On arriving back from San Diego with the children, Peg negotiated immediately to secure the purchase of the house at 100 W. University St. in Alfred that we had had our eye on before leaving for the West Coast. Now it had become available, and Peg got after it immediately. The first few excerpts below are from the days before she moved into the new (old) house, but soon she moved in, along with the children.

All we do is mess this house up, fill up the car and go out to the other house and add to the mess out there. I washed all the curtains this morning. I don't know if I'll get them up out there very soon, but if they fit I may.

Tonight has been hectic. I did a lot in the attic and have the skis, golf clubs, etc., down. But all those darn books. You know how I had screwed the bookcases together in that doorway living room business. Well, tonight I undid the screws with all the books still in, and sure enough, the living room one fell flat on its face when the screw came free. I laughed till I was dizzy. I knew darn well it would and there was nothing (like babies) in the way and nothing was broken.

This afternoon I got Margaret Aylor's father to go out with me. He said it would cost about fifteen dollars to take out the closet door that opens into the dining room and put it in the hall where it belongs. He could use the same door and frame and also the base board. I was considering ways to enlarge the living room, as you know. One of them was to build out the first of them to the width of the second. It meant an addition on the side of the house, extending beams, etc. He thought it would be very expensive --- 500 dollars or so, and a big job.

Then I got the idea, and I don't know why I didn't think of it before, of taking out the downstairs bathroom and putting it upstairs. It was put in as an afterthought and the space was taken off the living room. That partition would come out very easily without hurting supports or anything, and the pipes would just have to be sent on upstairs since the room we'd use for a bath up there is directly above. In fact, it's such a small job and would make such a difference, that I'm going to ask Langworthy about it when I see him.

This is the first letter from our new house. I have never been so ready to throw up the sponge as I was yesterday and I didn't get a minute to write.

I found a couple of cars and a truck outside the barn, which was alright with me --- and two horses in the hen house, which was not; I am about to phone the owner and tell him so. I'll tell you the outcome.

Oh yes, last night I was getting ready for bed and noticed a funny hissing sound near the lavatory in the bathroom. It was a little spritz in the joint of the pipe. As I sat down to meditate about it, it seemed to me it was getting worse and just as I was picturing to myself the horrors of having a pipe break, the darn thing did just that. Wotta mess. I picked up everything from the floor and put it up, then put on my bathrobe and slippers and went down to the cellar to find the place to turn it off. I pattered around uselessly about fifteen minutes and finally came back up, got on a chair and turned it off above the water heater. You'll wonder what happened to the gallons of warm water meantime, but this good old house has such cracks in the floors that it all trickled through to the cellar as fast as it came from the pipe. I didn't even wipe the mess up! This morning Langworthy [plumber] came and fixed it for me.

Then I got the carriage wheel I had left at the bike shop to be fixed and asked the fellow if he knew of any good second hand store. He sent me to Canisteo, where I found a honey. I bought two chests of drawers, a vacuum cleaner and a secretary for the living room.

Now you can pick yourself up off the floor.

Mike Kenyon [director of the rationing board] called today about my stove certificate. It has been passed on and I can have the stove, but they ran out of blanks and I'll have to wait till they come before they can send it. I just hope the stoves don't come first, but if they do, then I'll just wait patiently till the next shipment.

...Then I removed a lot more varnish from the little cherry dresser in the hall. Also some from the mirror. Before that, I had painted the railing and the newel post knob with mahogany varnish stain. So tonight, I painted the middle of the hall and steps with a first coat of paint. They were bare before. I'm not sure how I'll get myself up to bed, but that is an hour or so off, so I refuse to worry about it now. I may ruin a perfectly good pair of bare feet. However, I'll take a bottle of turpentine with me as I go. By the way, the nurseries we went to this morning had German war prisoners working in them. Armed guards were there too, of course. We didn't pay much attention to them. In fact, we didn't even notice them till we noticed the armed guard. In the second nursery there were quite a lot of them and they seemed interested in us. I suppose that is natural.

