Saturday, August 29, 2015

East Washington Street Double 1949 and 2015

In 1949, Samuel Wheeler posed for this photo next to his Ford Coupe in the driveway of 5115 East Washington Street. This home is no longer standing.  To his left, you can barely see the brick American Four Square at 5117 East Washington Street. It was at that point in its history the Blackwell Funeral Home.  Behind him, you can see the facade of the double at 5118-20 East Washington Street.  The Wilkens and Rahn family dwelled in that double throughout much of the 1950s.  Although a Bradford Pear Tree in the parking lot of the Speedway Gas Station made it impossible to capture the exact view in 2015, I tried to stand close to where Mr. Wheeler stood sixty-six years ago.

Samuel Wheeler posed next to his 1949 Ford Coupe. The white clapboard house to his right  (our left) was located at 5115 East Washington Street and is no longer standing.  

5118-20 East Washington Street in 2015
The historic image is courtesy of the Wheeler family via  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Exciting Times at an East Washington Street Double

For years the Wilkens family dwelled in a small one-bedroom double along Linwood Avenue. In 1950, Harold and Ellen Wilkens along with their daughter Diana moved into a spacious double at 5120 East Washington Street.  The family could see the beautiful Hilton U. Brown mansion across the street and of course in the winter, they watched as hundreds of kids sledded down his steep hill. Next door, motorists stopped by the Flying Red Horse Filling Station on the northeast corner of East Washington Street and Emerson Avenue to fill up their Pontiacs, Buicks, Cadillacs, and other boat-sized vehicles. Mr. Wilkens, a pharmacist, purchased his first car in 1950--a 1949 Chevrolet.

Young Diana enjoyed living in the stucco double as she could walk to Howe High School, a place she loved.  Each morning she dressed up in her cashmere sweater, long dress, hose, and flat shoes and entered Miss Motley's homeroom class. She loved to draw so Mr. Howard, an art instructor, was one of her favorite teachers.  She joined a social club called  "Smiles" and hung out with friends after school. After graduating from Howe in 1952, Diana matriculated to Butler University. She continued to dwell with her parents

Then Diana decided to do something crazy. In 1956, she bid her bid parents "farewell" and headed off to New York City with a few other friends. She landed a job with the Benton and Bowls Ad Agency as an art secretary. While she mainly kept the files organized for the executives and ad men, she occasionally helped out the creative directors by posing for test shots before the models would be brought in for the actual photo shoot.  Diana had to pinch herself as she met famous people like Norman Rockwell, Grandma Moses, and fashion designer John Weitz. She also fell in love, but in 1964 she learned that her mother was ill so she packed up her bags and made the long ride home to Irvington, where a new life awaited her.

Diana Wilkens posed for this shot with her date, Paul Ross, in her home at 5120 East Washington Street in 1954

All Dressed Up: Diana Wilkens on the front steps of 5120 East Washington Street in 1954

Diana Wilkens playfully held up "Ming" to the Christmas wreath hanging on the door at 5120 East Washington Street in 1955.

Mr. Wilkens fed a tame squirrel on the rear stoop of 5120 East Washington Street in 1954

Exciting Times: Diana Wilkens and Alan Pentaleri posed for a test shoot for an ad while working at the Benton and Bowls Ad Agency in New York City in 1958.  

The Wilkens family moved into the double at 5118-20 East Washington Street in 1950 would remain there throughout the decade.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tough Times on Linwood Avenue During the Great Depression

Harold Wilkens (1904-1976) and Ellen Smolley (1908-1964) eloped in 1930 and kept their marriage a secret for two years. They lived separately, but eventually in 1932 they formally announced to their families that they had wed. Mr. Wilkens found a job as a pharmacist with Henry Silver, who ran a drug store along Michigan Street near Bosart Avenue. In 1934, the couple had a daughter, Diana. With little money and in the middle of the Great Depression, the couple leased a double at 727 North Linwood Avenue. It was a small one-bed apartment and became even smaller when Carrie Gardner, the mother of Ellen Wilkens, moved in with them. Mrs. Gardner and the baby shared the bedroom while Harold and Ellen moved the dining room table each night and pulled down the Murphy Bed built into the wall. They remained in the small double for thirteen years before moving into a larger place in Irvington.

Young Diana had many friends along Linwood Avenue and attended School #58 nearby. She used to play in the woods and meadow in what would later become the Linwood Square shopping area. She recalled a fruit stand along East 10th Street near Linwood Avenue.  Diana remembered that times were tough for her family during those days.  In 1947, their landlord asked them to leave so that he could move in family members of his own. While initially this caused chaos in their lives, they would soon lease a beautiful double at 5120 East Washington Street.  

Diana Wilkens posed for her mother in front of 727-29 North Linwood Avenue in 1938.

Diana Wilkens in the front and backyard of 727 North Linwood Avenue in 1938

Christmas in 1940:  Diana Wilkens enjoyed Christmas Day in her home at 727 North Linwood Avenue. In the upper right photo, you can see Ed and Thelma Sheets who stopped by for a visit. Snowball the cat is visible in some photos.

