I can't remember the upheaval of moving, though I can visiting the house at 503 St. Davids Avenue, and being shown my room to be, which was in back, up spiraling stairs from the kitchen; and which once had been a two‑room nursery for twins, but then had had the dividing wall removed, so only a plastered‑over ridge remained in the ceiling. Together Mom and I chose a mostly green, scotch plaid pattern for the wallpaper; the trim paint would be mint green. Over and over, I heard, the house had cost thirty thousand dollars, but then we had to put in a lot of work not only on the interior, but in roofing, painting, landscaping and yard work. Mom had a wall knocked out in the kitchen, to include what had been a butler's pantry in the larger room as a "breakfast nook." A sun porch off the living room had been uncovered, and we had windowed walls put in permanently and radiators connected, so that it became part of the inside of the house. The same size, roughly, as Bloomingdale, the house was mostly brick; including the sun porch, there were seven rooms, a lavatory, a maid's bathroom, and a central hallway downstairs; four bedrooms, a hallway, and three baths on the second; and two bedrooms, a bath, and the attic on the third. A two‑car garage was in back. And down a steep, enclosed stairway from the hall, there was a tiled "playroom" in the basement, with dark, massive beams overhead, a stone fireplace, and wooden bar, like a sales counter, complete with four bar stools in front, shutters that closed across the bar, and a sink, spigot and wine cupboards in back. Then, from the bottom of the stairs, through another door, was the unfinished basement‑‑with hot water heaters, the oil burner, oil tanks, and huge boiler‑‑and then the "laundry room," where a cage‑like, slatted cabinet collected laundry from a chute that originated with a little door in the second‑floor closet (playing hide and seek, I climbed into this cabinet, which was sturdy enough to support my weight, and sometimes I even squirmed out of sight into the square duct of the chute itself). Here also was Mom's big Bendix washer and dryer, an old stone double sink, with a washboard, and a sump pump, buried in a well in the floor and covered over with a wooden box. And here, the cellar door and rickety steps up the stone well outside, to wooden bulk‑head doors that locked from inside with a wooden bar. In big storms, we soon learned, the basement would fill with as much as a foot of muddy water, so we had irrigation gutters put in along the playroom walls, graded so that a golf ball would start at the fireplace, roll around, then disappear into a pipe, which joined another pipe from a different direction in the furnace room floor. Here you had to lift a drain grate to save the ball before it continued into the laundry room and dropped into the sump pump well.
A row of bells, from sleigh‑type to hammer‑on‑dome, had to be disconnected over the kitchen doorway because we kids would tease Mom, Dad, and Anna by pushing buzzers in the dining room, living room and master bedroom upstairs, causing one to ring and be mistaken for the doorbell. There was also a speaking tube in the master bedroom wall, as on a ship, which had once connected to the kitchen, but now was defunct.
Our driveway, dividing around a large, islanded Maple at the corner of Chamounix Road and St. Davids Avenue, curved down, sloping, like a private street (it was sometimes mistaken for one) past the front door, with a branching spur back to the kitchen door and garage, then up and out at the eastern corner of our property on St. Davids Avenue. Both entrances were flanked by brick gateposts with lanterns on top, which were electric, controlled from a switch in our foyer, and the glass panes of which proved easy targets for vandals. Ten or so additional brick posts bordered the street sides of our yard at intervals, with a five foot high spiked fence (each iron bar a spear) running between them. The planting along the fence included high shade trees, evergreens, and a dense cover of tree‑like rhododendrons that closed our house and yard from view. On the upper terrace of the front yard, the rhododendrons had been extended to form a thicket, with a tunnel‑like stepping stone path winding from one side of the yard to the other, and then, midway, on either side, with branching paths that emerged in a grassy plateau bordered by flower beds and azalea bushes. Below this, a patch of front lawn was bordered by a crescent-shaped stone wall, with an elaborate fountain and fish pond built up in the middle and matching steps on either side leading to the raised garden. Viewed from our front door, this all was symmetrical. The fountain itself was a crescent‑shaped stone enclosure. Its back formed a low wall on the upper tier, while in front water spouted into a turquoise hemisphere. Originally, this pond drained by underground pipe to a second pond in the rear of the side yard, which once had formed the centerpiece of a rose arbor, with benches, and again, with walks; all of which we had cleared out, and the pond filled in, leaving an expanse of lawn for play.
In front, the house had a small brick porch, ten by fifteen feet, with two white columns supporting the corners of a triangular overhang at the third floor. At its base each column was a yard or so in diameter, like a tree; and on either side were southern magnolia trees‑‑a breed different from our magnolias at Bloomingdale, skinny, with sticky blossoms and no good for climbing. On a heavy chain from the porch overhang, a porch light lantern hung. We'd have to crawl out Dad's bathroom window to a false balcony, right over the front door, to reach for the porch light and change its bulb.
Overall, house and yard suggested, scaled down for a single acre, a little Monticello; it even had its own name "Bonalton," chiseled on the gateposts, which we covered over with wooden plaques reading HENRY. In fact, the house had been built as an outpost of “Walmarthon,” the Walton estate, the entrance to which was half a mile or so down Chamounix and to the right.