This is a picture of our master bedroom...in 1980...when it wasn't a master bedroom at all, it was a well-known answering service in our town!
One of our neighbors, whom we didn't know very well, passed away about a year ago. This week, his adult daughter was continuing to sort through her parents' things (her mother is in assisted living due to advanced Alzheimer's), and she found a newspaper article from 1980 that featured the woman who had our home built for her in 1950. Her name is Clover.
Because I find this story so fascinating, especially since we are living in "Clover's home", I would like to share it with you. I wish she had been able to write her autobiography after she retired; unfortunately, she passed away before being able to do that.
I knew some of this story already, because my next door neighbor just behind us was best friends with Clover. They actually both moved up to our town from California to start new lives as neighbors.
Here's the newspaper article from Wednesday, January 30, 1980:
But appearances are deceiving. She gets around. And the smile never leaves her face.
"I've always thought that I could do anything," she says, "and I have."
That includes raising a son (age 23), and running her own business. This year, Clover's Telephone Answering & Secretarial Service (address left out) celebrates its 20th anniversary.
She started the business in 1960 after her second marriage ended in divorce. "I knew I would have to support myself," she says.
For two years, she worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week, operating her telephone answering service, catching catnaps in between calls.
Gradually, the business grew. Today (1980), operating out of what used to be the garage of her home, she employs about 10 persons working in three shifts around the clock.
And in addition to the answering and secretarial service, Mrs. M operates a shortwave radio as part of a nationwide vehicle communications system.
She also publishes a newsletter for county builders which lists jobs coming up for subcontractors. And contractors can come to her office to examine building plans for upcoming jobs.
"My life has been busy, happy, and fulfilled," she says.
Even after the 1937 accident in Los Angeles which left her handicapped, Mrs. M refused to be anything but busy, happy, and fulfilled.
"There's a story I find hard to believe myself," she says, "but I remember in the hospital after the accident I told my mother, 'If this had to happen to somebody, I'm glad it happened to me because I can handle it.' And I think maybe that's because I'm an individualist."
But such problems were quickly overcome. Today she can, for example, cut her own steak, operate a switchboard, and type up to 70 words per minute (her own typing technique involves a combination of the touch system and "hunt and peck.")
She also can drive, with the use of one artificial leg (she does not use the leg for walking), and her car has no special modifications.
Even her house does not betray the fact a handicapped person lives there. The doors are a little wider than normal, the kitchen cupboards a little lower. Otherwise, it could be anybody's home.
"I'm not one to go in for a lot of gadgets," she says. "I think you should be self-sufficient, no matter where you are."
She adds: "I'm quite an egotist. I figure there are a lot of things I can do as well as anybody with two hands. But if it's a three-handed job, I'm not adverse to calling in some help."
Mrs. M may be nearing the end of her business career. "I thought real seriously about selling out and retiring and I almost did it this year," she says, "but I got to thinking about the economy and how crazy it is and decided to stay with it awhile."
When it does end, however, a new career will start. "I want to write my autobiography," she says, because I think I have a story to tell."
But first, she says, there are "two more things I want to do - bobsled or ice sail and fly in a glider plane."
"I think that would really be super."
Even Mickey Spillane would have a hard time topping that.
--David Tishendorf, writer
Julieanne's take on all of this:
I find this true story of Clover's to be amazing. What a strong, capable woman!
When we were looking at houses to buy for our own family, I had walked past Clover's house every weekday for almost three years, but the price was too high for our budget - we only wanted to buy something that we could live in easily when we were down to a single income.
After Clover passed away in 1990 due to lung cancer, a realtor purchased this home for the use of a relative who was using a wheelchair. The room used for the answering service was converted to a master bedroom with a bathroom and laundry "closet". After a short period of time, the handicapped relative was no longer able to live in the house, and various nieces and nephews lived in or rented the house from the realtor owner, their aunt.
In late 1996 or early 1997, the house was placed onto the market again. It had been sorely neglected for six or seven years now, with many of the beautiful landscaping and plants/trees left to "do their own thing." The house remained vacant for almost two years because the price was far too high for the market levels at that time...and because it was located in a low-income level neighborhood.
Eventually, the price was dropped by over $20,000, and it suddenly became available to us as it was near our price range...which was VERY low. People told us we could never find a decent house at that price, but we weren't willing to pay more than that.
We moved in when Kelsi was 3 months old, on the days that were our 30th birthdays - my husband and I have our birthdays only two days apart from each other.
The house was infested with cockroaches, spiders, and ants; my husband called pest control almost immediately (not on my request, but because he HATES those varmints!). I killed a little snake in our house that first weekend we were there. Sigh.
We love our home, even though it has some negatives. It is not in the best of neighborhoods; it is built from concrete block - something that was NOT done in the 1950s when Clover had the house built for her to make it safer in case of a fire; we still haven't been able to remodel the bedrooms and one of the bathrooms - they look like concrete block rooms with very old carpet. The girls' room has reddish "outdoor" style carpet from the 60s or 70s.
But there is a lot we LOVE about our home: a large living room (compared to all of the other houses in our price range back in 1998); four huge nearly floor-to-ceiling windows in our living room and dining room; wide doorways; a large "galley style" kitchen; no wasted space anywhere (the hallway is 6 feet long and contains three doorways).
One of the best features about our house that we find so practical is that Clover had a cement sidewalk poured all around the outside of the perimeter of her house. Having this nice sidewalk (and the accompanying wide overhangs from the roof) enables us to walk completely around our home - outside - even when it is raining and storming, and we don't get wet.
Clover knew what she was doing, and what she needed in a house. She had it designed to fit her needs: easy accessibility, large views of the outdoors, and no wasted space. In addition, it was right next door to a public school, so she could literally look out the large living room windows and watch her son walk to and from school.
Clover's son lives up the street with his wife who developed physical challenges that required her to be in a wheelchair in her younger years up until the present time.
I wish I could have met Clover. I would have admired her spunk!
I hope you enjoyed this true story as much as I do!
Hi! I'm Julieanne!