Diana Wilkens and a friend posed for this shot in 1940 in her yard at 727 North Linwood Avenue. Behind the girls, you can see the tree-lined street and the homes in the 700 block of that street.  
The small double at 727-29 North Linwood Avenue looks much the same as it did when the Wilkens family dwelled here from 1934 to 1947. (Photo taken in the summer of 2015)  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

From the Journal of Nell Dufour--1949

Lawrence and Nell Dufour along with their growing family moved into 53 North Audubon Road in 1949. The couple spent the remainder of their lives in this beautiful dwelling. Mrs. Dufour taught her children to be quiet and respectful on Sunday mornings when the Methodists gathered across the street. Friday nights were often "popcorn" night for the younger children. Mrs. Dufour was an excellent cook and delicious aromas often drifted out of the kitchen window and into the neighborhood. Holidays were especially joyful for the Dufours. The older siblings brought home husbands, wives, and grandchildren at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes was also an important part of life for the family. Mrs. Dufour was instrumental in introducing the concept of school uniforms for students at Our Lady of Lourdes School.  Laundry chutes, a dark basement, a formal hedge, and other parts of the property provided plenty of fun, mayhem, and pranks for the Dufour children. Mrs. Dufour kept a daily log for part of her time in the house. Each year, Mr. Dufour presented her with a diary so that she could record the history of her family. The Dufours now cherish her words as she managed to chronicle the sometimes-forgotten daily moments of their busy family. In this final installment from 1949, Mrs. Dufour documented the selling of 5125 East Michigan Street and their purchase of 53 North Audubon Road. It was an exciting time for the family.

From Lawrence J. Dufour

January 1, 1949:  This diary has been presented to my beloved wife in fond hopes that she will render a vivid day by day record on the doings and happenings in the lives of the Dufours, from henceforth. L.J. Dufour

53 North Audubon Road c1985 (Photo Credit: Daniel Dufour)

Buying 53 North Audubon Road and Selling 5125 East Michigan Street

January 9, 1949:  Went to see the house on Audubon. Been thinking about it for sometime now. Lo and Behold--we bought the house!!! Brought the "For Sale" sign home with us and now starts the confusion of showing people this house. (5125 East Michigan Street) Bought the house for $20,000. Selling this one for $12,500. Hope we get it since we did so much to this house--even if we hate to leave it, but we are so crowded.

January 10, 1949:  Larry put the the "For Sale" sign out in the front yard.

January 15, 1949:  Worked very hard today to get the house in order to be shown tomorrow.

January 16, 1949:  (Sunday)  The house was shown to six parties. One with four children was very interested in it and will probably buy.

January 20, 1949:  Mr. Hargrove (Charles M.) brought in another party this morning. 

January 23, 1949:  Hurrah! Hurrah! The house was sold. Our thanks to God for this was a blessing too, since the house was only open a week. Sold it to the Lees (Eldred and Kathryn Lee) for $12,000 instead of $12,500. I am happy for them too because they needed the a house so badly for the little children. Now, it seems we have to get packing since we are giving immediate possession. 

53 North Audubon Road c1949 

February 24, 1949:  Because of baby's illness, (Christopher Dufour) I was unable to go to the bank to meet with the Lees and the Smiths. (John M. and Mildred Smith owned 53 North Audubon Road) A Hargrove Real Estate agent, and a man from the bank came out with papers for me to sign. 

February 25, 1949:  We now own the property on 53 North Audubon Road. Humbly, I thank God for this--another of His abundant blessings.  

Moving Day

March 10, 1949:  This is the day--Moving to 53 North Audubon Road. Its an awful day to move--quite a heavy snowstorm last night. 

Winter beauty at 53 North Audubon Road c1988 (Photo: Daniel Dufour)

First Gathering in the New House

March 31, 1949:  Of all the years I have been doing church work, this is the first time I had a meeting at our house. It was a very nice feeling and I was proud to have them come into our home. 

New Lamps

May 6, 1949:  Interior decorator, Miss Ellis brought in a pair of beautiful lamps for the living room. Since they fit in so beautifully with the color scheme, we decided to keep them at $19.98 each. We think they are quite a buy too.

School Uniforms for the Children at Our Lady of Lourdes

August 2, 1949:  Preparing for a meeting here tomorrow night. Will discuss uniforms and get things lined up for big meeting. Block's Department Store called--heard about the uniforms and wants to submit samples.  

A Sampling of Dufour Family Photos at 53 North Audubon Road

Father and Daughter: Bernadette Dufour and Lawrence Dufour in the living room at 53 North Audubon Road in 1960

Lenore Dufour in the living room at 53 North Audubon Road in 1961

Lenore Dufour on the staircase in 53 North Audubon Road on Easter Day in 1960

Lenore Dufour in the family home at 53 North Audubon Road in 1961

Autumn Splendor: A gorgeous maple tree used to thrive in the front yard of the Dufour home at 53 North Audubon Road. Note the hedge that used to border the sidewalk.  (photo taken on Thanksgiving Day in 1961)

Lenore Dufour at 53 North Audubon Road on Christmas Day, 1961

Christmas in 1961 at the Dufour home at 53 North Audubon Road

Christmas tree at the Dufour home at 53 North Audubon Road in 1961

Christmas 1963: Mrs. Dufour was very proud of her new color  scheme in the living room 

53 North Audubon Road c1980.  Note that the street sign says "Audubon Place." (Photo: Daniel Dufour)

Glowing:  53 North Audubon Road on a gorgeous autumn day c1990 (Photo: Daniel Dufour)

Spring beauty:  53 North Audubon Road c1990 (Photo: Daniel Dufour)
The stories and photos for this post are courtesy of the Dufour family.