Describe the homes you lived in as a child.

Describe the homes you lived in as a child.


454 ½ Second, Webster City, Iowa. (Birth -1949)

We lived in an apartment above my grandfather’s auto parts store. My grandparents also had an apartment there as did my Uncle Jack and his wife Sally. This is the house I was brought home to when I was born.

Raymond, Robert, Teddy, and Paddy Thorpe

Johnston, Iowa. (1949-1950)

My father was attending Iowa State College’s Camp Dodge Campus in Johnston. We lived with “Grandma and Grandpa” Fisher. Judy was born while we were living here.

3117 Merle Hay Road, Des Moines, Iowa (1950-1958)

    This is the first address that I have any real memories of. My first friends were made here. Some of them were: Craig Strain (best friend) and his little brother Allen, Billy and Diana Jo Lefler, Georgie Braden and siblings Patty, Diana, Jeannie, and Jimmy, Cheryl Rae McCoy, Dean Sage, Ricky and Randy Phillips, Troy Leason, Gene Crosby, and Rod Atha. Bunny and Lisa were born while we lived here. A bungalow, this house has since been torn down because of termite damage.

4111 52nd Street, Des Moines, Iowa. (1958-1960)

This was our new house, The American Dream. It was on the edge of town, the city limits were at the bottom of the hill, a half block away. Beyond that, there was only farmland northwards. My best friend here was Bob Lohr. Other good friends were: George Vignovich, and Mike Giventer. George Vignovich is my only childhood friend who has remained an active friend into my adult life. A year of so after we moved to this house, my father got laid off from Lennox and went to Cedar Rapids to find work. He lived in a boarding house and we lived in Des Moines. He would come home on weekends and usually brought us donuts or other pastries as a treat. This must have been a horrible life for my folks and before long we moved to Cedar Rapids.

4111 52nd St

George Vignovich, Mike Giventer, Robert Thorpe, Bob Lohr

809 15th Avenue SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1960)

Our first home in Cedar Rapids. We did not live here long, we were only renting. Most of my junior high friendships were made when we lived here: Steve Vosatka and Keith Andrews. Unknown to us, the owners of this house had it up for sale when we were renting it and sold it while we were there. Rather than tell us that, they had a police woman come to the house and evict us.

3023 Schaeffer Drive SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1961)

This was a much nicer house than 809. We rented it too. It was owned by the next door neighbor, Clem Philipp, who had moved out of it after building a bigger house in which to house his five kids. His brother’s family lived on the other side of us. There were 13 children in their family. They were Catholic. My folks had started plans to build a new house in Cedar Rapids. There was a vacant lot just two lots away to the north that the plans were created for. However, the Philipp’s with the 13 kids used this lot for a play ground (it was not theirs). When they found out we were going to buy it they made life miserable for us. They were mean to us kids and dumped their wash water on their patio, which flowed immediately into our yard. We decided to move. Our neighbors across the street were the Sheriffs and figured prominently in many anecdotes.

398 28th Avenue SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1962)

I didn’t like this house as much. It was an old farm house and had been moved to this location. We rented from a man named Harry O’Dean. He raced stock cars in the Cedar Rapids area and had a fairly successful record. About this time I made friends with Jim Cada. He was to be my best friend all the rest of junior high and through high school. Eventually, he was the best man at our wedding. He has been married twice and he and his second wife had a baby, Olivia (his first, her second) when he was over 40. Lord help him. We didn’t stay long in this house either, work was being done on our new house.

3020 Southland Street SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1962?-1966)

The Thorpe Family’s second shot at the American Dream. This house was designed by Dad for the lot on Schaeffer Drive but after being run out by the Philipps we had no desire to live next door to them. Besides, there was another lot directly behind where we lived on Schaeffer and it cost less than half and was bigger. My dad merely had the blueprints printed reversed. The slope of the land was identical but it was a little hard to read the reversed lettering on the plans. Dad contracted the whole project himself as well as designing the house. This home more than any other was the family homestead. My mother lived there till she died in 2015 and left the house to my sister Lisa. Lisa sold it to her son Seth who lives there now (2021).

On Southland Street I had a room of my own for the first time. In order to get it, I had to agree to have my room in the basement but all in all it was worth it. I still officially lived there when I went to college and I kept possession of my room even after Karen and I got married.

