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Carol Perkins: The Front Room

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By Carol Perkins

In the 1940s and 1950s (and before), the "front room" of a house was for daily living and the parlor was for company. That's what I remember about my grandmother's house. The parlor was for the preacher, relatives who had not visited in years, and for special occasions. The parlor seemed so distant from the rest of the house because it was not connected to any other room. How spooky it was!

The front room, as we called it, was overflowing with furniture. Add the wood stove sat very close to the middle of the room, and it is a wonder if anyone could have survived when the fire was roaring. There was a "big" bed in one corner and a twin bed in the other, plus a chest for the TV, a couch, and an easy chair (recliner). A dresser against one wall finished the decor. I can hear the antique shelf clock ticking during the night when I grew homesick in the feather bed.

The parlor was cold in the winter because the wood stove was only used at Christmas, and if someone, mainly my uncle Tommy, wanted to play the piano, he did so by wearing a coat! The tree at Christmas was laden with gifts. When together, there were nearly forty of us. Even after they moved to their modern home, the old house holds the best memories. Springtime and opening the parlor meant a deep cleaning. I was old enough to dust the furniture while others washed windows and cleaned the floor. We all helped my grandmother even though she was only in her sixties at that time.

When ranch houses became the most popular styles (the 50s and 60s), the terms of the rooms changed. The "front room" became known as the dean and the parlor became the living room. The dining room became the breakfast room and was used only when more than a few were going to be eating. Children ate in the breakfast room (kitchen) and guests in the dining room. The long wooden table went to the dining room and a dinette set replaced it, plastic seats and all.

When we built our house in the early eighties, I never thought about omitting a dining room or a living room, two rooms that stay straight because they are seldom used. If I were building a house, I would not have a "formal" living room or a separate dining room. One big family room with an eat-in kitchen is the trend.

As I reflect on my days at my grandmother's house, I wonder what my grandkids will remember about mine. I hope they'll remember the gingerbread houses we built on the dining room table and the gathering in the living room at Christmas.

You can contact Carol at

This story was posted on 2022-07-08 10:40:00
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