Monday, January 12, 2009

Memory Monday: My Playhouse

I do not remember having a lot of toys when I was a little girl. My family was poor, and even buying paper dolls was something that could only be done on rare special occasions. I learned to get more mileage out of paper dolls from one of our teen-aged neighbors, who taught me how to draw new clothes for them by tracing around a paper doll’s figure. Many of the things that inspired my imagination were to be found outdoors: rocks, various backyard flora and fauna, and, as a result of my father being a carpenter, some odds and ends of construction debris such as blocks of wood.

Where I made out like a bandit was in the area of anything for a kid to play in, on, or with that could be constructed from wood. When I was probably still a toddler my father built a toy box for me. It was painted red and designed to look like a circus wagon, with appliqu├ęd animals and a fancy carved border around the top. And it had wheels and a handle, so I could pull it around. All of my toys fit into it easily. And best of all, when we lived in a house that had a deep yard with lots of open space, my father built me a play house. It was also painted red. It probably wasn’t more than 8’ x 10’, and possibly less, but it seemed plenty big to my friends and me. We would even use the extra wood blocks to mark out separate “rooms” in the house. It had a door in the middle of the front with a window on either side, and a window on each side. The back was solid. To the left was a sandy area bordered by a mulberry tree and apricot tree (this was in Southern California) where my friends and I would play variations on Swiss Family Robinson and Beach Bums (who also lived on a deserted island and built their own house; a lot of my neighborhood playmates were boys who didn’t seem to know who the Swiss Family Robinson were, so I think I just ended up saying, “Well, then, pretend we’re beach bums”).

There were a couple of times when I could not play in the playhouse; those were the two times that our German Shepard Trina had puppies. She always went to the playhouse to have her puppies and we could fix it up to keep her and the puppies warm and comfortable.

On the right side of the playhouse was our vegetable garden. When I was given a few plants of my own to take care of, I decided the playhouse would be a farm house and I was the farmer. That may have been when my love of gardening started.

On the other side of the garden was the garage-cum-workshop that my father built for himself. I can still remember him sawing and hammering wood in there while I played in my playhouse. I would go in to get whatever scraps I could to furnish my little house. To this day one of the smells I most love is the smell of newly sawed wood.


  1. Lucky to have your own playhouse! Great memories to have.
    I too loved the Swiss Family Robinson - the novel. I remember bashing iris stems on the sidewalk to try making paper. Long time since I thought of that. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, did your post ever bring back memories for me! The boys up the hill from me had a playhouse, too, and I swear we were in that thing from dawn until dusk when we were kids. I seem to remember even trying to "camp out" all night in it once, but we gave up when we got too cold and scared! It's wonderful to have such great memories of playing outdoors. Thank you for this!

  3. Greta,

    Your playhouse sounds like a wonderful place to have visited. Do you have any photos of it?

  4. One family down the street had a playhouse and we all played there. That fact that they could afford on made us all feel that their family must be much wealthier than the rest of us!

  5. Diane, Amy, Dru, Apple,

    Thank you all so much for your comments. It's good to hear how much fun you had in playhouses, too. Oh, the ingenuity of Swiss Family Robinson. That was the neat thing about playing that game in the yard - all the materials were there! And it was possible to spend a whole day there - didn't really need most of those toys I thought I was missing. Dru, you remind me - I need to go through my old family photos to see if the playhouse is in any of them. In the playhouse, we could be castaways, farmers, or anything....