1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

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Winter Quarters

Me and Wolfy. Clubhouse is beyond the back left. Sledding hill beginning is in the rear.

Me and Wolfy.
Clubhouse is beyond the back left. Sledding hill beginning is in the rear.

As the Rolling Stone’s said, “Gimme shelter”. George Washington’s winter quarters at Valley Forge is well known. Lesser known is the winter quarters of my brother and me.

David and I trudged through deep snow drifts to get to our clubhouse. Our winter visits served mainly as a stop-gap before and after sledding or skating.

One of our best sledding hills began its steep descent behind our clubhouse. It had several huge jumps that sent us airborne and landed us with spine jarring thuds. (Maybe that’s why my back began bothering me in my teen years.) Our long trek back up was worth the thrill-ride down.

When an ice crust thick enough to gently walk on formed on top of the snow, our sledding hills became a daredevil experience. Not only did the ice make our ride faster, it made it longer; causing us to roll off our sled before a barbwire fence waiting at the bottom sliced us like ripe tomatoes. Occasionally, we broke through the thin ice crust after particularly high jumps with rough landings, but escaped ice-slicing, too.

Dad plowed our driveway and–like most guys with a snowplow–part of the lawn as well. He pushed the snow into a tightly packed mountain. David and I used snow shovels to carve winding stairways and sunken rooms for two snow forts. We had brief snowball fights, but our hours of creative building provided the most enjoyment.

Dad, Uncle Edward, and Wolfy outside our basement home. This is not our big snow pile.

Dad, Uncle Edward, and Wolfy outside our basement home. This is not our big snow pile.

That was all good, but what we really needed was an indoor clubhouse.

The first year of living in our basement house, the space under a stairway-leading-to-nowhere wasn’t walled in yet. With help from a blanket where sheetrock should be, it made a great winter home. We filled it with blankets, pillows, comic books, and flashlights. And by peeking between the stair treads we didn’t miss our television shows.

The second winter, Dad’s back went out, again. He suspended a spare door (flat with no door knob) across the arms of our sofa, and slightly cushioned it with his folded army blanket. It was normal to see Dad lying for days on his makeshift bed.

Dad needed company, so we constructed a fort by the sofa, careful not to block his view of the television.

We draped blankets over a framework of card tables, folding chairs, and television trays. Sofa cushions served as extra walls, while bed pillows and sleeping bags softened the brown linoleum floor.

Our domicile consisted of several connecting rooms spanning half the rectangular living room. Our lounge was under the first card table and had a removable wall for easy television viewing. Our comic book reading room had a flashlight strapped to a table leg. A spooky voodoo room sported doll heads hanging from the table edge (sacrifices had to made, by me and my dolls).

Despite our invitations, Mom wouldn’t crawl in to explore our hodgepodge. She opted to peek inside our teepee-style doorway or lift a blanket-wall to peer into our further rooms. We let baby Susan come in as long as she didn’t bother us.

During a raucous game of Go Fish held in the lounge, Mom poked her head in our doorway. Her eyes swept past David and me, and rested on her fourth kid. Dad’s back felt better so he crawled in with us. She stood back up and we laughed as her hmpf reached our ears.

Mom was extremely tolerant, so Cabinville tended to last about a week, at which time it began self-destructing.

Lesson learned: A temporarily messy living room is a small price to pay for mastering construction skills, comforting the incapacitated, and socking away more great memories.

Related Posts: Ch 8 – Basement Dwellers/ Clubhouse Spies; Delicate Martyr

Now it’s your turn: What did you use for winter quarters?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Our Adventure in Croatia says:

    great memories you have….

  2. Val Mills says:

    Not so sure we had anything that could be called winter quarters. I think our winters are cold but they’re obviously pretty mild compared with yours.

  3. CJ says:

    Wow! You sure had some great fun! We seldom have snow in the desert…never had such an opportunity or even an idea of such a winter dwelling.

  4. Glynis Jolly says:

    I don’t think my mom would have been as tolerant. My brother and I had our indoor tents but we were limited to using two of the dining room chairs. It would have been nice to have my dad get that involved with us but he was way too serious for such nonsense.

    The sledding sounds marvelous, that is except for the barbwire. Ouch!

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      It’s funny, Glynis, but I have often said that I’m glad my own children didn’t build such huge indoor forts. They and their friends did make a giant Ewok village in the little woods by our driveway.
      My father (86) is still a big kid at heart.

  5. e m bahnsen says:

    Another delightful story, Mary. Thank you! We too built blanket forts in our living room. In the winter (in the late 1960s/early 1970s), we built Igloos in our back yard.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Thanks, EM. Our idea of igloos was to wait for an ice crust to form and hollow out the snow under it. We’d leave columns of snow to hold the roof up, which always collapsed anyway.

  6. spunkybong says:

    Cabinville! A ‘ville’ added to just about anything. Like splitsville. At work we have ‘jiggleville’ human resources department, 80% female. Your parents were such great sports. 😀

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Yes they were, Spunky. Dad was a big kid at heart, still is. At 86 he just bought his 4th tractor – not in his lifetime, the 4th that he currently owns. He does not live on a farm. He lives in a mobile home. Doesn’t even have a big garden. We kids said are legacy will be a tractor each. Now he’ll have to work on ones for the grandkids. Oh well, it could be swamp land.

  7. C. Suresh says:

    How did I miss this one? Engrossing as ever – Good that your children have some fun too – instead of curling up in air-conditioning and playing Farmsville 🙂

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