Father John’s House

Naming older houses in West Virginia is not unknown. They are usually either named by the builder or the owner. In this case, it’s both. Father John was an expert carpenter. He was not all that great at wiring or plumbing. In fact, his plumbing efforts fall into the category of appalling.

It was our first winter in West Virginia. Well, first for my siblings and me. Our parents are WV natives, and knew what to expect. As we’d been living in CA since birth, we didn’t have a clue.

There were a lot of things that happened that winter. Our carpenter forerunner had built several other buildings on the property. One was a pair of apartments, an upstairs and a downstairs unit. Unfortunately, he didn’t put in bathrooms.

Those living in the apartments had to go to a shower room in another building, several yards away. The water heater for this little, unheated room was two doors down, so there was very little water pressure. This made keeping tenants rather interesting until bathrooms were installed.

The bathroom in the main house was rather antique in nature. It had a claw footed tub and a *very* tall toilet. All three of us children had to use a stool to take care of business. I remember exactly when it got replaced, too.

My great aunt was coming over for dinner. She was very ladylike and mom wanted to make a good impression on her. Mom had been gone for many years, and had fallen out of touch a bit.

We children decided that we were hungry and wanted an apple. Mom, who was under a lot of pressure, did not want us to eat right then, as it might spoil our appetites. I knew it wouldn’t spoil mine, and eventually we each got one. Mom said, “I don’t want to see an apple in the trash with only one or two bites taken out of it. If you take an apple, you *eat* it.

Two of us did just that. Maybe not down to the core, but enough to satisfy mom. One of us did not. In order to get rid of the evidence, this unnamed sibling decided the toilet was a good option.

It wasn’t.

Our great aunt arrived and went to the bathroom to “freshen up.” She came out and told my mother, very politely, that she thought the toilet might be stopped up. Mom was *not* pleased. I suspect she immediately knew what had happened.

After our great aunt had gone home, mom called her father. Our father was out on a sales trip and wouldn’t be back until the next day, and we needed the problem solved. Grandpa had to take the toilet outside to find the apple. I vividly remember seeing it out on the grass, bright red apple uneaten apple stuck in the pipes.

This was not the only plumbing nightmare that winter. When doing the plumbing, Father John (not a religious title, btw) would branch off from somewhere in the main house, go out to one of the other buildings and then (quite frequently) back to the main house.

While it sounds silly, it posed a big problem for us that year. It was very cold, colder than usual. The pipes kept freezing, and at first we couldn’t figure out what was going on. Every time one froze, they found a new set of pipes that went out somewhere towards the back of the property and returned.

If you’re ever in the market for house that’s older than a hundred years, you may want to ask questions about the person who built it, and the people who have lived there. I’ll bet there are a lot of houses like Father John’s.

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