Oh, The Places I’ve Lived

By Sherry in Northern Virginia where it’s spring, summer, winter, summer, spring, winter depending on the day and/or hour

I’m looking forward to the release of A Good Day To Buy on April 25th! One of the subplots involves Stella Wild (Sarah’s opera singing landlady and friend) trying to rent out the apartment next to Sarah’s. It means Sarah and Stella run into some interesting characters and it reminded me of some of the places I’ve lived and the landlords I’ve had.

The first place I lived when I left home was a college dorm room at Truman State College in Kirksville, Missouri. Brewer Hall was old and now that I reflect set the tone for a lot of the places I’ve lived! The rooms were small and had old radiators that creaked, groaned, and banged at unexpected times. The saving grace was a bathroom between each two rooms. I never wanted to have to traipse down a hall to shower. And we had so much fun that it wiped out any negatives.

I lived a bunch of different places during my years in Kirksville. One was in the basement of a house owned by an 80 year old woman. Every time my roommate and I left the old woman would go down and poke around. We would pile stacks of sodas, paper towels, and other things against her entrance to try to keep her out. But we’d come home and the stuff would all be knocked over. We didn’t last long there.

One of my roommates

One summer a group of friends and I rented a house owned by a fraternity that was right next to their main house. We had a mushroom grow up through the tile in the bathroom one night. We kept track of who killed the most cockroaches and slugs. It was disgusting, but again a lot of fun.

I also rented a small three bedroom Craftsman style house with four friends. It had leaded glass windows and a window seat. The fact that it was two doors down from the fraternity house didn’t hurt either. But the basement flooded and it was full of things we didn’t have room for in our tiny rooms.

The first house I rented on my own was in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was an adorable little house owned by a guy in his thirties. It was heated by what he called a floor furnace which was a tiny little box of a thing. That didn’t concern me when I rented the house on a lovely summer day. The house was cute, in a neighborhood I loved called “The Avenues”, and close to work — although in Cheyenne no place was too far from work. But then winter hit. It was so cold in that house that the windows frosted over on the inside. I ended up hanging quilts over the windows to try to keep it warm.

Readers: Where was the first place you lived after leaving home? Have you ever lived any place memorable or had a landlord who drove you crazy?



27 Thoughts

  1. What a set of stories, Sherry! A beach house I rented during the college year with three friends was roomy and gracious, with a balcony stretching across the front upstairs. A big magnolia out front let me climb up to get into the house when I came home without my key once! I never worried about strangers doing the same, for some odd reason. My friend Jennifer and I once rented a Davis Square third (top) floor apartment, with electric heaters in the walls we didn’t really trust, from a Greek landlady. We both (thirty-five years later) still say “trrrask” (trilled r) for ‘trash’ – just like she did. Water froze indoors one winter. We didn’t stay for a second winter.

    1. That’s funny that you climbed the tree and didn’t worry about anyone else doing it! Ah, yes frozen pipes — it happened to us in base housing.

  2. Wow, you’ve lived in some very interesting places.
    When my parents broke up, when I was around 7, I remember living on Long Island, NY in the downstairs apartment of a house. Similar to your experience, the landlady would feel free to come downstairs whenever she chose. But, she’d do it even when we were home! The washer/dryer was downstairs, but she wouldn’t even bother to knock. She felt free to come and go as she pleased. My mom didn’t care for her at all. One day we came home and our couch was all slashed up. It was time to move.

  3. I lived in dorms all through college, so the first place I lived on my own was a room in someone’s flat in London–I commuted to a department store job on Piccadilly Circus. Alas, only for three months in the summer. Then I moved to Cambridge, MA, first to a one-bedroom apartment, then to a three-bedroom one with two roommates. The landlord was a crazy Hungarian who lived in the house next door, and I spent three years sweet-talking him into ignoring the fact that I had an unauthorized cat. BTW, both apartments were on Harvard Street, but there were never any street signs because the tourists made off with them.

