The First (Upstairs) Court Street Apartment



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Well, when I was eighteen years and four and a half months old, I got married.

There was talk, young and poor as we were, that we would move in with my in-laws. I didn’t like that idea (though my in-laws were wonderful people!) and neither did my sister, Brenda. When everyone else was telling me there was no way we could find a place to rent with our meager income, Brenda was helping me scour the newspaper classified ads, to look for affordable rentals. She was helping me plan a reasonable budget. She made me excited about having my own place, and setting up my own household.

My soon-to-be husband made about ninety dollars a week working on the line at a small factory. I worked two days a week as a Nurse Aide at the hospital; it paid minimum wage. About a month before the wedding, we put a security deposit down, and paid first month’s rent for an odd little upstairs apartment on Court Street in Lapeer, Michigan. The rent was $105.00 a month, heat included.

The address, if memory serves, was 207B N. Court Street. It was two blocks away from the beautiful old Lapeer County Court House where sit-ins and other protests occasionally took place. It was across the street from Anrook Park, and walking distance to all of downtown. The building had been a large, Victorian duplex. It had a big front porch, heavy doors and etched glass in the transom windows. It had clearly been an impressive building, at one time. Not so much, in 1971, when we rented it.

At some point, the building had been divided into four apartments, with the bare minimum in adjustments. Our apartment had once been the upstairs bedrooms for one of the duplexes. That’s how it was laid out. When you crossed the porch and went through the entry door, you found yourself in a small foyer. To the right was a door that led into the downstairs apartment. Straight ahead was our door. There was barely enough space for it to swing open, and beyond it, immediately, were stairs going up.

At the top of the stairs, there was a long hall. Straight ahead, what had originally been a bedroom was now plumbed, wired and divided into an alcove that held the only sink, a kitchen and a bathroom. down the hall and off to the right was a large room with a walk in closet. Though it was clearly meant to be a bedroom, because of its close vicinity to the entry, we deemed it the living room. At the very end of the hall was the largest room; we used that as the bedroom.

The building had clearly settled over the years. The room that we called the living room had a two-foot drop from one side of the room to the other. The hallway tilted to the north and the west. The bathtub sat at a rakish angle that was most evident when filled. The walls were rough plaster covered with a variety of wallpapers. Floors were linoleum with old fashioned patterns. We thought it was all quite wonderful!

The kitchen was my favorite room. It had one of the few brand new furnishings: a small dining room set, purchased from the trailer factory outlet. Oval in shape, metal legs supported a dark brown wood-look top, and four gold vinyl chairs. The wallpaper in that room was a floral red, yellow and blue pattern on a cream ground. I hung my “Uncle Sam wants YOU” poster on the wall. I brought in the wedding gifts of daisy patterned melamine dishes, Teflon pans and CorningWare.  I had the cutest set of glasses: clear with red and white stripes around the bottom and blue stars around the top. My  father-in-law had picked them up at a country auction, and gave them to me when he saw that they went along with my color scheme.

I don’t have a single photograph of this apartment. I can picture it clearly in my mind, though, as if it was only yesterday that I tilted down that crooked hall!


4 responses »

  1. How optimistic we are about everything when we’re young! This made me smile as we live in an old house and all the floors slope. In one room the beds are on chocks of various sizes so that people don’t roll out during the night. Do you still have the glasses?

  2. My daughter just bought a crooked old farmhouse, and has similar problems. Unfortunately, I treated those novel glasses as if they were any old things, and accidentally scrubbed the stripes off any that didn’t get broken. I have one blanket, bright green, that came to me as a wedding gift. It’s a bit tattered, but is the only thing that’s still around from that era. Thanks for reading, Linda, and for your comments!

  3. You don’t really need photographs – memories of one’s first grown-up apartment seem to never fade, and you do a great job describing it. I think the coolest part of your description is that the building had transoms. I love those!

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