Just Me

Just Me
Look,I'm just sayin'

Sunday, January 8, 2017

a piece in time

 This morning I turned on my computer as I always do. First I check the mail, wouldn't want to miss all those " offers " and " just for me " deals. I say good morning and see whose birthday it might be. My wife has a nephew that is celebrating today, and no it isn't Elvis, although it is his birthday as well. Then I scan my timeline. That is when I saw it, an article / advertisement for a home for sale. The headline says it is the smallest and cheapest home in the Hamptons ! Well, I lived in East Hampton, the only Hampton that matters. Reading a little more the address is 12 Hunting Road. What ? I lived on Hunting Road but we didn't have a house number. So, I looked at the picture closely, went to Google maps and yup, that's the house alright. That is the home of Donald Norton, a man I knew well. A good neighbor and a friend. I last visited Donald about twenty years ago or so. I was in town for a class reunion. I admit it was a bit of a shock. I'm not sure why that should be so, but it is. The end of an era for sure. History for sale, 325 thousand dollars will buy you the smallest home in the Hamptons.
 As I looked at the photo in that real estate ad I was flooded with memories. Mr. Norton, Norton as we called him, lived two doors down from me. He knew me before I can remember him. A bachelor that lived in a little cottage, very mysterious and at times frightening. My mother went to school with him and told some tales of his younger days. He was born with a deformed hand that was perpetually turned in, his wrist bent. My mother told me how he was teased as a child and stayed to himself. He worked for the Town, on the highway department. I remember seeing him wear those green Dickie uniforms, only thing I ever saw him in now that I think about it. I always felt a little sorry for him and a little afraid. When I was small I would see him out in his yard and he would talk to me. Sometimes he went on and on about things I had no idea of. He would quote Shakespeare, poetry and other literary works. I remember one day telling my father about it. I told my dad that Norton must be the smartest guy around. Dad laughed and told me, why Norton is drunk as a skunk, he don't know what he's talking about. Years went by. At some point in time Norton straightened up and quit drinking. I have no explanation, no big story to tell, why he may have sobered up but I like to think it was just a phase with him. As a teenager I never knew him to drink anything and had many a conversation with him.
 I'm guessing it was long about 1968 when Donald had some problems with the town. You see, somebody wanted his property and he wasn't willing to sell. This person went to the town building code enforcement and reported Norton . Nortons' cottage had no indoor plumbing. He had a hand pump next to his sink, like you would see in the movies today on some cowboy show. The outhouse was in the back yard, us kids would use it instead of running back home. Norton said it was fine, just be sure to throw a scoop of lime in there when you're done. He did have electricity. He cooked on a hotplate and had a small space heater. That wasn't acceptable to the town. Norton was in bit of a pickle. My father heard of his troubles and went to see him. It just so happened that my sister had inherited the house across the street from him. She was sixteen at the time and not living there. So, a deal was made.
 Norton was to live in the house across the street while my Dad remodeled his. And that is exactly what was done. My father installed plumbing, including an indoor toilet and shower. New electrical service was run. A combination air conditioner / heater was installed as well. New siding and new shingles on the roof. Nortons' house was modern and up to date ! The person wanting the land still protested on account of the size. There were codes in place about the minimum size a home could be. He was disappointed to learn that Nortons' house was " grandfathered " and was not subject to that portion of the code. The occupancy permit was issued and Norton moved back into his home. I'm assuming that is still a valid thing. At least the house is on the market as they say. I'm wondering if Norton has gone to meet his maker ? Last I knew of him he was with a neighbor lady, in my old house in fact, being cared for. Lots of history there, lots of memories on Hunting road. And now another piece of that history is for sale. Makes me sad.
 Well. times rolls on and everything changes. The old homes and homesteads get new owners. Some owners are interested in the past and preserve it. Others will tear it down and build new. I read where Nortons' house is on .29 acres. Knowing the Hamptons you aren't going to build anything new on that property. Maybe you could use it as a garden, not much more. Three hundred twenty five thousand dollars seems like a lot for that but everything is relative. The memories are priceless to me.
 When all was done and Norton moved back into his " new " home he was very impressed. As a show of gratitude Norton gave my father a new watch. It was one of those new digital ones. Liquid crystal display and all. One of the first to be marketed. I still have that watch, in the original box, just as Norton gave it to my dad. Dad may have worn it once or twice, I can't say for sure. I keep it as a memory of my Dad and Norton. A little piece of history, a piece in time.
Donald Nortons' House 12 Hunting Road
just like I remember it.