  4. Wow. I never lived anywhere exciting. We lived in a three story house with my grandparents until I was around 14, then we moved to a smaller house next door to my older sister and her husband. I lived there until I got married. Hubby and I lived in an apartment for a year until we bought a house. We still live in the same house. We’ve been building/working on a log home since 2012 and we hope to move there someday.

  5. First place? Officers Mess and then other Forces accommodation! Back with my parents for a little while and then a flat just outside Cambridge (UK) with my sweetie!

  6. The first place I lived after leaving home was a variety of “Navy” houses in Virginia Beach. Right after I graduated from high school – and my dad informed me he would not be paying for college – I took a trip to Virginia Beach with my friend Anne. She was house sitting for her sister who was taking a trip to Italy with some other Navy wives to meet up with their husbands’ ship. While there, I learned that the wives did this frequently and that’s how I ended up with my first business venture. Anne and I would be house sitters for the wives while they traveled. It was a great life for seven months until I became tired of having nothing of my own and working in a Chinese Carry-out for spending money. Ah, good times!

  7. Yup–I’ve done the apartment next to the fraternity, complete with cockroaches, too. All my adventures in housing have been on the east coast, though.

  8. I lived in dorms for the two years I was in college out of town (first two years of college was at the local community college to save money).

    One of the first places I lived after college had horrible managers. They lived on property but only wanted to be contacted during business hours except in an emergency. Yet they’d also complain when you contacted them during non-business hours. The complex covered cable, and this was the first place I’d rented on my own, so I wasn’t thinking about other utilities. Imagine my surprise when the gas was suddenly cut off. In November. And we had gas heaters. Okay, my fault as much as anyone else’s. I made arrangements with the managers to be home when I had the gas company out to reconnect it. Yet they flaked on me. I spotted the gas company there one day and asked if they could reconnect the gas in the condo while they were there. The guy said no, but the manager overheard me and yelled at me for asking. It was about 10 days before we got everything back up and running. Of course, this is So Cal, so it wasn’t cold like the rest of the country, but my roommates and I were all bundled up during that time.

    I only lasted about four months there, but that was due to the third roommate more than the managers. The other roommate and I moved out and into a place of our own since we couldn’t stand the guy. And then the managers threatened to file charges when we didn’t leave our keys with the third roommate who stayed behind. We didn’t trust our ex-roommate (which is why we were moving out). We moved out on a Saturday (non-business hours) and I returned all keys Monday on my lunch hour. We also moved out mid-month and the third roommate stayed behind.

    Needless to say, I was glad to be out of there. Other places I’ve lived have not been nearly as interesting, fortunately.

      1. Oh, I’ve got a couple of those. This was more crazy apartment manager with crazy roommate thrown in for good measure.

  9. I had a lot of crazy neighbors over the years: the old drunk who hollered “Uh” at all hours; the “deaf” woman who had to have her TV blasting all the time, but you couldn’t sneak up the steps in stocking feet without her sticking her head out the door to see you; the woman upstairs who would vacuum the tile floor at 3 am wearing high heels; the landlady who came in when we weren’t there and then blamed us for all the cockroaches that climbed out from under the rotting floors under the claw-foot tub; and lots of others. More great war stories. Our favorite place was where we were the minority because we were neither Asian nor Russian jews. Brookline, MA is a wonderful place to live.

  10. My one and only “single girl” apartment was in a not-so-great neighborhood that I could not be talked out of. I wanted my own adventure. Unfortunately, I should have been talked out of it because it was very, very, very different from the nice, upper-middle class suburb I’d grown up in with senators and minor Saudi royals – the night the neighbor across the courtyard got so mad at his wife that he unloaded an entire clip from his Saturday Night Special (miraculously not injuring her with even a scratch from broken glass) and all the bullets hitting the brick wall that the head of my bed was against, was the last night I spent in the place. In the closet, on the floor, with my pillows and blankets all around me.

  11. How fun to reminisce about the places (not just the cities) where you’ve lived! I have so many, and I don’t know if I’ve ever listed them. Right after college, I shared an apartment with a classmate who was in her first year of teaching. I’ll never forget how much time and effort she put into her job. It forever changed my perspective on teaching! The apartment itself was so-so. Not so safe feeling, but it could have been worse!

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