Floor archeology (I)

My wide-eyed, tousle-haired little sister, Melanie, in a photo taken in the Manse’s dining room in January 1965, when she would have been two and a half years old. That’s quite the loud pattern on the linoleum floor, isn’t it? (Photo by my grandfather, J.A.S. Keay)

This is one of the linoleum mats, probably from the 1940s or ’50s, in the Manse bedrooms – in this case, in the master bedroom. I love the colours.

The flooring that we found in the Manse when we purchased it was, while completely adequate in a bare-bones way, nothing to write home about. The upstairs situation improved dramatically when we hauled out some old carpeting to reveal the very funky mid-century linoleum mats that I remember from my 1960s childhood (and that had doubtless been there for many years before that). They’re what’s on the upstairs-bedroom floors now, and even though they’re damaged in places, I’m getting quite attached to them. The colours are great, and they are beautiful in their own simple way.

But this post is about the dining-room floor, and more specifically What Lies Beneath.

Here is what the dining-room floor looks like now:

This vinyl floor was installed while my family lived in the Manse – I’m guessing maybe 1970 or thereabouts. We thought it was just wonderful having this new floor, but until the other day when I was looking at some old photos I’d forgotten what it replaced: the floor that you can see in the background of the photo of Melanie. Here’s another shot of that floor, probably taken at the same time and featuring my brother John, 10 months old:

I think those are my chubby legs in the background. (Photo by J.A.S. Keay)

I kind of get why we thought it was a good thing that it be replaced – except I suspect it was just covered up, rather than replaced. When Raymond and my brother John (yes, that would be the lad in the photo) did some excavation on the kitchen floor (more on that in the next post) they discovered layer upon layer upon layer of flooring.

We also did some excavation in the dining room; the end result is here:

This was a quick dig, aimed not at uncovering the individual layers of flooring, but discovering the condition of the wooden floor that we knew must lie underneath it all. We were pleased to find that it isn’t bad at all, and that same wooden floor, in a refinished state, will probably end up being the “new” floor in the dining room.

Anyway, it’s quite the wild fern pattern on the dark background on the old floor, isn’t it? And in the photo of John you can see the metallic strip that I guess covered a join in the linoleoum. Now that I see it again after all these years, I suddenly remember the feeling of its ragged edge catching the bottom of my foot, bare or leotard-clad, back at the dawn of time.

The period that this archeological project is excavating, in fact.

8 thoughts on “Floor archeology (I)

  1. The pattern on the floor is one thing, those ears on Mel are quite another. If she can can tear herself away from haymaking bliss, maybe she could post a smart-arsed retort.
    In an unrelated note, why would you ruin a beautiful sunny day choking down Shakespeare? Falls into the category of things you’re supposed to like – like The Blues. Here’s some food for thought – life’s too short to read Shakespeare or listen to Blues… why do i bother I’m just going to get the Big Sister edit anyway…

    • Couldn’t agree more about the blues. And jazz, for that matter. But on to floors…I quite like the look of that feather pattern, actually, with the subtle colours. Let’s face it–most of the decor we grew up with a bit later, in the 70s and 80s, was definitely not subtle. As for the photo of Melanie, is it just me, or could it be Claire?

      • That’s interesting, Nancy. I just went and looked at the photo again and I don’t really see Claire [for those of you who don’t know, Claire is the younger of my brother Ken’s two daughters] in Mel’s face. But recently I got a bit of a lesson in how subjective people’s perceptions of family resemblances are. I showed my mum a recent post that included an old family photo at the Manse, assuming that she would be startled – as I had been – by the incredible resemblance between my dad then and my nephew Timothy now. And she did not see it at all!

    • I’d say my ears are fairly discreet in this shot. It’s nice to see, though, that I’m totally dressed for sh– disturbing. What’s that fairy princess outfit you’re swanning around in all about anyway?
      And you’re right about the editing thing; you can’t say anything good here, huh? How can you be expected to communicate effectively when you can’t throw in a few good cuss words? Maybe if I used some Shakespearean curses it would pass muster.

    • They are indeed pine, Eloise! It is fun finding this stuff, but let me tell you, a lot of physical labour (and mini-crowbar time) was expended even on that small bit of excavation. There is so much work to be done at the Manse!

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