Beyer House, Friley Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa (1966-1967)

John Hawn and Robert Thorpe

I had three different rooms in Beyer House. I thought it would be more fun to switch rooms every quarter and have a new roommate. My first room was a three-man room and my roommates were Stan McAninch from Indianola and Nyle Hodges from Panora. Winter quarter I had a new roommate and even though I lived with him for three months I can’t for the life of me remember his name. He came from Princeton, Illinois. Spring quarter I moved again. This time my roommate was John Hawn from Ankeny, Iowa. John is a good and close friend of mine to this very day. Many of the people who lived in Beyer House were from Indianola. My roommate Stan, a guy called Leroy (but who’s real name was something else), Parker Westlake Swan who taught me the rudiments of musical chord structure, and a couple of other people. Because of them, one of their friends from another dorm used to hang around, Jeff Kragskow and he brought along one of his friends, John Teufel. The summer after my freshman year I was living at home in Cedar Rapids and got injured playing soccer. I couldn’t get back to college in the fall and worked that quarter. I returned for winter quarter.

2526-1/2 Lincolnway, Apt. #2, Ames, Iowa (1967)

When I got back to school I took up residence with Jeff Kragskow in an apartment above Wally’s Pipe Shop. Teufel, who lasted one semester into his sophomore year had been living with Jeff and had just dropped out of college. This was Jeff’s apartment and I just lived there. I had three old davenport cushions and a fitted sheet that made them into a mattress. I didn’t feel like the place was my own and I always felt like I was a bit of a guest so in the spring I moved out.

410 Welch, Ames, Iowa (1968)

This was my first apartment by myself. It was in a basement in the furnace room and there was only a bamboo curtain between me and the furnace itself. It was pretty Spartan. I rented it from a religious guy who wouldn’t allow any women in the place. That wasn’t a problem since I wasn’t dating or any thing but it was kind of ballsy of him to have such a rule. Nobody obeyed it anyway. Upstairs there was a guy who had a python or boa that was named Stretch. My two basement housemates were a couple of Nigerians who kept the kitchen reeking of African concoctions made primarily from chicken necks and Contadina Tomato Paste. They were the blackest people I have ever seen, as black as coal and the whites of their eyes were brownish tinged, the pupils so dark brown that they looked black. They had ceremonial scars on their cheeks. They were quite frightening to see but of course, they were always as friendly as could be. I was living here when I dropped out of college due to goofing off too much.

On the road (1968)

When I dropped out of college, I didn’t have any real reason to stay in Ames. I had friends there, but I had friends in Iowa City, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. I took to hitchhiking around and I spent no more than two or three days in any one of the four places mentioned above. I would visit my friend George Vignovich in Des Moines. He was married by now. I hadn’t known his wife Kay before they were married but she and George are still good friends. In Iowa City I stayed with Mike Shahan or Mike Kohler and Ned Kohl. In Cedar Rapids I’d drop in at home every now and then to get fed or do my laundry and off I’d go again. In the late spring or early summer I needed money so I got a job as a chauffeur. I travelled all over Iowa, Missouri and eastern Kansas. I stayed in a motel in Springfield, Mo. for a while when the car broke down. My boss, Sherman Kamens, stayed with his girlfriend/business partner and I was alone. When we were in Kansas City I got the notice for my pre-induction draft physical and flew back to Cedar Rapids. I passed and was looking forward to being drafted anytime. It took a long time, six months or so. In the fall I was hitchhiking a bit and was paying rent with my friends Teufel and Greg James on an apartment on Heyward in Ames. I was hardly ever there though. I needed money again and one time while I was in Iowa City I got a job painting signs. I decided to wait for my draft notice in Iowa City.

310 South Capitol, Iowa City, Iowa (1968)

I only lived here a couple of weeks and by rights this address could be attributed to my “On the road” section. But it is noteworthy. 310 was the undisputed hippy flop house of Iowa City. It was urban renewed long ago but is notorious just the same. The owner, Max Yocum, was a classic slum lord. He was run out of Iowa City at one time or another. He had cobbled three or four old houses into one huge slum apartment complex. The rent was cheap and the neighbors were of like minds and it was an exciting place to live. I moved only because I got a better deal.

