Friday, December 27, 2013


The very popular series beginning Season Four next week on PBS always takes me back to many years ago when there was another popular series (that went on for years) on the same network called "Upstairs Downstairs." In many ways it was similar to DA, but without all the "bells and whistles."

During that time we were living "downstairs" in the actual servants quarters off a wonderful kitchen in a large house -- we called it a mansion. An elderly man, bedridden upstairs, was our boss. The Gardener was in graduate school and it was an amazing provision for us at that time. We had our bills paid and I got a salary as his chief nurse, cook and housekeeper. I actually had nurses for him during the day, and students who cared for him during the evening and night shifts, and even someone to clean the house. I charged the groceries to his account, drove his Mercedes, and ran the house. I loved cooking on the old fashioned stove and, yes, his plates needed to be warm so the plate warmer was used every day. We had free reign of his house and had some great Christmas parties there. He made his money rebuilding companies that folded during the depression. His secretary would come twice a week to handle his affairs and read to him.

In many ways it was like living a dream, The house was stately and filled with beautiful antiques. In the paneled library there were seven hiding places from the prohibition time. A 37 year old gold fish lived in a small pool in a heated enclosure outside our servants' quarters. There was a large pantry full of every piece imaginable of Pink Tower Spode transferware. The basement contained a shooting gallery, a root cellar, an amazing old workshop, a wine cellar, and tons of old Dundee Marmalade jars. The grounds contained wonderful flowerbeds, a grape arbor and the first in-ground swimming pool in that area of the country (no longer used.)

I had a lot of responsibility but a lot of freedom too. I often would rise at 5 am to ride my bike a couple of blocks to Lake Michigan to watch the sun rise. We enjoyed living close to the water, and one of my favorite birthdays was breakfast on the beach as the sun rose. That was the year I got the Rocky album (no CDs or i-pods back then.) One time our little staff adventurously gathered our patient up and installed him in a bed at the back of a stream-lined camper and drove him to his son's farm, about 700 miles north of us. I will never forget his joy at being on the farm again, and spending a week with his loved ones. We even rigged a special chair the guys carried with poles, to take him on a hike around the farm.

For three wonderful years we cared for this gentleman. We learned so much about life and responsibility that would be called upon as we continued on in life with new challenges and responsibilities. But we knew it would not last forever. I wondered what would happen when our first baby was born. Sure enough, six weeks after Eldest joined our family, our old man left this earth. After I was up all night at his side as he neared death, he got up into his wheelchair the next morning and had a full breakfast. Then after we got him back into bed, he sneezed seven loud sneezes, and died. After a few weeks we moved to a tiny cottage with no central heat. It turned out to be one of Chicago's worst winters, and since we were responsible for both houses for a time, the Gardener did lots of shoveling of two long driveways, and that included shoveling off roofs due to the weight of the snow.

Our years there made a big impact on us still to this day. We have bits and pieces his family gave to us as they cleaned out, things that still grace our home and help us to remember a time when we served and lived "downstairs."
I apologize for the length of this post, but since I print my blog for "posterity," I wanted this story recorded for my children and grandchildren to read in the future. Only house photos are mine.


  1. What a story and it is true. It makes it more beautiful being true. Isn't that of all things?!!
    Gorgeous house and story to pass down to those grands and great grands, etc...!!

  2. What an amazing experience, Dotsie. I enjoyed reading every word of it and would gladly read more.

  3. Wow! what a neat story and so well told. Now I am just curious to know more. Especially the location since you mentioned Lake Michigan.

  4. Oh my dear one n ever EVER apologize for this post being too long- it is awesome amazing journeys such as this that make blog reading such a's about what makes out lives and homes and memories special that makes blogs worth reading.

    This was SO NEAT and I just loved it. Thanks so much for sharing!!

    I was a little young for Upstairs, Downstairs - but since my hubs and I became such huge fans since the first airing of Downton Abbey we watched it through Netflix and got a big kick out of it!

    Happy New Year!!

  5. I'm certainly glad you posted this for posterity! What an amazing job/living arrangement you had. I'm thinking that home might be on the north shore? I could have read on!!