I got five blueberry bushes, three tall and two low ones. I can have another low one if Mary Lee Stillman doesn't want it. I got a couple for her to cement good will. She will cement friendship by paying for them when I take them to her. Then I got four grape vines. A Fredonia (blue), Concord (blue), Caco (red), and another which is white. This was a special and I thought it would give us a start though I'd like to have quite a few of the Concord vines. I got some two year old trees: Emperor Francis cherry (sweet, pink, Withrom (sweet, black) cherry, Sickel pear (little sweet ones like I love), Bartlet pear (big juicy ones like you like), red Mackinosh apple, winesap apple, and another well-known winter apple of the red variety that slips my mind right now; also, twenty-five asparagus roots. This probably sounds like an awful lot to you. As a matter of fact, it did cost around twenty-five dollars, but I think the cost is hardly to be considered. It is a long-term investment. But as to the work involved: I planted the five blueberries, two cherries, and three apple trees this afternoon. It was work, but didn't kill me. I did them carefully according to the best instructions and pruned them properly afterward.

We stopped for money and to see about mail, but none, and then over to the Loan Office to pay for the house his month. The Napiers live upstairs there, so I went up to see them. I just stayed for a minute and then stopped by Gay's to see how she was. She is sick in bed with grippe or something, so I have to keep up on all my sick friends. Then we stopped to chew the fat with Doris Rice for a while. Then on to Hornell. I wanted to buy a stepladder and was not able to get any around here. I got one in a hardware store near Sears, and then just asked out of the side of my mouth if they happened to have a cultivator. The woman yelled, "Jack, bring out that hand cultivator to show this lady." I could have fainted. Sure enough, and it is a beauty. Before the war the same company made a feeder attachment, but it is not available now. It is good and strong and solid looking. It cost just about eight dollars. That I didn't expect to get, but we really have wanted one for a long time. The stepladder is a necessity, too. In fact, I can't reach the top of the windows or paper the walls without it. I got a five-foot one. Four was too small and six was too heavy for me to handle. So, that's where our money goes!

Yesterday was a typical March day. Blowing like the dickens and lots of rain. I was talking with Virginia on the phone and just kidding I said it sounded as though part of our roof had blown loose and was flapping in the breeze. A little later it struck me that I had described the sound quite accurately and perhaps I better look into the situation; I was about to go out for dinner. So, sure enough, a sizeable hunk had blown off the shed roof and was flapping merrily. I considered sending out an s.o.s. to some leftover male, but then decided I could do the job myself. So I got up there, retrieved the piece and nailed it back on again with some strips of wood over it. I think it will be alright for a while.

This afternoon I planted a clothes pole. I found a good stout one with a metal gadget on the top for me to slip another cross pole into. I dug a hole and used the left-over concrete to set it in. Also lots of stones. There wasn't much concrete and I had nothing to mix it in, so I'm afraid my method was unique. I hope it worked. I poured the concrete and sand into the hole dry, mixed them up and wiggled the pole down in tight and also wiggled a lot of rocks into it and finally had to add the dirt to the top to fill it all the way. Then only did I pour water in the hole to wet the concrete. I don't see why it shouldn't set just as hard that way.

I don't know about the records. The study is in a mess and I have no place to put them, so I haven't even unpacked them from the closet where Lloyd put them. I haven't got the record player plugged in, either. I am outside all day and at night put the kids to bed, write you, listen to the news, read a little maybe, and then crap out. As they say.

We peeled more in the dining room today and I got very tired doing it. Also I cut a lot of the grass in the yard. Up around the back where the fireplace is. I cut up to just behind the blueberry bushes, and that is as far as it will go. It sure looks nice. The grass get very long around the fireplace, of course, and looks messy, so I took a lot of the flat red tiles that are around. I think they are drainage tiles, but they are about seven inches by ten inches, or perhaps larger. Anyway, I put a lot of them around he fireplace so they would keep the grass down. You can just run the lawnmower over them, and it looks neater now. They make a colorful sort of hearth with the green grass.

As near as I could make out there were about ten assorted people living in the two-room shack next to me. Some of them looked ominous, but I didn't let it bother me. They had a very nice little girl. Also they had two lawnmowers. So I asked the little girl if they would sell me one of them. They said sure and I was about to complete the transaction when it occurred to me that maybe it didn't belong to them. So I called Saunders and sure enough, it didn't. But while I was drawing a breath to laugh the people pulled up and moved. They left the lawnmower, which I proceeded to glum onto like Saunders told me I could. Had it fixed and it's fine. Right now I have no neighbors. Hardly anyone that lives in such a little junky place will be much of an asset as neighbors.

