The old man’s claim to fame—of a very local variant—was his having built each house that we lived in. Except for the very first, that had a tin roof and an outhouse and was rented for our first year or so back in South Carolina. While we lived there, he built his first house on land adjacent to his mother’s house out of cinder block. This made for quick, sturdy, and above all cheap construction but was not a style favored at that time or to my knowledge since.
One may make a house out of brick and it is an excellent house. But cinder block is used primarily in commercial construction, and is then painted because cinder block unpainted is rather ugly. But the old man made it with his own hands, including I believe in this case the electrical, but without indoor plumbing. It was a functional house and served the primary purpose of a house which is to keep out the elements.
He also built with his own hands, and the help of an electrician, the house in which we lived in California. As I may have mentioned the original mortgage for this house was 12000 and was a kind of house in a box, lacking a better description. All of the materials for the house were provided by a company, Whiting-Mead, so that, for example, all the wood was pre-cut to the dimensions of the house plan selected. This reduced considerably time and thought, both rather in short supply when it came to the old man.
But build the house, he did, and later he added on what we called a family room. This had the table where we ate and the TV at the other end and in between a fancy fireplace of his own construction that had a place not just for a fire but also a grill for grilling meat and such. The first time he lit a fire it did not however draw properly and flooded the house with smoke. Over time, with much cursing and flinging about of tools, his defect was repair. The building of this room took perhaps ten years. Admittedly, most of it was there from the beginning, but finishing touches such as proper flooring were a long time in coming. For years, before some linoleum got put on it, the flooring was simple and serviceable plywood.
The exterior of this house was covered in shakes painted grey. Why, I don’t know. But that they were part of the original package for the house in a box.
But the old man’s master piece, over the construction of which he would wax eloquent saying the The Lord had guided his very fingers, was the last one. The adobe, as we called it, since that was what it was constructed of. This house took perhaps five years to build as the old lady and old man lived in a trailer located on the property. The bulk of that time went into the making of the adobe block directly from the earth of the property itself. The old man would shovel the adobe into a cement mixer, liquefying it, then pour the adobe into molds, then remove the molds and let the adobe cure.
He made himself 10000 block and I must say I find something Egyptian about the feat.