327 South Dubuque Street, Iowa City, Iowa (1968)

This apartment was the converted attic of my boss’s house. His name was Jim Gaeta and he lived on the first floor with his wife and jillion kids. I worked as a sign painter in his sign shop that was a lean-to shack on the side of the house. He had two apartments on the second floor and mine was upstairs from them on the third floor. Hardly any photos of this house exist. The photo above is a composite of what showed of the house when the two adjoining houses were photographed for urban renewal. My apartment window shows on the left side at the top. The rent was low, something like $35 a month and I only had to walk downstairs to go to work. My boss hardly ever paid me so he always owed me enough that I didn’t have to pay rent. I lived here when Karen and I started getting serious but the rest of my life was in disarray and I got out of Iowa City at the beginning of 1969. Like 310 S Capitol, this house has been torn down in the name of progress.

3020 Southland Street SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1969-1970)

I moved back home and in March I got a job at Collins Radio in preparation for our upcoming wedding. When we were first married, I, now along with Karen, continued to live at 3020. Besides my room, the rest of the basement was given over to us for an independent apartment. This is the home we brought our baby Lance to. We lived here till we could rent a house of our own.


720 7th Street SW

When I was born, my family lived at 720 7th Street SW in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The house was on the corner of the street and the large backyard was along 8th Avenue. I don’t have any memories about living there because my family moved next door when I was still an infant. I lived in that house at 714 7th Street for the rest of my childhood until I left for college.

714 7th Street SW

I have many warm memories about the house at 714. It was built in 1918 and was a large, square, two-story house with a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the ground floor. The bedrooms and bathroom were on the second story. The basement was dominated by a huge octopus furnace in the center. My dad had a small workshop down there and it also had a big area for laundry which included a shower that we only used in the summer. I hated going down there in the dark because I always imagined a monster was on the other side of the furnace from me and just waiting to get me.

Spicer kids in the living room

Our house was just a half block from Taylor Elementary that had a big playground and a flooded skating rink in the winter so my childhood included lots of roller skating on the sidewalks, playing in our yard or the yards of neighbors, ice skating, bike riding, or playing on the school playground.

Karen and cousin Peggy

I shared a big bedroom with my sisters. Before Linda was born, Sue and I slept together in a double bed and Diane had a single bed to herself. Later, when Dick left for college, Diane moved into his small room and Sue had the single bed and Linda and I shared. At first the room was decorated with yellow wallpaper that I thought was just beautiful. Later the wallpaper was taken down and the room was painted pale blue. It had a small closet with a step at the back that was probably covering some plumbing or something. I often would crawl in there with a flashlight and a book and hide away for a while. When I was a teenager my parents gave me my own princess style phone to have in my room. I felt very grown up.

The house also had a large screened in porch on the front. We would sit out there in the summer to stay cool. Sometimes we were allowed to sleep on the daybed out there on a hot summer night. I know I had at least one slumber party there with 8 girls laughing, talking, snacking, and sleeping on the floor.

My house was not far from Kingston Stadium where HS football games were played. My friends would meet up at our house before the game, and walk to the stadium together. Afterwards, we would walk back and make a Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pizza from a box mix. Pizza was a new thing in Cedar Rapids in the early 60’s. By today’s standards the mix would have been terrible but back then we all loved it. We’d take over the kitchen for the rest of the evening. My parents were always great about us having friends over. I had many sleepovers, game nights, and just friends hanging out over the years.

I had a very family oriented life. We all ate meals together, had family game nights, watched TV together, and had visits from aunts, uncles, and cousins. I met boyfriends there when I went on dates, got ready for homecoming dances and proms, and had my wedding reception there.

Jim Cada, Robert, Karen and Judy Thorpe

Carrie Stanley dorm

The only other place I lived before I got married was the Carrie Stanley dorm on the University of Iowa campus. It was the newest dorm at the time. I lived in a three person room with two other girls from Iowa. Lori, from Des Moines, was beautiful and very sophisticated. She smoked and went to lots of parties at fraternity houses. Linda, from Elkader, was pretty irritating and was a member of The Highlander bagpipe band that played at football games. We got along pretty well all considered. Overall, I thought it was fun living in the dorm because it was my first taste of independence. There were hall activities and lots of socializing. There were a lot of rules though, and girls had curfew hours. The doors to the dorm were locked at midnight on weekends so you had to ring a doorbell to get in if you were late. There was some penalty for it. I forget what it was because the only time I was late, I had my date take me to my sister’s apartment where I spent the night.

Karen at Carrie Stanley dorm

This post is part of the StoryWorth project that I am participating in.
At the ButchieBoy main page click the Storyworth catagory to see all the entries in the series.

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