One other trouble with the Mitchells that I have just crystallized is that just because I like the lines and solidity of early American furniture they think my whole house should be in keeping. That I don't agree with. You can go the whole hog if you want to and do away with electricity, etc. But you will still be twentieth century and will be an incongruous note. In other words, it can't be perfect, so why try. A bit like disliking abstraction or impressionism in painting. I like the furniture, but I'm going to keep what I have and like it. I'm changing the finish on the furniture to what no pioneer would recognize. I don't want our house to be nineteenth century, but Warren. Which will be quite different from Mitchell. They tried to talk me into a god-awful ceiling lamp which was in the junk shop. But I wouldn't be caught dead with it in the house. Neither do I go in for kitchy little whatnot shelves. Oh, me!

[Rainy weather.] I think the main reason I feel punk is that everything is in such a mess and there is so much to do and I don't feel like doing it. And I have to stay inside with it. Also the children don't enjoy being cooped up inside all the time.

Insert photo of 100 W University Street

If the barn were removed [an unsightly, decrepit barn on the corner of the property close to the road] I think the village would undoubtedly straighten out the road coming down the hill. To do it they would have to chunk a bit of our land, and darn if I wouldn't make them remove the old foundation and grade the side of the hill there with their bulldozer in return for the land they took. I can see that corner with a fence around it, so as not to cut off the view of the road, but graded and planted in grass and used as pasture for our animals. It would be a wonderful corner to train colts not to be afraid of cars. Of all the wrecks that plough up and down that road. That is a very definite part of training a colt and it has been bothering me a little.

I also saw Langworthy and was about to get a Hornell plumber. But he said he thinks he'll be out tomorrow. He has my laundry tubs and also has two floor-furnaces with thermostats for me. That is good to know, and just when I get him and the carpenter both at work my stove will pile in on me, too. It's nice to have everything happen at once because it keeps you out of mischief. I'll owe plenty of money too by then! But I still have the cash for the stove and a little to spare. About twelve dollars over.

I finally got Wheaton's [the former owner] stove moved as far as the back porch. I am glad because Langworthy could not have moved it and it was in the way of the laundry equipment. I handled Wheaton pretty well for results I guess. I told him I was going to sell it if he didn't want it and how much did he want for it. He said fifty dollars and I said I thought it was much too much and would probably not get that much for it but I'd let him know. He was out and moved it next day!

I went downtown this morning and didn't get much accomplished. But this afternoon I put on my fighting clothes and got out in the garden. I planted fifteen rows of peas. This strikes me as an awful lot of peas, which is a good idea I think. I have yet to get too many of them. This left me exceptionally pooped and I didn't see that I had worked that hard. But then I got to doing some things inside and come to find I had the curse, which may have been a result, but I suspect it was rather a cause of being tired.

I had a swell system for planting. I had the seeds in my pocket. I'd use the cultivator to dig the furrow, walk back putting in the seed and then walk down again dragging the rake, which covered the seeds. When I got back where I stopped with the cultivator, there it was ready to do a new row. It was a good thing I had three things to do to each row or else I'd have had to invent another... Then Ursula and I planted some lilies of the valley under the lilac bushes.

I do think that I'll economize on other fronts. I think I better not get a colt. I'd have to fix fences and it would be some work in addition. By next summer I'll be more ready to tackle it and maybe you'll be here too by then. I also think that unless I can make a very much better deal with Saunders I better not buy his other piece of land.

Also there is an opening from the sewer. It is in the cellar and was once cemented shut, but was opened apparently when a lot of water came down the cellar steps and made the cellar wet. The extra water ran off into the sewer, but there is the open pipe. He said we'd have odors, etc. So I said why couldn't a removable cap be put on it to close off the sewer, but could easily be reopened if the cellar flooded again. That is what we'll have. I'm sure getting to know a lot about these things.

And Langworthy got my laundry tubs in... I had him put in a y-pipe in the drain with a cap I can unscrew. That is to stick the hose down into to drain the machine. No more bailing! He couldn't figure out how he was going to do it and I suggested that and he thought I was very bright.

The man was very friendly and pretty soon he admitted that he knew all about me and sort of chuckled at the way I laid down the law to Nathan Burdick about his horses. He had heard the story in a feed store.

