A Whole Different World

Play-time Underneath Our House

By Jeff Salter

Did any of you – as kids – play UNDER your house?
I did. We did.
Our house was hand-built by the Julius Matisse clan, probably in the 1940s, in Covington LA. [We bought it in the mid-50s, when they built on the adjoining lots and vacated the older place.]
It was up on brick-built “piers”. Evidently there was significant slope to the lot because the north side had much taller piers than the south.
Don’t recall the dimensions, but the clearance at that north end was enough that I could sit – butt on the ground – and my head didn’t touch the floor above. [I’m sure the joists were a problem, of course]. Well, anyway… I used to crawl up under there and play.
So did my little sister.
It might have been a cave, or a submarine, or a dungeon, or just a hide-out. Whatever I needed it to be.
Our dog also napped under the house, as did the neighbor’s dog.
On at least one occasion, I crawled underneath the entire width of that house and emerged on the south side, where the clearance was surely less than 12 inches. Our dog Spottie had done it MANY times, so I figured, why not me?
Amazingly, at that young age, I had little concern about spiders and other creatures who dwell in such places.

This gives an idea of the TYPE of space we had, though the ground under our house was clear of such grassy debris.

My Friend’s House

And, hey, I wasn’t the only kid who played under my house!
My good friend Duane W. lived – in the earlier years of Elementary School – on 24th & Jefferson in a house with a raised porch. Under HIS house was a small paradise. Wood lattice-work on the front side made it seem more like a small club-house than merely the dirt beneath his porch.

My Sister’s Recollections

This is the way my sister remembers ours:

“…what made the crawl space such a desirable playground for me were the combination of loose, cool ‘play’ dirt; shade and respite from summer heat; and the mysterious, semi-dark, cave- like exploration it offered. Plus all the pets loved it too. * * * I used to love to go under there, into early teens; mostly going after… our numerous pets, or collecting bugs, but also playing with toys. The dirt was very soft and pliable and “clean” almost like a sand pile so it was easy to build roads for cars and trucks.”

As I was thinking about my playtime underneath my childhood home, I reflected on a period of my father’s life when he actually LIVED in a makeshift space beneath the house of his landlady. During at least one semester at LSU, in 1940 or 41, my Dad couldn’t afford a regular room (on campus or off). Mrs. Overton (?) had “taken in” a portion below her house — just room for a bed / cot and a desk and chair (I suppose) — with plank walls and no heat. No running water either. The floor was just packed dirt. Not certain of the clearance, but Dad led me to believe that he could not stand up straight while he was inside… or, at least, that he had to duck his head for each joist.

I wonder if kids these days — which, for many of us would be our grandkids’ generation — still play beneath their houses.

A shorter version originally posted on FB (by me) on October 3, 2016.

[JLS # 627]


About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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10 Responses to A Whole Different World

  1. jbrayweber says:

    I love reading recollections like this. Simpler times.
    Our house sat firmly on the ground. But I remember some family whose houses were pier and beam. But since there were no kids at these houses, I assume beneath was not often used. Therefore, snakes, rodents, spiderwebs, and creepy-crawlies kept me from exploring.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jeff Salter says:

      To me, the key factors were: was there sufficient clearance (since I had a bit of claustrophobia, even)… and was there sufficient light.
      The absence of either of those meant there would be greater likelihood of snakes, rodents, spiders, and creepies.


  2. We did not have such a thing, but I know that my brother would have staked it as his own. I am not sure if I would have been there much myself, as I did not like bugs at all. We had a tool shed attached to the house we lived in from the time I was 4 until I was 13. I would clear part of that out when cousins visited in the summer and we’d make that our home for part of the time. Ah, nice memories!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Tool sheds, storage shacks, etc. were often useful for kids’ play. That same buddy, Duane, had an abandoned chicken coop in his back yard… and, for a while, we used that as a “clubhouse.”


  3. Denise says:

    Our house was on a slab. No cool place to hang out. No basement or cellar. So, we scavenged the area for big boxes. There was boocoodles of houses being built, so lots of boxes from large appliances, tubs, and other construction pieces were available to tote off from refuse piles. We would “build” our own houses on vacant lots and attempt to camp out in them. I do not remember spending an entire night in these “houses” due to rain, bugs, or overactive imaginations!!! WHAT WAS THAT NOISE!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Always loved big boxes, but my family never obtained one. I had a friend who had a resourceful mother… who acquired a fridge box, and we played in it.
      As a dad (& granddad) I’ve often located large boxes and worked them into cool playhouses for the kids.


  4. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I’m pretty sure houses like this are rare in Michigan. Here, most houses have basements, and they’re used for storage as well as protection during tornado season. And of course, on days like we’ve had this week with highs in the teens and lows in single digits, it’s doubtful pets would want to be underneath a house! Sounds like you had fun, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      yes, much of S.E. Louisiana was near sea level. Parts (incl. much of N.O.) is actually BELOW sea level. So basements were almost non-existent. Much of the architecture for houses and smaller stories was pier-&-beam until concrete became more available / affordable for slab structures.


  5. Elaine Cantrell says:

    We could get under my grandma’s house, but not the one we lived in. We never did though. We preferred the barn loft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I loved playing in barns, but rarely had the chance. One year I lived in Iowa and we had access to a few abandoned structures, including a traditional barn.

      Liked by 1 person

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