“CITY TO REMOVE OLD BRICK STREET,” the headline screamed at me from the weekly Grovemont Press.
The town council had passed a mandate. Due to the cost of maintenance, the bricks paving Lake View Street were to be removed.
“How can they do that?” I said more to myself than to my husband, Frank.
In the1930s, the quaint street had been paved with handmade bricks by the Works Progress Administration. The W.P.A. was created to help provide economic relief to U.S. citizens suffering through The Great Depression. My grandfather was one of the first W.P.A. workers, earning less than $2.00 a day.
As a child, I spent long summer afternoons on my grandparents porch, drinking cherry Kool-Aid with Grandpa. We rocked for miles in the old weathered rockers. His stories from those long ago days were more fascinating than any fairytale.
“Families had it hard, kitten.” I would smiled at the nickname he always called me. “I rode the old mule, Rawhide, to Grovemont to work on the brick street, rain or shine.
Each brick was made by hand. Lumps of clay were rolled in sand to add texture and color. The sand also kept the clay from sticking to the wood mold. It was then hand pressed into the molds. When the clay dried, the bricks were baked in the kiln. Teams of mules, pulling flatbed wagons, carried the bricks to the construction site.”
Then would come my favorite part of the story...
“At noon, I took my dinner bucket and sat under the oak trees that still line the street. Your grandma always packed the bucket with leftovers from supper the night before. With nine mouths to feed, it was a miracle anything was left. There would be fried fish, or turtle, and cornbread with syrup spread in the middle.”
At the mention of turtle, I always wrinkled my nose and he laughed the most glorious laugh a child ever heard.
And now, the bricks would be ripped from the street and sold for 10 cents each.
“We must get some of the bricks,” I said to Frank as he, too, stared at the headline.
“I understand your attachment to the bricks, but how many do you want?”
“Several hundred,” I mumbled.
His eyes became almost as large as his opened month, “I was thinking more like two or three to use for doorstops.”
“They can be stacked by the shed and you won’t have to mow the grass,” I offered.
He grinned, raising his hands in mock surrender.
At daybreak the following morning, we arrived at the city dump to find people already combing through the bricks. Being handmade, they varied in size and color, giving them special character and beautiful patina.
As we loaded the trailer, I could picture Grandpa working with perhaps the very same bricks I held in my hands, my eyes filled with tears.
Over the next several years, many projects came to mind for the bricks, but nothing seemed right. I just knew they were destined for something spectacular.
Just when I thought they had become a permanent yard monument to my wild ideas, God intervened.
When a piece of land Frank and I had wanted to purchase for years was placed on the market, we bought it. The property was on a hill overlooking a beautiful lake, the very lake where Frank and I, and our children had been baptized. The bricks would be used to trim the front porch of our new home.
Due to the character of the bricks, the work on the porch took longer than expected.
“I don’t think you have enough bricks,” Phil, the supervisor of the project, kept reminding me.
Standing in the yard observing Phil and his workers, I watched the stack of bricks dwindle and prayed.
I placed an advertisement in the paper to see if anyone would sell their bricks. The only response I received was from a lady who offered to sell her bricks for $5.00 each. I declined, but filed her name and address.
Pointing to the last several bricks from the stack, Phil puffed out his chest like he had just won the Indy 500, “I’m glad I miscalculated, there’s just enough.”
I often think of Grandpa and wish he knew the legacy he left his family.
And maybe, just maybe, he does.
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