I was tickled no end and had a nice comfortable, confident feeling at your remarks about the dining room furniture. That you don't like most modern sets and maybe we could pick up some nice second hand pieces and do them to what we want. It made me feel good that what you were suggesting was what I had already done. I have still no more than the table, but that is a good start and I think we can have something nice and different.

You will probably wonder what made me go and get a dog so suddenly when I really have enough to do and didn't want one particularly. But I have been holding back on you a bit. There has been someone poking around my house at night, and also most of the houses in this line, so I know no-one is picking on me particularly. It is always just after dark, and someone just being funny because nothing has ever been taken and there has been plenty outside to take if they wanted to. So I figured a dog with plenty of bulk and a good resonant bark would do the trick so far as I'm concerned. This is a couple of days later and I have had no more trouble.

I found I had some copper foil about the thickness of a piece of heavy paper, and made a bushing with it for the loose [lawn mower] shaft that caused the teeth not to engage most of the time. I did the whole lawn without a whimper and now I know how to fix it easily when the bushing wears out.

Today I wore my shorts and the halter to the suit you sent me. That really knocks the bees for a loop. Right now I have the toastiest sunburn you can imagine... I mowed lawn as usual tonight for a half hour.

Today we will have a mess of peas from the garden. We have had lettuce and radishes right along. The tomatoes are about as big as a marble and I'll have to prune them and tie them up right away. The potatoes look lush and take up most of the garden. The beans have been blossoming furiously and I expect we'll have beans starting in a week or so. I can't get too steamed up about canning. Everything seems an effort somehow. But maybe I'll do a bit.

[The following paragraph is from a letter written on August 6, 1945, but before the news came came of the bombing of Hiroshima.]

I may have mentioned before in fits of temper that everyone parks on the lawn and drives across it the first chance they get . I think I have the solution to one part of it anyway. Get them to grade the driveway with the bulldozer so it will drain excess water off the way it should, and build a little low wall between the drive way into the garage and the lawn A foot high would do it , and then fill in behind it and have grass right over to it. It would look nice and certainly put a boundary on the drive way. The wall would be very easy to do with the flat stones from the garage and Ann and I might do i t ourselves, or even I all by myself.

I made a little shelf for the jar. It is in the corner by the long windows in the kitchen. I had a twelve inch board but had to cut a little square out at one corner to make it fit. Then it wouldn't have been wide enough along the hypotenuse (Ann's influence) so I took a string and pencil and made a nice curve to end at the corners and take in the whole jar so as not to look crowded. I jig sawed if off and then smoothed the thing on the sander. It looks wonderful. Finally I glued and nailed it in with finishing nails. When the novelty wears off a little I'll paint it. I am very proud of it. You couldn't have done it better. [Perhaps not as well --- Roland.]

Yesterday they [carpenters] objected strenuously to a pool of stagnant water in the cellar. I had hay fever and couldn't smell a thing, but they all insisted it stank to heaven. It did look sewerish. I went in search of Langworthy, who --- believe it or not and it's a latter-day miracle --- came immediately, sniffed and said, "Yup, that's trouble." We opened up the trap door in the floor of the laundry and stuffed him down and told him to look around. He found a leak in the pipe that carries the kitchen sink refuse out to what probably was once a septic tank or cesspool. So we are going to have him hitch the pipe to the sewer pipe in the cellar and it won't be too much of a job because of how I had him put a y-pipe in when he was doing the bathroom job. Now wasn't I cute... At their suggestion I am going to have the carpenter pull out some of the stones in the cellar wall and frame up the hole and put a door on. Then when our plumbing under the house decides to freeze up we can enter from that way. It will cost about ten dollars, and will be worth it, though it is an extra. It will also be a wonderful place to stuff corpses.

So, Honey, there is the goat situation... He said he'd sell me the two best milkers and give me the third... It is also better to have two or three so you will always have milk even though one or the other is freshening. I asked Faisst about that and whether you could stagger them. He didn't know the meaning of stagger precisely, but he thought it was a good word and kept using it. You would have died to hear him misusing it.

Those people were fun and as I drove off I thought how much Id like to take you over there to meet them too. Sometimes I get too much of our purely intellectual Alfred friends, and I'd like to keep some of these plain people in the string, but in a different sort of way, of course.

