Laurel, IA — This is the house where my father-in-law (affectionately known as “Pete”) has lived in since he was 8 years old.
The house was built sometime prior to 1880 by the Weissenberger family. Only two families have lived in this house — the Weissenbergers and the Lafrenzes.
The Weissenbergers had 10 children. Once, when renovating the upstairs, my mother-in-law found a hand-written message on an exposed wall that read, “We cleaned house, May 7, 1890.”
In 1941, the Weissenbergers sold the house to Pete’s father. Pete was 8 years old, the youngest of five siblings, three of which remained at home–Betty Ann, Esthermae, and Bud. The eldest sibling, Bern, had already married and moved away.
Being the youngest, Pete got the tiny room at the top of the East steps. In winter, it got pretty cold on the upper floor. Two stoves on the first floor provided the only heat for the house. Once, Esthermae took a glass of water to bed. The next morning, it was frozen solid.
When Pete was 14, he got to move into the small bedroom above the kitchen. The adjacent room was vacant. One day while his parents went to town, Pete, without permission, took a sledgehammer and demolished the wall separating the rooms. His reason? He wanted more space. It’s hilarious to hear Pete tell the story, with his sly, innocent expression.
There is a wholesome, peaceful aura about this place; it’s a welcoming, comfortable home in the middle of the wind-swept Iowa plain. Nancy’s flowers are amazing, and the vegetable gardens are lush with produce. The house has one bathroom, so you can imagine the line that forms every holiday when we gather there — Michele and I with our six children and Michele’s brother, Mike, his wife, and their two children. The kitchen is where Nancy makes her delicious meals, and where all of us have gathered around the extended table.
I will always have good memories of the Lafrenz house.