Urban Renewal: Fixing Up A Staircase

Stand to support the extension ladder.

Stand to support the extension ladder.

Our urban renewal continues with one of the more challenging aspects, painting above the staircase. This first required making a stand that the ladder could be put on. Wanting it to be absolutely solid for my 20′ extension ladder, it took nearly as long to make the stand as the paint the staircase (I’m told I paint fast). As you can see I made sure it had enough support, along with being screwed into the stairs.

Here I am (behind the ladder) paint the blue-aqua on the staircase.

Here I am (behind the ladder) paint the blue-aqua on the staircase.

It was interesting being that high painting in a house but the limited space actually made it seem pretty safe, there wasn’t much room for things to move around. We did the first floor in bright colors, since we were both tired of safe neutrals. My artistic son should be happy and was in part the inspiration. A person can also see through the whole house looking in the front window so the colors had to coordinate.

Upstairs we wondered about a theme for coordinating colors and ultimately were inspired by Meg’s sister’s beach photos. The sky blues, aqua greens, beige sand, white clouds seemed obvious after a while. So the bedroom is cobalt blue with white trim, the studio sky blue (with all the windows in there it made sense to extend the sky into the room), and the bathroom sand beige. We are asking Melissa to send us her pictures so we can print them and put up to honor the inspiration, maybe nine arranged on a wall.

Above the stairs we put a piece of wood I scavenged from a campground at my favorite spot that was being completely gutted because of the pine bark beetle. The wood near the chapel there was twisted and turned, I assume because of snow conditions, and it left this very interesting piece.

I call this Rising Phoenix. It's a piece of wood from my favorite place in the world.

I call this Rising Phoenix. It’s a piece of wood from my favorite place in the world.

I call this Rising Phoenix. It’s a piece of wood from my favorite place in the world.

One day I thought it looked like a bird, a natural artwork. So I’ve hung it on the wall for now. We’ve been culling out pictures of clouds from my collection and soon expect to get them printed and put up to cover the wall behind Phoenix Rising, at the same time hanging this from the ceiling a few inches in front of the pictures. That’s the plan anyway!


Fisher Electric Rainbow Fountain

Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.—Don Draper, “Mad Men”

Fisher Rainbow Fountain

Fisher Rainbow Fountain

If I could have only one memory of Hastings as a town it would be of Fisher Fountain. When I describe Hastings to people as a Norman Rockwell picture done in the Midwest, I think of Fisher Fountain and how he would have been envious he didn’t have it for his New England towns.

It was originally built for the 1932 county fair, but it was loved so much in those hard dust bowl times it was moved to a permanent location in front of the Public Utilities building. (For those gentle readers who are not from Nebraska: Nebraska is a socialist state with all power plants publicly owned. This has caused electric rates to be so low that an economist specializing in this area recently told me getting wind power in this windy state has been a tough economic sell.)

History records that this was a “sign of hope” for the citizens of the town during these depression and dust bowl days. My folks had a different take on it. They told me they remembered those incredibly hot dust bowl nights, when people would lay out blankets and sleep around the fountain to enjoy the cooling mist.

My father’s parents lived on the east side of town near 7th St and the railroad tracks. We would go over to their apartment two or three times a week. It looked like a large two story Victorian era house, but it had two apartments on the first floor and steep narrow stars to the second floor apartments. Cora and Ed Losee, my grandparents, moved into town after they gave up running the farm they owned.

My grandparents apartment's front window was on the porch shown here.

My grandparents apartment’s front window was on the porch shown here.

I found the place interesting. There was always cans of “Fruit Juicy Hawaiian Punch” in the refrigerator along with Hershey’s chocolate bars for my diabetic grandfather. Go figure. He claimed it was for the grand kids but we all knew he had them too. There was a large porch with metal chairs for the residents to sit on and watch the cars go by or thunderstorms flash. There was also mystery to the place in the form of the neighbors, friends of my grandparents, Glen and his wife. Glen wouldn’t eat his wife’s cooking believing she was out to poison him. The mystery was why he wasn’t dead (maybe because he openly talked about this threat) or why he stuck around if he believed it.

There was fun there too. Often times I’d find my other cousins there, Vicki, Gayle, Rodney, and Barbara. After a raid of the refrigerator we might go out and play a game with no name (now I might call it road kill). We’d go out to the curb and wait for a car to come down the street, then run as fast as we could to reach the steps of the porch before the car was directly in front of those steps. If you waited too long and got caught away from the safety of the porch you’d be “dead”. Last one alive won. Think my sons of the profound differences from your electronic more sedentary growing up years.

At other times I’d be dropped off by my parents, my dad in his fez so they could go to a Shriners dance, or in his suit so they could go to the church’s annual meeting, or other odd adult events. I’d play Chinese checkers with my granddad, who would inevitably win. Wearing his usual suspenders and with hardly a hair on his head he would often kid me asking, “So Bobtail do you have a girlfriend yet?” I’d be so embarrassed. There were no girls of any note in my neighborhood and being a friend with one was an uncomfortable thought.

The most comfortable memory I have there is sitting in front of the black and white TV watching the shadows and lights revealing Nat King Cole singing, Bonanza cowboys winning in the West, wrestler Mad Dog Vachon once again showing his evil eye, Continue reading