In the house on a hot summer afternoon

Last year around this time I was asked to write some blog posts for Fresno Historical Society that would be published on their website. I wrote the posts but nothing was ever done with them. Since it’s been a year, I think they deserve the light of day so I am publishing them on my own blog. 

Kearney Mansion as it currently looks

Kearney Mansion as it currently looks

It’s a hot summer afternoon, and although Mr. Kearney would most likely have been far away from Fresno on a day like this, here I sit, at his desk, pondering what he would have worked on today had he been in attendance. The estate office would be busy in this season of growth and harvest. Weight tickets piling up to be calculated and filed. The vault door would swing open often as money was exchanged. People delivering, picking up, paying bills, getting their wages. The clerks would have been busy processing invoices, writing cheques, sorting through harvest figures.

The almonds are being harvested as I drive up Kearney Boulevard and into the park this afternoon. Grapes are ready to pick. Soon the raisins will be on the ground, drying. Because of the commotion that would have been in the estate office, I have closed the connecting door so I am not disturbed. I can look out into the entry way and up the stairs. The housekeeper, Mastuichi Nakamichi, may have been finishing with cleaning the bedrooms and making his way down the stairs to see if Mr. Kearney had anything he needed to have done, wiping the banister as he came. Would Mr. Kearney point out the smudge on the mirror in the entry?

I have a clear view of the porch. Who would have been tromping up the steps and onto the porch at this time of year, back in 1905? The buzzers are built into almost every room in the house so as to call servants and workers at the push of a button. Who would Mr. Kearney have summonsed today? Would he want to know how the almond harvest is coming along? How many more days? Would he call the vineyard dressers in to hear how big the grape harvest will be this year? When would they need pickers?

The trees in the park are now so large, reaching to the sky. Blocking any view. Could I see the chateau’s location from the one window in the office if the trees were still small? Did Mr. Kearney sit here and look out and dream of his castle, and look up and see the lithograph of what it would be when completed? Did he think of more furnishings for the castle? Would his investors come calling, on a hot afternoon? Who would have made the drive out the long driveway, now called Kearney Boulevard, to have visited on a hot summer afternoon? Perhaps Mr. Kearney would summons Harry Kunishige from the kitchen to bring cool glasses of lemonade for the visitors. Cooled with the ice stored in the ice house, which is still there, across the roadway from the superintendent’s lodge.

Sitting at the dining room table, I get a feeling for what it must have been like for Kearney to have his meals here. What was served? Who brought the food over from the kitchen that is in the servant’s quarters? Who actually served it and what did they do while Mr. Kearney ate? The house is remarkably quiet. Not a sound on this hot afternoon. No secrets being given up. Just as Kearney would have wanted it.

With no school children, no guest tours, no farm employees, the house rings hollow. It seems so lonely. It seems to wait. To wait for life to come in the door, whether through the front as guests or through the rear as servants and estate workers. Or, for Mr. Kearney to return and complete the work he started 110 years ago. For now, the house is held in suspension…waiting.

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5 responses to “In the house on a hot summer afternoon

  1. So good. I can’t figure out why they didn’t publish it. I like the idea of a grand house waiting for something.

  2. You brought me right into the place with your words. I’m glad that there are many of us who can appreciate this now. I lived in Bakersfield for a few years when I was growing up, and I suspect it was similar in feeling to Fresno. I do remember the summer heat very well. And thinking about all that activity going on a century ago, one thing you know: there was no a/c. 🙂

  3. nice writing,such an appreciation for history you have.

  4. This is truly excellent, Delaine. I agree with Marianna. I don’t know why they didn’t post it immediately. It is beautifully written.

    • Thank you, all, for your kind words. I think part of the issue with these posts is that there has not been a do-over of the historical society’s web page as had been planned. I was originally asked to write 10 to get started, but after the first four, I was told the idea was put onhold for the time being so I never completed the 10 pieces. I prefer being on the site as I write the basics so have not gone back out to do some of the others such as the children’s room, the carriage house, Christmas.

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