The Scent of Memory

I’ve just finished a history study on a two-story 1912 Craftsman in Beaumont, located on NE 41st Avenue. The story of the house is fascinating: four owners and one default in the first three years, with the title flowing from the original builder, to another contractor to a developer and back to the bank all in short order. The house itself is of interest too, with an unusual gambrel roofline dropped onto a Craftsman body.

But the pieces that will stay with me on this one are the memories of past owners. I was fortunate to find one of the children who grew up there in the late 1920s and early 1930s — now in her 80s — who shared some family stories, memories and photos. The one that sticks with me is the scent of memory, which goes something like this: in the summers, families all up and down NE 41st had wood delivered and stacked in the parking strip between the curb and the sidewalk where it cured in the summer sun. You could look up the street and see firewood stacked everywhere.

Twenty years earlier, the developers of Beaumont bragged that a dozen rose bushes would be planted in front of every lot in the new subdivision. But by the 1930s, residents had become quite practical about their parking strips, which were now a great place to dry firewood for the coming fall and winter.

So our young Beaumont girl, about eight years old at the time, always loooked forward to August because that’s when men started in to split the stacked wood. She remembers the sweet sappy smell of pine and fir permeating all corners of the neighborhood, and the house itself. You could smell it from Beaumont School, she remembers.

Amazing how the power of memory and smell intertwine. What scent do you remember from your old neighborhood?

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