Stephenson Tales


Sometimes Lucy Chase's and my philanthropic impulses get the better of our judgment. Next door to Harper House to the north is a vacant lot which came with the real estate package when we bought it with the money that Mother Wright left Lucy Chase. Once we had a boat and dock we needed some place to store things down on the shore so we planned a "boat house" for that purpose. It could also be used for guests to sleep.

Somehow Chay learned of a man who lived in Thompsonville - about 15 miles from our house - who was good worker and "could do anything." They were right - he could do anything. That is not saying how well however.

So we contacted him - Lawrence Myers - and contracted for him to do some rewiring in our house: two way switches on the inside stairing; a night light for outside the back door; an electric outlet on the front porch, etc. He did well and, as my mom used to say, "were right pleased."

He and Lucy Chase went over some sketches to see what would be needed for the house on the shore. Just at that time he knew of a house that was being torn down in Traverse City and the owners were selling all kinds of used doors, windows, and useful pieces of lumber. So we went in and bought six doors, one large "picture window" and two regular-size windows. I bought a couple of baggage trailer fulls of of cement blocks, some 2x4 and 2x6 construction boards as well as some 2x10 and 2x12 planks for roof supports. And he went to work.

As it happened we were not at Harper House during the first critical construction of the building. Lucy Chase was driving her sister and her friend Blair Cooper far up into Canada. I was teaching full time and rehearsing every day at the Music Camp. Therefore I had my miund entirely on my work at the Camp, and although I could see every day that he was progressing, I did not really inspect his work carefully. When Chay got home we went down together. To our dismay we found that he had built it in three almost useless sections on three different levels. They were the width of the building, but the actual "living space" was only about 7 feet from the front (lake side) of the building. Then there was a four foot cement block wall and four feet farther back from that was another one laid into the bank. The outside walls went up about 2 1/2 feet above this second wall. His plan was to build on up six more feet which would have raised the flat top of the building to almost the level of the ground at the top of the bank which would have effectively cut off the entire view of the south half of the lake!

He had done one very clever thing however: between the two side-by-side doors on the north side he had made a removable "plug" which, when removed, and the two doors opened, created an opening wide enough to carry our aluminum boat (The Al 'n' John) inside for winter storage.

When Lucy Chase saw what he was planning for the height of the building she stopped him where he was, pointing out to him what it would do to our view of the lake from Harper House. So he just put on a roof at that level. Our boat house turned out to be a lot less than we had envisioned.

When Dad saw it he looked at with with ill-concealed contempt. There was not one "square" corner in the entire structure and the 8 upper windows on the lake side: no two had the same dimensions! So he went to work rebuilding and undoing some of the things that were wrong. He removed the middle wall, dug down under the back cement wall and installed a new concrete block wall below it - so now the "living space" was eleven feet from front to back. Then he put in two 4-inch pipes better to support the span of the roof from north to south and laid in an entire fouch-inch thick concrete floor. What a man!

This resulted in a liveable space. We put in a single bed by the door, a double bed against the back wall, a double decker bed in the corner against the south wall, and a double bed with its head against the sill of the big south window. It remained this way until the intrepid Robert completely finished the interior, with insulated walls, wallboard, wiring, electric heat radiators all across the front and south end, hot and cold running water (with pipes laiud in from Harper House above). He also partitoned off part of the north end to include the door next to the bank. He used the planks from my famous dock - which gave me a "workshop." He built a storage closet in the south corner where the double-decker had been and a railed sleeping area on top of it for Rebecca and Andrew and a stairway for access. He got some cabinets that his school were throwing out, made a kitchen, built a beautiful table and chairs; so FINALLY it is really a most attractive summer place for himself and family.

He also built a very large deck on the front outside a sliding door where one of the front windows used to be. It was beautiful - with a gate right at ground level so Lucy Chase's wheelchair could come in from the pontoon on to the dock and then on to the deck; a railing so the children would not fall off. One of our jealous neighbors went out on Joe Rice's dock, next door, and took a picture of it and reported it to the zoning officer who made Rob remove the entire railing. She told him that the flat deck was acceptable but the railing had to go. She also told him privately not to throw out the railing material because some of the members of the board had similar decks and wanted railings themselves, so that prohibition was, in all probability, going to be rescinded! I believe that has actually come to pass, but in the meantime Rob has used the material at his home in Okemos.

Lawrence? He worked for Chay's mom briefly at 2101 in Ann Arbor then got a job as custodian in one of the dorms on the U of M campus.

Composed 21 November 2008, transcribed by Robin

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008.

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