I was tired of the mess in the back room with garden tools piled on the floor and a general mess. So I made places for them to hang on the wall, and the various pruning shears and the sickle and hatchet, etc. And then Ursula and I painted a black outline of the proper tool in its place. So you know which nails are which. So the back room looks like something out of a book. Also I put a string across the room and down by the door jamb so you can pull the string and turn on the light when you go out instead of pawing helplessly around the air in the dark to find the light.

Yesterday afternoon Everett came with the sanding machines. Everett is the crosseyed carpenter's helper I have told you about before. He's a dream. Anyway he started to work on part of the floor. It was priceless. The machine was what they call an edger and has a rotary dish about eight inches across, or less. The machine is powerful and the sandpaper grabs at the floor, and the machine is hard to hold. Also there is something wrong with the switch in it, so it works fine for a while and suddenly goes off. Well, it would go off and Everett would look very hurt and puzzled and stand up to scratch his head and mull it over a bit when off the machine would go describing circles as it whizzed across the floor. He'd look amazed and go after it and bring it back. I had trouble not laughing at him several times.

Then the cord from the telephone came up through the floor and along the floor for several inches. He bumped it with the sandpaper and cut right through two of the wires. So I thought as long as it needed mending anyway we may as well make it come up in the kitchen where the phone is. I marked the wires and cut them, and showed him where to bring it up. He was drilling away patiently there and finally about ten minutes of drilling made me suspicious. So I went down and looked and sure enough, he was trying to drill through an eight inch beam. So then he went down to the cellar and drilled up, which went better.

Finally we got the phone hooked up again. I turned the crank and the bell worked and then I lifted the receiver to see if I could hear anything. I heard "Number please" which scared the hell out of me for some reason. I didn't want to tell the operator what we had done and I couldn't think of anyone to call, so I asked her what day of the week it was instead. Everett looked at me in dumb amazement and the operator stared audibly. But I was told it was Friday, and that was that. Poor Everett acted half afraid of me after that.

Around six thirty the Seidlins came out for a little while, to see the living room. They were very favorably impressed, to say the least. In fact, they were flabbergasted and couldn't remember the other room at all. They said it looked like a different house.

I am told that I look like the wrath of god. I haven't washed my hair for a while and it has absolutely no curl in it. But I don't see taking the time for that and then getting it full of sawdust before it is even dry. Also the different smells and the sinus make me have enormous dark circles under my eyes, so I am getting a lot of pity, which is wonderful. The Scholes are worrying about me, which I appreciate, but the mess is getting cleaned up.

I also went down to see Langworthy. I think I'll just stand there and chatter my teeth a bit and he'll know what I mean. We just can't take baths with the bathroom so cold it freezes the water on you. Right now my breath frosts in the study, but it doesn't really seem that cold in here. Maybe I just have visible halitosis. I hope no tooth paste or mouthwash ad sees that last sentence, because with fall coming they would be very likely to use it for an ad and a lot of dopes would fall for it.

I just slaughtered two king-size spiders. A very messy procedure.

I can't get over what an extreme pleasure this [newly installed] heat is. When we come downstairs in the morning, there it is just as nice and cozey as possible with no effort at all.

I am afraid that I am about to get into trouble over the garage. [Peg had had the old, decrepit barn torn down and the lumber from it sold. As she had planned, she had a two-car garage constructed on the site.] He said the roads were all washed out now from so much rain and he doubted if they would get to that work this fall. Now I don't intend to be left garageless without a struggle... But doggone if they are going to get any of my road if I don't get the loan of the bulldozer. That was part of the bargain.

Sisson --- of the town roads --- came up yesterday. The old sourpuss. I didn't see him arrive, and typically enough he parked on our lawn. That makes me madder than all hell. I was just about to put a little note on it when he showed up. I went over and introduced myself pleasantly enough and asked him if he had business with me. He didn't say who he was (and I didn't know him from Adam) and he said he had no business with me. So I told him to get politely the hell off my lawn. So he turned his car around in a temper and started back down the road. Then I guess he thought better of it or something. I was putting David's overshoes on on the porch. Sisson quonked his horn at me for my attention, and I hate those horns anyway. I thought the devil with him and I took my own good time walking down to the car again.