  6. While reading your story, I was dreaming about it and wonderful it must of been. An opportunity like that doesn't happy these days.
    Wonderful story and NOT to long!

  7. I watched Upstairs, Downstairs and liked it. How amazing that you got a taste of the downstairs life in such a stately home.
    When we recount an interesting part of our lives, I think regular blog readers appreciate what is shared and learn more about us. This part of your past was indeed something to record and I enjoyed reading about it.

  8. What a wonderful story! I would have loved to have had that opportunity! It reminded me of something. And I think I shall save it for a post. I am sure you learned a great deal from that experience!
    Just an idea....perhaps you could one day, pen a book about your experience? It would be wonderful, judging from the little bit I just read!!!!
    XO Kris

  9. What a wonderful story to have for your future generations of family to read. I love the grand idea of living in the downstairs but having free reign of the house. I enjoyed the post and certainly didn't mind the length. It was quite interesting!

  10. I so enjoyed reading your post tonight. It warmed my heart.

  11. Anonymous7:43 AM

    Loved this story. What an experience for you! -Jane

  12. Don't apologize for that post! It is one of the most interesting posts I have ever read. What a great story, a great chapter in your life. I'm so glad you shared it with us! And thank you so much for stopping in this morning with those encouraging words. Hope you have a great weekend.

  13. Please don't apologize! It was delightful to read about such an interesting part of your lives. It almost sounds like a TV drama! What a fascinating life you have lived so far!

  14. I absolutely loved reading your post today. What a sweet story about your life while you cared for the old gentleman.

    What a fun book you could write about your adventures.

  15. This was a fun read and a great story! It sounds like a series waiting to be made or a book waiting to be written.

  16. Podso,
    I so~o~o enjoyed reading and getting to know more about your past, dear friend!!! What an amazing experience!
    Your descriptive writing painted images for my mind!!!
    Lovely post and history for your family!

  17. I feel sure there's a book in you Dotsie - you write so well - let me know when you're in print!
    I just wanted to keep turning the page! More please - you have a captive audience.

    It's wonderful that you are telling your stories for your future generations to know. Keep it up.
    The lives of others are so interesting.

    We had Downton Season 4 before Christmas and now we are waiting for the Christmas Special early in January!
    We were all addicted to Upstairs Downstairs in the seventies too - another world!

  18. What a wonderful beginning to build upon. This was so interesting to read. Thank you for sharing.

  19. What a fascinating story, Dotsie! It could be turned into a novel! My parents were caretakers for an apartment house in the Bronx when they were first married. They were able to live rent free in exchange for my Mother shoveling cola into the furnace when needed and my father doing repairs for tenants in addition to his daily job. Those years enabled them to save money to buy a house. They kept in touch with the building owner for many years afterward. Jobs like these are such blessings for those starting out --thanks for sharing your story!

    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2014 will bring many new blessings!

  20. That should read "coal" not "cola"!

  21. Wow Dotsie, what a fascinating experience for you and your husband! It sounds like you experienced a bit of what it was like to live in another time period and a different type of society. A real adventure, and your old gentlemen sounds like a very kind employer. You have definitely had some interesting and unique life experiences with all of your travels and your mission work in Africa.

    Thanks for sharing with us, Dotsie; I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. We're ready for Downton Abbey at our house -- it sounds like you are too. Have a wonderful week!



  22. This is a wonderful recount of your time their. A great read! I thought I was starting a novel. I'm also writing my story for my girls and do it as an occasional post. I'm hoping to publish just those posts one day.....

  23. Anonymous2:01 PM

    What a wonderful sharing of a wonderful story!


  24. What a wonderful story to share with us and your posterity. He sounds like a perfect employer!

  25. No apology necessary. Loved reading this post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  26. This IS a wonderful story....I'm sure there was MORE you should have told us! I remember wishing for such a position in a manor house before I started my own family. The opportunity to live in such a place, even if it was "downstairs" would be fabulous I think.

  27. It's fascinating ( I saw the previous post and have been going backward, catching up and waiting to find this one :)

    Love the picture of the kitchen in the first post.

    It does sound like a sort of dream fairytale in a way : )


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