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Home on Curry Street shares memories

The Spirit of Tehachapi

 

I am a vintage Victorian style house on the corner of F and Curry Streets and have stood observing the residents of Tehachapi since the 1880s. Only three families have owned me through my 137 year life. I will mention them from time to time. Sometimes people even think that a house has a personality of its own having had so many folk living there who have laughed and cried and lived and died within the walls. I mostly just observe and provide shelter.

I have always felt that I was a comfortable house in which to live with a spacious yard giving one a feeling of great privacy even though only a block from downtown. The Curry Street property originally extended from the alley to F Street and a good space to the rear. In those days it was customary to use many redwood pilings to provide a foundation. The redwood, being resistant to termites, prevented them from eating my walls.

I might add though, that the 1952 earthquake nearly caused my demise as the pilings leaned over dangerously. They did not go completely down, though and I was saved when the Davis family, living there, jacked me up and had a cement foundation put under me. Two other lovely older homes on Curry Street were not as fortunate and had to be destroyed.

My life began when the Galinger Brothers, local grocers, purchased the property in 1880 and built my two bedrooms, living room, parlor, hallway, kitchen, dining area and utility room. Kitchens in those days had a pantry instead of the cupboards seen in later houses. Most kitchens had a fancy piece of furniture called a kitchen cabinet with many nooks and crannies to hold baking items. A work table was in the center of the kitchen with a large dining table in the far end of the room. A wood-burning cookstove completed the room's interior. No indoor plumbing yet, water was carried in from the well outside. The twelve foot high ceilings made it feel cooler in the summer but in the winter the heat went up there, too.

The bedrooms were quite roomy on my south side and had those "new fangled" closets that fitted into the wall with a cedar door hiding the clothes. The parlor had an entrance from the front hall and was also connected to the living room by elegantly carved sliding wooden doors. The women of the house, in those times, usually kept their parlors spic and span and ready for company. The front porch had steps going down to a brick sidewalk leading to the street. There were also steps leading off the south side of the porch. Virginia Creeper covered the front part of my porch making the bedrooms too dark to suit me. There was once a glassed in sun porch attached to the rear of the home off the back porch. Later on it became a laundry room and made a pleasant work spot with the glass windows on three sides.

In 1919 a small portion of the property that bordered the alley was sold to R.B. Freeman, Sr., another grocery store owner. Freeman built a smallish attractive bungalow style home for his family. It was a nice little house and always well maintained. Freeman's family soon "outgrew" the little home and moved, selling the residence to Harry Beauford, a local barber. It remained in that family until very recently. After some renovation it is a handsome antique shop today.

Still and all, both of us, the bungalow and I, saw much history being made in the small community. Many times large herds of sheep could pass in front of us. Since none of the streets were paved there was a lot of dust. Sometimes so thick that it was hard to see across the street.

James Moore Brite and his wife, Lucinda Caroline (Callie) Brite, came to live within my walls. They rented me for some years before a purchase was made in 1926. James Brite was the son of John Moore Brite and Amanda Emeline Duty; the first white settlers of the Tehachapi Valley. James and Callie had eight children: seven boys and one girl: Jim, Frank, Jesse, Walter, Joe, Ed, Clyde and Olive. They added a bathroom that had the longest bathtub that could be made to accommodate the very tall Brite menfolk. By that time, I boasted of running water piped in and a new invention called electric lights had been installed in 1915.

Jim and Callie needed more room for their family and converted my parlor into another bedroom by closing off the connecting doors into the living room. I was always a little sad about that however their daughter, Olive, was married to Elvin Kimberley, Jr. in the parlor before the conversion.

Jim Brite died in 1927 and I became known as "The Grandma Brite House." Callie lived to be 84 and died within the walls of the home she loved.

When Chauncey and Maude Davis moved in, there were teenage children and lots of their friends visited back and forth. Delman and Barbara Brite, two of Callie's grandchildren, were frequent visitors. The Davis "kids" were musical. Everett and Evelyn Davis played piano and saxophone while Delman played a mean trumpet and Barbara, the clarinet. They would begin to play and before you knew it everyone was dancing. I used to like those days.

World War II intervened and Everett and his brother, Tom (Buster) were soon in the Army. Delman Brite became a pilot in the Army Air Corps. Evelyn got married so Pat, the youngest of the Davis family, became an only child.

The wire fence along the front yard was installed during the early 1900s. You can see the same type over on Green Street by the Sola house. I recall someone removing the gate from my front yard one Halloween night. It was gone for a year until the next Halloween when the same person brought it back. Mr. Davis, my owner at the time, chained it to an iron post. It's still there.

Incidentally, my present residents are still in the Davis family: Geraldine Davis Starks, daughter of Everett, the eldest son. I like what has happened to me. They have painted my exterior a pale yellow and I think of all the colors I have worn, I like it best. One that I did not like at all was a battleship grey. Today I am equipped with forced air heating and air conditioning which makes it pleasant both summer and winter.

There is so much more I want to say. A man from L.A., a Mr. Pearson, took the first cuttings from my lilacs in the yard, for his Lilac Farm on Cherry Lane. Oh yes, and the front door, the original, has an old fashioned doorbell that still works. Each grandkid has to give it a twist before someone tells them to stop. The same with the outdoor cellar whose door slants up onto the house a bit. Perfect for running up and down but there, again, a grandparent says, "Stay off the cellar door!"

It's nice still being a part of the community. The cars have replaced the horses, the trains still whistle but are diesel instead of steam. Families come and go and I'm glad I'm still here to shelter them.

 
 

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