Saturday, January 7, 2012

Our First Home Purchase on the Meramec River

 After what I thought was throwing away money on rent for a while, I bought our first home in 1978, just a few lots down from my parent's summer clubhouse, at 86 Opps Lane in Fenton, Missouri. Calling it a "fixer upper" is an understatement, but with payments at $125 per month, it fit my income of a whopping $3.75 per hour at my truck driving job at the time.
 My parent's clubhouse, (with additions, was becoming larger every year), got about 4 feet of water in the first floor during a flood in '73. My dad carried the brunt of clean up from that flood, and since it was a minor flood, he swore then, and maintains to this day, that he never needed to buy "any damn flood insurance". With a mortgage being held by a local bank, flood insurance was mandatory for us, and in the spring of '79, we found out just how beneficial national flood insurance could be.

 Here's Rosie, making dinner on the grill, probably hot dogs or something else "affordable", along with our first dog Gus, as I come home via the Jon boat after my day at work. One advantage about any of the homes on Opps Lane, we were only yards from high ground where Gravois Road snaked through old town Fenton and spanned the Meramec by way of the "new bridge".
 Our home suffered minimal damage, but with a modest flood insurance payout for cleanup, and my much improved income from my new job at the brewery, we commenced with home improvements in a big way.
 By 1982 we had replaced all the windows, reconfigured the main roof and added a roof over the porch, installed insulation in the walls where there wasn't any before, cedar sided the whole place, had a new well drilled, upgraded the electrical system, put in an entirely new heating and cooling system, etc., etc., etc. We had already been remodeling the interior and had new appliances and kitchen cabinets ordered when in December of 1982 the largest flood in 100 years inundated the town of Fenton along with our, and my parent's home, as my parents had moved into their "river house" full time the year before, in anticipation of my dad's eventual retirement.

 The flood waters reached our second floor during the night while I was working the midnight shift at my new job at the brewery. As the river threatened our main living area, Rosie, who stayed in the house maintaining a vigil, called me at work and I came home and started putting furniture up on sawhorses. At daybreak, co-workers that I had only known a short time, arrived after working all night and with the Jon boat and a 12' foot semi-v fishing boat, we were able to get all of our new living room furniture out with no damage. Our new bedroom set was sacrificed to the river gods, along with most of our other humble possessions. As long as I live, I'll never forget the sight of our sofa sleeper setting athwart ships on the beam of that little fishing boat while Lenny Gilbers negotiated the swift river current numerous times to take our belongings to safety.
 As I had arrived in the middle of the night and began working with all of the lights on, by the middle of the day as I was wading through four feet of water in the house, it wasn't until I felt a distinct "tingling" in the water that I realized that I hadn't killed the breakers on our 200 amp electrical box. We were lucky no one was killed as a result of direct contact with a live electrical component. I think what saved us was that the amount of water allowed the current to become dissipated to a survivable level. Providence comes through for us again.
 As Rosie and I made our last trip to dry ground at the end of a long night and day, we finally broke down and weeped at our loss, maybe from exhaustion more than anything else. It was to be the last time we ever cried over a flood.
 As night time settled in, we gathered in our old little motor home that we had, along with my neighbor Vernon, and my dad, both who had also been working all day to save what they could have of their homes, and hoisted a beer or two for what was to come.


  1. Mike you are awesome at this ! I have never read a book in my life , only because I don't enjoy doing it or I will fall asleep ! But these short stories are so well done they hold my interest unti I am finished !
    You know what buddy I think you would b wise to take your idel time while on your adventure and voyage and write a novel ! It would most defiantly b a best seller ! If u can hold my attention you got to be good ! Keep it up buddy !

  2. Very nice words Lou, glad you are enjoying this. I'm just a hack, but I like writing, and having anyone enjoy it is a plus.

  3. Mike,
    I think you are well on your way to your next career as a writer. These stories are told with such detail and heart, it's as if you journaled your life daily. I'll never forget that river house, the 1st year we met and the great Christmas party you had there...good times!


  4. Thanks Lee, I appreciate your comments. It gives me encouragement.