Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mrs. Vanotti -- Part Four

The house Mrs. Vanotti proposed my mother buy was a big house. Mom knew the house from her many neighborhood walks with me in tow. It was, as I said, three stories tall, sitting on a lot fifty feet long by twenty feet wide, with a small front yard, a bigger back yard, and an undeveloped half basement where coal could be stored for the kitchen furnace which brought water heat by pipes to the first floor and to the radiators in the rooms above.

Mrs. Vanotti suggested my mother could meet the mortgage payments by renting the upstairs two floors of rooms to renters--single men, Mrs. Vanotti advised, not women. Women were trouble, unless it was all women…but renting to only women would limit the desirable renter pool too much. She encouraged my mother rent to men only; working men; single men, men with steady jobs.

Our family could occupy the first floor--living room, bedroom and kitchen plus adjoining pantry room—and maybe an upstairs room reserved for Kurt and me. True, the house was run down, and, true, the economy had not fully sprung back from the Great Depression, but, whatever the circumstances, Mrs. Vanotti always believed in buying your own home, not “wasting” your money on rent. It would require work; the five ‘rent-able’ rooms, three on the third floor, two on the second, would require cleaning and bed-changing during the week. And Mom would have to make sure the renters (men) were courteous to one another. There was only one bathroom, on the second floor, one sink, one toilet, one tub, to serve what would be at least ten people. That would require total ‘community courtesy.’ But, she countered, Mom was stay-at-home Mom and I would be off in school in less than two years. And Kurt could help. We could get it done.

Mrs. Vanotti brought out from behind the counter some paper and a couple of pencils, and she and my Mom sat there all morning figuring rents-to-charge and bills and possibilities. They even figured in a sum for eventual improvements and repairs. Mrs. Vanotti had discovered from her inquiries the roof leaked and there was a problem with rats in the basement. But, she said, until we could afford to make repairs, we could put pots and pans out to catch the drips during the rains and Kurt and I could set the mousetraps with cheese nightly and remove the caught mice in the morning after breakfast and before going to school (which, in fact, we did for quite a few years of our youth, wrapping them in newspaper and depositing them in garbage cans that lined the community alleyway to the street that ran behind the six houses that made up our row).

My mother was quickly and positively convinced. She was ready for whatever work was required. But…the down payment; she and my father had no savings? Mrs. Vanotti told her not to worry. She would loan my mother the money ($100; a deal made on a hug and handshake). Furthermore, Mrs. Vanotti had already talked to a local merchant: the remaining $700 toward the purchase of the $800 house could be financed by the Hanrahan Mortgage Company, a local lender with a nearby office only a few blocks away on Seventh Street and Summit Avenue.

Within days, the details were worked out, and a firm offer for the house was made, and accepted. Within weeks, the paperwork was formalized and signed. The mortgage was made out completely in my mother’s name. My father would not be on it. Nor would his name be on the Deed of Trust. (Whether that was my mother’s idea or Mrs. Vanotti’s, I have no idea. Moreover, I do not know if my father was happy with that arrangement. But I do know that’s the way it was; and would be.)


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