The House I Grew Up In

(Or should I say " which I grew up"?)

My brother, Ives (pronounced "eye-vus" not "eave" like you might think -- that's a story for another day), and his wife Aimee just moved back to Minnesota where we grew up. It's been great getting updates from Ives as he visits our old friends and haunts. This weekend he brought his lovely wife back to see our old house in Woodbury, a suburb just east of St. Paul.

We were the first owners of this house; I think the name of this particular design was "Highlander IV" (not sure why I remember that). We moved in in 1974, just in time for me start first grade at Royal Oaks Elementary, just a five minute walk away. At the time, we were in the new part of the Royal Oaks neighborhood with empty lots all around us. There was a lot on the corner next to us; on the other side of that lot was a very nice African-American family. I'm pretty sure that lot was one of the only ones in Minnesota in 1974 that sat between a Chinese family and an African-American family. It sat empty for a while until another nice family moved in.

We lived in this house until my sophomore year of college (just after my brother graduated from high school.) It was a really great place to grow up (in fact Woodbury's motto was "Woodbury -- A nice place to live"). There were lots of kids in the neighborhood; we played a lot in the big wooded park across the street, in the snow that drifted into huge piles (my kids are very jealous), and in the empty lots and houses under construction. Many of us stayed together from elementary school through high school; it's been great finding many of them again on Facebook.

Anyway, on to the photos.

All in the all, the house looks good after so much time; Ives tells me the neighborhood has aged well. Still, it's definitely changed since we lived there. I can't believe how huge that tree in the middle of the photo is; of course, we planted it 35 years ago. The garage door, front door, and shutters were all bright Chinese red when we lived there. We had brass lion heads on the doors too. Not sure what our neighbors thought about that, but I liked them.
Front view photo of my old house with good sized tree in the front. The house is white with a two story center, a one story left side (where the living room was), and a garage to the right.

We used to have an asphalt, two car driveway. I guess someone replaced it with a wider, concrete one. Good thing. It was a real PITA to re-surface the driveway every year. We also used to have a basketball net on the roof over the garage. Not sure why I'm not a better basketball player. The house seemed big at the time, but looking at it now, it's small compared to houses today including our current house. If I remember what my mom said, I think this house was about 1500 square feet plus a big basement and the garage.
Another frontal view of the house, moved to the right of the previous shot. This one shows the driveway and garage more clearly.

I can't believe no one extended the tiny patio. I always wanted a big deck. We never had any furniture on the patio. I think the only thing we ever put on it was a pup tent because my dad didn't want us to kill the grass; obviously, it wasn't very comfortable in that tent...

There was a huge birch woodpile against the house where that garden is in the photo. We bought that pile soon after we moved in and never used all the wood by the time we moved out fourteen years later. My mom used to hang ducks to air dry where the current owners have that wind chime. (This is how you get crispy duck skin in roast duck.) I think the ducks were better than that wind chime. We didn't have gutters; as a result, we had awesome sheets of icicles hanging from the eaves in the wintertime.
Rear view of the house 

That tree used to be the middle of our kickball/baseball diamond, about where the pitchers mound would be. It looks big enough now to put a treehouse in (which I really, really wanted) but of course it wasn't even big enough to climb when we lived there. There used to be willow trees at first and third, but they're gone now. (For completeness, home was by the patio and second was by the garden). Our lot was about a quarter acre -- pretty big for our neighborhood. On top of that, my parents both worked all day and weren't home; as a result, our yard wound up being the place a lot of our friends played. This yard was the scene of a lot of soccer, football, hotbox, nighttime gun battles, and epic water fights.

We had a huge garden in the far right of this photo. We grew a ton of veggies all summer long; my dad acted like we would starve if not for the produce from the garden. His favorite gardening activity, though, was walking through the supermarket pointing out how expensive all the veggies were and exclaiming how lucky we were to have it all for free. I will admit the veggies were good, although a person can only eat so much zucchini.
Photo of the back yard. It's flat with biggish trees.

I have a lot of great memories from this house, which are all rushing back now that I'm seeing these photos (as evidenced by this stream-of-consciousness post). I'm lucky to have had a really great childhood. I'm glad my brother took these shots (thanks, Ives!)

For more than you ever wanted to know about Woodbury (and way more than I ever knew), check out the Wikipedia article. I can't believe the population is over 54,000 people; it was about 15,000 when we lived there.

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Optimista Reply

Great post. I can just see you and Ives having "gun battles" with your friends in that huge yard! And I love the imagery of the duck hanging in the back.

Oddly enough, my brother Larry just moved back to the Minneapolis area, too! He and his wife live just a few miles from my parents.

Alice Reply

Now I can see the pix ^_^
Love the story about the woodpile--the previous owners of our current home left us their cord of wood 12 years ago, and we still haven't used it. Now we just dream of an "accident" occuring in our (detached) garage that will require some new construction.

My dad grew all our vegetables, too, but thankfully, didn't consider zucchini one.
Woodbury was such a great place to grow up back then. Running around outside and all.evening.long--man, what our kids are missing!

JeffPetrin Reply

I remember your house - version 1.0 with the red door and lion heads. I can even picture the inside layout a little (den with your TRS-80 off to the right of the front door?) The size of that tree really kills me. Wow.

Thanks to Ives for getting those. Its been ages since I've been in Royal Oaks. Absolutely an wonderful place and time to grow up.

Tony Reply

Jeff--you got it! The computer room had our TRS-80, Apple II, and a piano in there. It was just off to the right of the front door as you're looking at the house. It was a great place to grow up.

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