So then he told me what he was up here for, but still didn't tell me who he was. I knew, but I sort of wish I had asked him just to remind him of his manners. He said he wasn't a bit interested in bulldozing on my property or in straightening the road for the village. I said I didn't know that I blamed him because he had business of his own, but that my dealings had been with the village and still were. Where they got their bulldozer from I didn't know or care. My arrangement I told him was to swap my bit of land to straighten the road for a little work inside the foundation and a little grading, which Lynn Vars and I both considered fair and quite an accommodation to me for the assistance and to him for the opportunity to fix his road... So far as I was concerned I had made plans to go ahead without the bulldozer and I wanted my garage as quick as I could get the carpenters to start on it. If they got here first the offer of straightening the road was off.

He agreed with my point of view and didn't say much more. But I noticed that the bulldozer was down here in the next field a few hours later... I have been chuckling in my beard ever since because I was civil but I didn't let Sisson back me into a hole as he apparently was in the mood for doing. He was even pleasant before he left. It was just a little bit like biting Gramp, I suspect. You know what fun you got out of doing that, don't you, you scamp? I expect Sisson to say "Madam" to me in the future.

Along came Lynn Vars pretty soon looking for me and told me I better get the dickens out to my house and see what was going on. So I did and they had straightened the road and knocked down the retaining wall too. But in doing that they also knocked in the wall that I was going to have faced up for a garage wall. Now I didn't particularly care about the wall. But there it was partly down and there was Sisson smiling and the day seemed mine. So anyway, the whole damn hillside is now graded from the upper field on down over the barn foundation. That took care of some five thousand burdock plants and scrub trees and blackberries, etc. Then I just figured while they did that in such short order they might just as well push around that hill behind the house about where I put in the cherry trees, but above it. I am tickled pink at how nice it looks back there. I have had my difficulties with the various men involved, but by gum, the work is done now, and what a change! Wheaton will never know the place now. I hardly do myself.

All the storm windows are on upstairs, and I attached the fixtures to make them go in and out. It took me a couple of hours and the men could not have done it much quicker, so I figure I saved us a couple of dollars that time. It's the way I earn my keep around here.

Also doggone if I didn't happen into a liquor store and come out with about ten bucks worth of stuff. I don't know what happened, but I believe that it was the old devil himself tugging at the hem of my coat. He tugged good and hard at my wallet too. I may get tugged at again more than once before you get home, but I'd like to have a little arsenal to keep us amused.

The garage is coming along great guns and I am really pleased with it. Everyone says it is much too pretty for a garage, and it is quite a handsome building, and the window in the peak in front makes it look bigger.

I had thought about keeping the little stove, remember? --- the cooking stove we used when we first came here. Richmond said he wanted five dollars for it, so I told him I didn't want it. Imagine that for that hunk of rusty metal!

So the dog house is about four feet long and about three wide, and butts against the house. I made the back wall flush with the floor of the porch and then extended it out to the end of the porch to form a wall to the side of the porch. Then I put a shelf along the top of it. On the other side of the porch I put up a similar wall and will put a shelf on it tomorrow, conditions permitting. I didn't have to tell him [the dog, Laddie] twice what the house was for. He went in and turned around and stuck his head out to smile at us. Then he lay down and stayed there. He loves it.

Then I moved the piano against it, but it still wouldn't go against the wall. The door knob was in the way again, so off it came again, and for future reference it is in your desk drawer along with my left forearm and the missing volumes of the Harvard classics and, as I recently discovered, two of your old wisdom teeth. After all, don't you think that is going pretty far on this hoarding business?

There is nothing like freezing for a while to make one appreciate the pleasures of heat. I positively love our upstairs again now, and for a while I had quite lost interest. I turned the heater on and the little light in our bedroom, so it should be nice and warm and welcomy when I go up. I think how nice it will be for the two of us, with maybe two little glasses of wine on the table beside the beds.

The other car doors finally pulled the same stunt that the one did out in Tacoma. The whole mechanism that puts the window up and down is shot, and instead of letting well enough alone, every damn fool that comes along has to play with it. So now the window is broken too. Finally the spring in the handle broke too, so the door is tied shut right now. I have had the insides to the door ordered for a month or more, and it has finally come. I got so confounded mad about people's trying to "fix" my window for me after I told them in no uncertain terms to let it alone that I nearly lost my temper over it several times.

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