This is me, clearly showing off my RBF. But not everyone else.
I’ll say, we all clean up pretty nice.