13 Houses

When I was born, my dad worked in the laundry of a hospital.  He didn’t finish high school in order to join the military, along with all eight of his older brothers.  As the youngest boy, his biggest fear as a 17-year-old was that the war would end before he could get in.

This is where we lived when I was a baby.

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We lived in the left side of the third floor of this seven-family, 2-bedroom walk-up.

It wasn’t much nicer in the 1950’s than it is today, but we were happy and never went hungry.  When my first sister came along, it was time for a bigger place.

When my grandfather died, my grandmother made a deal with my dad to purchase a house with a mother-in-law apartment and share the rest of the house with us.  She lived with us until her death.  Without my grandmas help, we couldn’t afford the down payment on a house.  At about the same time, my dad took and passed the test to become a policeman.  The new house was right up the street from our old apartment and we thought it was a mansion by comparison.  This is where my sisters and I grew up.

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Just after graduating from high school, I got a job at IBM.  In the early 70’s, this was the equivalent of hitting the work-place-lottery.  I however found it to be dreadful and it motivated me to go to college.  Not long after receiving my first paycheck, I moved out of my family home and into the so-called, “real world.”

A friend of mine had purchased this two-family home and transformed it into a three-family by adding a small apartment in the attic.  It was right down the street from the IBM complex.  At first, I occupied one of the three bedrooms on the left side of the house, sharing the place with two of my high school friends.  After the attic was finished, I moved up there.  What we mostly did was work, drink beer, chase women, ride our motorcycles and smoke pot.  I was trying to work full-time while going to school full-time, so I had to get out of there.

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My best friend Mike and I went in together and rented this really nice and modern 2-bedroom apartment, (you can see the stairs on the left side that go to the 2nd floor.)  Doesn’t look so hot today, but it was a really nice place.

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Mike got a girlfriend who had a little apartment and he was spending most of his time there anyway, so we vacated this place and I crashed on my dad’s couch while I finished up college.

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See that little tip-out room in the front?  That was where my foldout couch was located, in the uninsulated, enclosed front porch.  My dad had re-married and at the time, this 3-bedroom house had 5 occupants plus me!  At this point, my dad had finished his career as a cop, suffered through a divorce and married a woman with 5 kids, the youngest of which was a pre-schooler.  After feeling like a guest in an already crowded little house, I rented my first apartment solo.

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This place represents a very low time in my life.  See that little stair-step and railing on the right rear of the house?  That was my apartment, a once noble home carved into little apartments that were not so nice anymore.  I was living hand-to-mouth, gutting it out in school and trying to make a living.  I had just broken up with my college girlfriend, finished school and was on a wait list for law school.  On a Saturday, I received notice from Texas Southern that I had been accepted late and a seat was open.  I had to decide quickly whether or not to pack-up and drive to Texas, like that weekend.  I went out that night to ponder my fate and met the woman I would eventually marry.  No law school.

After meeting my wife-to-be, everything changed and a lot of growing up and challenges were about to take place.  This was our first apartment together, what was then a really nice 2nd floor apartment in a 3-family home in a nice neighborhood.  Both of my children would call this their first home, even though we moved before they would remember it.

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After we were married, we moved to the Philadelphia area in order for me to take the dream job of my life, and for my wife to be closer to her parents, as she was originally from that area.  Our new place was a brand-new, never been lived in before condo in a suburb of Philadelphia called Perkasie.  (No photo.)

Fast-forward almost 4 years and my wife and I we’re divorcing and I was unemployed.  Crushed, I packed up a U-Haul truck and headed home.  I put my stuff in storage and moved into the spare bedroom of the home of one of the guys I used to live with back in the IBM days.  Unhappy days.

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As life settled down a little, I found a decent job and started dating a bit.  I meet Patty and we eventually decided to set up house together.

We found this 1st floor apartment and lived there for some time.


Our landlord was really difficult, and at the same time, the guy across the street had bought a new home and was having trouble selling his old one.  I made a deal with him to rent the house until he could find a buyer.  It was literally across the street so we moved without a truck!


Patty and I were getting serious, so we made the commitment and decided to buy a house of our own.


Shortly after, I got custody of my kids and this is where they were raised.  It was, and is, a beautiful two-family, custom build, a really super house where we had lots of fun.  Patty and I went our separate ways as the kids grew and left for college.  I bought her out and shortly thereafter, I grew tired of being a landlord, so I sold this place and moved into a smaller 2-family place I had purchased a few years earlier for income.

I fixed up the 2nd floor apartment as I went along, and I live there today.


I’m be 66 years old later this month.  I just applied for social security.  I own a small business that I continue to work in every day.  I am debt free and I own another 2-family house for income.  Being self-employed, I have no pension, so I will need to rely on social security, income from my business, and the rental income from my two, 2-family houses.

I have worked hard my entire life.  I’ve made some colossal mistakes along the way and I’m paying the financial price for those mistakes now.  Having just chronicled the entire journey makes me feel even worse about what I have done and how I have done it.  That said, I guess I’ve done a little better than my dad did, and they say that is the object, to see your kids do a little bit better than you did.  It seems I have set the bar low enough for my kids to clear it with ease.  My daughter already has.  My son’s working on it.



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