My First Home: Growing up in a model home

My First Home
Michael Hirshon for The Boston Globe

World War II was over, and the men were returning home. Homesteaded 100 years ago, the land on our family’s Minnesota farm just outside the city limits could now provide housing for returning veterans. Dad had some carpentry skills, and those potato fields he had plowed with oxen could be used for a housing development.

The first house was built for us and became the model home. The two-bedroom Cape had a finished attic that served as the office. Not only could Dad do the paperwork there, but Mother could help out, thanks to a very easy commute. With Dad’s woodworking skills, it had interesting extras: built-in dressers and bureaus; a fireplace with special lighting; a laundry chute to the basement, where there was also a pantry; and a space that could be used as a darkroom. It was the only house in the neighborhood clad in stucco with an attached garage. There were no family or dining rooms in our little homey Cape; we played in our bedrooms, gathered in the living room, and ate in the kitchen.

Dad’s construction company outgrew the space and relocated to a permanent spot downtown. With two more children arriving, we two sisters were given the entire attic. What fun that was. Because it had been an office, it was knotty pine and had built-in shelving that we filled with dolls and toys and, later, games and books. During the day, we played there with our friends, but at night it was just for us and our vivid imaginations. We actually believed our parents thought we were in bed instead of playing in the dim light of the AM radio.

As houses were built and sold, our friendships grew. It was not unknown to have a child dropped off for us to entertain as their parents looked at a house to buy. Soon backyards blended into areas for hide and seek, red rover, and kick the can. We can still name our friends who lived on our dead-end street more than 50 years ago.

As we grew older, we had more and more freedom to wander the neighborhood. We were fortunate there were sidewalks everywhere. In one direction was the grade school with a playground and ice and hockey rinks. There was a heated shack for skaters and socializing. In another direction was an undeveloped area with trees to climb and a pond. In our imaginations, that became our every place, from the African jungle to the Wild West. We could walk to our grandparents’ and the large brick farmhouse where our great-aunt and great-uncle still lived.

When the fifth child arrived, there really wasn’t sufficient space, so we moved to a much larger house with more than one bath — and a bomb shelter. It was the height of the Cold War.

We are happy the original farmhouse now houses the sixth generation of close relatives, but we two will always have fond memories of our first home.

Kathleen Hurley Murray is retired and a volunteer in Falmouth. Candace Hurley Aeckerle lives in Colorado. Send comments or a 550-word essay on your first home to Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.