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Sunday, June 26, 2011

No. 49 The Day They Started Tearing the Old House Down - Lillian Hancock Michels

[Last Sunday night's windstorm knocked over the tree that had stood so long beside my parents' home. The house itself was removed eight years ago and replaced by a new one belonging to my niece, Lisa Guthrie. But the tree had remained a reminder of many happy moments in the yard and on the porch. Lisa's family worked hard to save the trunk of the old elm, and hopefully it will survive as a living monument for generations to come. Seeing it laying on it's side brought back to my sister, Lillian (Sister), some thoughts that she penned when the house itself was taken down.]

May 21, 2003 will always have a very tender place in my heart. This is the day I had known for months was coming but secretly dreaded, the day the old house would be torn down, This was the home I was born and raised in. The old house was beyond repair. I knew this better than most people, because of the five years I had taken care of Daddy since mother had died.

Yesterday, I had taken the silk flowers left over from Daddy’s’s funeral out of the front room of the house before the demolition started. I took four wreaths to the cemetery at the west end of the Island. Two were put on Grandmother Agnes’s grave (his mother) and two on great grandfather Louie Larson’s grave.

My mother, Margarette, standing on the porch,
and under the shade of her elm tree.
This morning at 6:00 am I went walking by myself. Mike usually goes with me, but had a restless night, so I didn’t wake him to go with me. I stopped by the house around 6:30 and took one last walk through. The windows had all been removed, but a few of the old knobs that Daddy had made to them up were still there. I told the old house goodbye and come home. I wanted the bottom stair step because it was the one Daddy had painted a different color than the others so mother would know it was the last step of the stairs when sh walked down them.

Around 9:00 I saw Ski Robinson and his workers starting the job. I walked down the path to the old house and asked if he would save stair step for me. By the time I arrived they had already pulled up vinyl from the kitchen floor to remove old vinyl from years past. As I was standing there looking down at the old torn up kitchen, a flood gate of memories came rushing back. I remembered cold winter mornings coming down stairs and getting ready for school in that old kitchen by the heater. Mother always had a hot breakfast for us. I also remember summer morning when mother would fix shrimp that Daddy had caught the night before and put them on hot light bread with mustard on them.

These stairs seems three stories high on Christmas mornings when I hurried down to see what Santa had left for me. I was always happy on Christmas morning with my doll; she was perfect. I never did get a bicycle but bought myself one when I was thirty-five.

My brother Ralph, my sisters Lillian (Sister)
& Ella Dee, and my brother Tommy.
So now the time has come to say goodbye for he old house as I have to those I loved so much who lived there. First, my brother Denny in 1953, when he died with leukemia. Denny was as nine years old. Then my oldest brother Ralph was 65 years old in 1994. Ralph had been home for one year after living away for forty years. He was killed in a boating accident. The came mother, eighty-five years old, was killed in a tragic car wreck in 1999. Daddy was driving and never forgave himself. Two months later in 1998 my brother mike, fifty-five years old, was killed in a truck wreck. He had established Hancock and Grandson as a thriving welding business.

Daddy survived five years and one day after mother died. He died the Monday before Thanksgiving as mother did. He never really lived after mother died. He died in November of 2002 at ninety-three years old. All of these people I loved with my heart and soul.

I am happy Lisa bought the old home place. I am glad it stayed in the Hancock Family. I know I will always be welcomed there to think about the happy childhood I spent there. I hope the old tree stays in the front yard.

So goodbye old house. I knew it would hurt, but I didn’t think it would hurt this much.



  1. This brought many memories back for me. I remember being in the front yard when Denny had died and how sad everybody was. That just might be my earliest memory. I remember trying to understand Grandma's Harker's Island brogue and how she would laugh and hug me to let me know it didn't matter. I remember the smell of light bread, visiting with grandma and granddad in the back room, sleeping upstairs, showering in sun-warmed gravity shower, visiting with relatives and neighbors on the front porch. I could go on and on. I was only there for an occasional visit, but those were such fun times. I loved that house too.

  2. As the "keeper of the tree" I can assure all my aunts, uncles, and cousins that we are doing our best to nurse this beloved tree back to health. Thankfully, regardless of the outcome, the memories made under and around this tree will live on in the hearts and minds of us all.