My parents started building their house in 1957. We moved in in 1958 when I was starting second grade at Sternberger School. My brother Tom was starting first grade, and our brother Nathan was barely a toddler. All three of us attended Sternberger, Kaiser Jr. High School and Grimsley High School. Our parents graduated from Grimsley also, which was at that time called Greensboro High School.
My mother always wanted a modern house, because she loved anything modern. The house was distinguished from many other modern houses in the neighborhood by its flat roof. The house was finished on the outside with light beige Holiday Hill Stone and stucco. My parents had lived in Florida for a year or so, and mother really loved living there. She always wanted to paint the stucco portion of the house blue, to mimic the colorful houses of the time in Florida, but they never did.
by gale sikes
DR. THOMAS EDGAR SIKES, JR.
BETTY GALE SIKES
The double front doors were painted bright blue, and the silver door handles were in the middle of each door.There were pewter colored metal squares in the door, and the knobs were in the center of those squares.
Inside, the ceiling to the entrance was very tall, as was the living room/ dining room ceiling. The living room ceilings had brown beams. None of the other ceilings in the house was that tall. The living room and dining room were open to each other, with sliding glass doors to an outside terrace. There were steps off of that terrace leading down to one below.
The house had some nice modern furniture. The couch in the living room was long and curved. The coffee table was a wooden rectangle. We had a round white table in the kitchen. Our Dadʼs first office was furnished with Eames fiberglass chairs that were orange and grey. When he moved offices, those found their way into our house. I still have a couple of them!
The terrace was where we had our picnic table and BBQ grill. There were planter boxes on the side made out of the Holiday Hill Stone, where Mother grew mint, tomatoes, and flowers. While the bottom terrace was large and shady, we didnʼt use it very much.
Left of the front entry were the bedrooms and a coat closet painted that same color of blue as the front doors. There were steps on the left leading down to a basement. The steps were covered in different colors of carpeting, which had been sample squares of carpet mother obtained from a carpet store for free. My two brothers lived in the first bedroom to the right off of the hall. It was a very small bedroom, but they got the homeʼs first air conditioner in 1967. I slept in the next bedroom.
In the hallway, between the two bedrooms, were some “floating shelves” that were built into the wall, which is a characteristic of MCM houses. One interesting detail about my bedroom was that there was a second light switch by the bed so that I could turn off the light without having to get out of bed. This really helped when reading my Nancy Drew books late at night. I was a voracious reader and read all of the Nancy Drew series as well as the Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins series. Not sure if those last two are even available now. The light fixture was a round white globe that hung from a white wire from the ceiling. The same light fixture was in the kitchen over the kitchen table. Across the hall was the childrenʼs bathroom , which was very tiny. It was supposed to have a blue tub, sink and toilet, but the builders made a mistake and installed white. They were going to charge to correct their mistake, so the fixtures were left as they were.
The parentsʼ bathroom backed up to that bathroom and was identical, except that it had a shower. The master bedroom covered an entire side of the house, and there was a small terrace off of it with plants. The closets covered an entire wall and had metal folding doors with metal knobs in the middle. All of the closets in the house were like this.
An interesting design feature of the house was that all of the doors, with the exception of the huge double doors that led into the living room, went straight to the ceiling, without any door frames at the top.
A wonderful thing about the house was that it was heated by radiant heat, provided by hot water running through pipes under the tile floors, making the floors very warm in the winter. We thought most houses were like this at first, because even our grandparents had radiant heat! All the floors were tile with different patterns. The one in my room was like a Pollack painting, with different colors splattered around.
The basement had four rooms, each serving a different purpose. All of the rooms were left unfinished, except the main “playroom,” which had a “floating fireplace” constructed out of green stone with a black stone hearth. Until the addition was added upstairs, the playroom was the main gathering area for the family to watch TV. Because we didnʼt have air conditioning when we moved in, the basement was the coolest place to be in the hot weather. It also could serve as a guest room, as it had a fold-out couch.
After the addition off the living room upstairs was built and the family mostly stayed upstairs to watch TV (in color!), the basement served as an “entertaining space” for us kids for having friends over and playing cards or listening to records (45ʼs). The room under the stairs was where our father stored his camping , hunting and fishing equipment. When I was still 8 or 9, I used it as a playhouse. In the “furnace room,” our father set up a work bench where he could work with stained glass. The fourth room was where my mother had her sewing machine and ironing board. The large floor model freezer was kept there. This room became known as the “Storage Room,” and always stayed very neat, despite the growing amount of stuff that accumulated there. We were reminded that we needed this room because we didnʼt have an attic.
Back upstairs, the kitchen was to the right of the entry hall. Uniquely, it was designed without a stove, as my mother did all her cooking in electric pots and pans, which she still had upon her death in 2018. There was a stainless steel wall oven, and a couple of “burners” that could be pulled down from the wall over the counter, but they were never used. The counters formed a “peninsula” in the middle of the room. On the other side was an old fashioned ironing mangle and the washer and dryer. The back door was a “Dutch” door so that the top could be
opened, with the bottom left closed. Also painted blue like the front doors, it led out to the terrace, which connected to the driveway.
Most of our outdoor activities were in the front yard, the street and in the park across the street. One of the reasons we played in the front was because our driveway was so large and wide. Secondly, the backyard had been left “wild,” so it was mostly woods. Those were the days when children could still spend all their summer days riding their bikes around the neighborhood streets. In the summer in the late 1950ʼs, we would swim in Hamilton Lake, which is at the bottom of Keeling Road. There was a “ Club House” with a very small snack bar and changing rooms, a sandy beach and a float out in the middle of the lake that one could swim to. There was a small pier where we learned how to dive. We all learned how to swim in this lake. Later, a community pool was built on Tower Road, which replaced the lake as a swimming spot. As teenagers, we spent almost all of our summer days there. In later years, when there were grandchildren, our father would take them down to the lake to fish.
In the early 1960ʼs, only a few years after we first moved in, an extension to the living room was built, which extended out into the back yard. I donʼt remember the exact date, but I do remember watching the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in there, which was 1964. During this construction, the dining room was closed off from the living room, making it a separate room. The new room was called the “Music Room” because the baby grand piano was moved in there, and my fatherʼs stereo and record collection were in there. My younger brother Nathan learned to play this piano “by ear,” teaching himself. The back wall had shelves that were custom designed by Dad to the dimensions of his stereo and speakers and to house their many books. My brother Tom had quite a collection of Medieval knight figurines that were displayed on the top of the stereo, as it was in a beautiful wooden cabinet with a sliding door. Under the shelves were cabinets that kept our parentsʼ card tables and chairs, as they were both avid bridge players and members of bridge and duplicate bridge clubs. The recessed lights in the ceilings were placed in such a way that they would be directly above 3-4 card tables.
Above the shelves on the back wall were very high clerestory windows. Being very talented working with glass, Dad made clear beveled glass window coverings with designs that fit directly over these windows. The entire floor was covered with a bright orange shag rug.
Early Construction Photos courtesy of the Sikes Family