Dear friends, once again it is my pleasure to present to you Kathleen Mae Schneider and Chapter 3 of her exclusive series In-Dell-ible Memories!
She just turned six - this brown-eyed little girl with the huge satin bow tied in her dark hair. Slowly moving back and forth on the porch swing, she dangles her thin pale legs in the warm spring air. In spite of a lingering cough, it feels good to be outside after being so sick.
Margaret's parents had thought she was asleep, whispering as they stood by her side just a few weeks before. Lying on a makeshift bed in the kitchen, she could sense their worry as mother Allie’s cool hand gently soothed her feverish forehead and tucked blankets tightly around her.
It hurt to breathe and she shivered in spite of being next to the stove. She didn’t understand the word ‘influenza’ but she heard them say it killed thousands of people around the world.
Margaret wasn’t worried though because she knew her “Pop” George Brown would make her get well. He and Allie said her high fever would “burn it out of her” and his homemade nasty-tasting special syrup would stop her unrelenting cough. Fumes from the warm poultices of onions and garlic that Allie placed around Margaret's sore throat and on her congested chest stung the child's eyes but, sure enough, the fever left and she could breathe with-
As Margaret rested and slowly recovered she was comforted by her father’s confident voice coming from his office next to the kitchen. She heard him question a portly Southern gentleman sprawled on the couch in the bay window there, loudly extolling the virtues of some inexpensive land in a strange place called Florida.
Pop propped his feet up on his desk and listened intently after offering his guest some of his favorite fresh roasted peanuts from a large bowl. Margaret heard their shells cracking and later the pinging of tobacco ‘juice’ as it hit the ornate brass spittoon on the floor between them.
Two stenographers busily worked at their desks at the other end of the room, processing large stacks of orders for George’s thoroughbred hunting dogs, accounts for automobile parts and advertise-
ments for Brown’s Special Remedies. The noisy voices and tapping of typewriters were familiar sounds that helped little Margaret feel safe and secure as she drifted off to sleep. All was right with her world….
Fast forward if you will to the present. Thanks no doubt to her father’s medicines and her mother’s gentle nursing, that little girl is still with us. The Great Influenza Epidemic of 1917-18 was just the first of several serious illnesses that Margaret would survive in her long life. Although frail and moving haltingly at the Shady Dell open house a few days before her 100th birthday, she frequently stopped and reverently looked around. She never knew the Ettlines or visited their snack bar, but she clearly remembered where her sickbed and the stove once stood in the old kitchen. She lovingly described the elegant room that she knew only as the parlor. As she lingered in the original office that is now a dining room, she proudly re-
called her father working long hours there as a successful entrepreneur.
Is it any wonder I was unconvinced when someone recently said to me that I shouldn’t care who buys the Dell? “It’s just a house,” they said, but to me the Shady Dell is so much more than bricks, mortar and wood as it conjures up curious eerie feelings with every visit.
When I was alone in the house for the first time, I strained to hear the voices and typewriters from a century ago and imagined a tiny cough from the next room. Standing outside, gazing at this stately and graceful building, my college archi-
tecture class about early Colonial Revival style with two-story Victorian bay windows fades. Instead there are visions of my grandfather energetically overseeing three businesses inside the one on the first floor and sharing Allie’s bed behind the one on the second.
And what remains of the wraparound porch and Mother’s much-loved swing? The narrow band of brighter red bricks on the front of the house just above the first floor windows marks the spot that it once occupied. The original can clearly be seen jutting forward in this old photo.
Mother once told me with a wide shy smile that she was never allowed to even be near that swing when her older brothers and sisters “spent time” there with their dates, proving that long before "The Parking Lot" rightly earned its Shady Dell reputation, the house witnessed exactly the same raging hormones and heavy romance!
So this is “just a house? I don’t think so! See more reasons why not, next time, in:
Chapter 2: Margaret is Born...and So Is the Dell
Chapter 1: The Beauty and the Butcher
Introduction: My Shady Dell "Roots"