Living in the past

I have been living  in the 1940s this past week while doing research for my historical novel–Allied Arts Girls. I’ve been thinking about rationing of food and gasoline, no nylons, Gray Ladies, victory gardens, weekend passes, military hospitals, World War 2 (reading “Pearl Harbor Christmas,” by Stanley Weintraub), and today I went out to look at the houses these “girls” lived in during the ’40s.

I came home very depressed, having found the homes to be in rather disreputable states; and then I remembered, it’s been 72 years, what did I expect these houses to look like? The neighborhoods, though, on the whole, were still in good shape. One of the women lived in one of the best neighborhoods in Fresno, and it’s still in good shape, and still upscale. I decided, though, in seeing the actual house, that I would move her down the street to a bigger house.

Harriet's Actual House

The substitute at the end of the block.

Same thing happened in another neighborhood. The actual house had been made over so I decided the one next door looked more like what the original house should be.

Vivian's original house where the porch was closed in.

The house next door that I will substitute.

June’s house has been abandoned, probably due to the mortgage fiasco.

June's house.

Being empty, I was able to prowl around and peek in windows. Cute house with a nice patio off of the living room. The fireplace in the living room became a barbecue pit on the outside. However, the condition of the house was sad. The hardwood floors had been damaged. Light fixture in the dining room was on the floor. Kitchen looked to be trashed, but the cabinets were still original so it gave me a real feel of what the place had been like in the ’40s. Builtin closet in the front bedroom. Only two bedrooms, 1 bath, but that was quite common during that time period. People lived in smaller homes than they do now. All of the houses, except for Harriet’s, were small. Seeing Vivian’s house has caused me to come up with a different storyline for her. By the 60s she had a different address, so I’m assuming they moved, but in my novel, I’ll keep her in the original house until she moves to a retirement village.

Yesterday evening Terry and I went on a tour of downtown office spaces, and two of the buildings are pretty much the same as they were in the 1930s and 40s. That was fun to imagine myself in one of the offices.

A small office in the Light & Power Building

Of course, I have no idea what kind of work I would be doing there. I told Terry I could sit on the floor and write, getting up every so often to look out the window onto the city skyline as the places I liked best were the ones on the 8th or 9th floor.

I have more work to do in the 40s and then I will shift to the next character and take on the 50s.

6 responses to “Living in the past

  1. Those homes are in an interesting neighborhood. I’ve done lots of work in that area and some of those homes are gorgeous on the inside. Well maintained/upgraded. Great setting!

    • Harriet was the only one who lived on Huntington; the other girls lived in the Tower/Fresno High neighborhood. Their homes were actually within walking distance of one of another, and I have an idea this was why they started their club in 1940. This was at a time when the city was just beginning to go north with many of the church members still downtown or elsewhere.

  2. This will be a labor of love, it seems to me. I appreciate you taking the time to go around and check out the original homes. I think you’re doing it just right, and I look forward to reading more of your adventures in recreating the past.

    • I only had one person question me. A neighbor in Roberta’s neighborhood asked if she could help me and when I explained I was doing historical research about the neighborhood and that house in particular. She had lived in the same house since 1969 so was able to tell me a few details. I’ve had to research the 40s and 50s because I was not around during that time.

  3. Pingback: Google, can you do a street view of 1940? | Dkzody's Weblog

  4. Reblogged this on Dkzody's Weblog and commented:

    Three years ago I was doing research for The Allied Arts Girls novel I was writing. The “book” is finished, but it’s fun to think back to the details that went into writing it.

    Today I am meeting a friend and we will walk the Huntington Boulevard. Maybe I’ll stop by Harriet’s house and see how it’s doing.

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