OUR HOME IN SOUTH CAROLINA
FROM 1971 UNTIL OUR MOVE TO BOSTON IN 1986.
THIS CHRISTMAS STORY IS ABOUT A MUCH NEEDED...
BUT COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED CHRISTMAS EVE GIFT,
WHICH BLESSED OUR WHOLE FAMILY.
On this particular Christmas Eve we were settling in as a family with four young children to enjoy that special evening. One of the ways we always enjoyed doing this was by watching any of the traditional Christmas "Specials" that might be televised that night. This included "Rudolph" or "Frosty" or another of the kids favorites "The Grinch." But, this night was also an early bed-time for four excited kids because of Santa coming.
But, as the evening began we started to notice that it was feeling cooler in the house. We checked the thermostat for the forced-air heating system and it was set properly but was blowing cool rather than warm air out of the wall vents. Turning the thermostat up had absolutely no effect. The heater for the system was located in the low crawl-space way up under the house. We had no idea what the problem was! We had no idea who you would call this time of the night...especially on Christmas Eve! On top of everything else...this time of the year for a large family, there was absolutely no money for any extra added expense. But we needed heat on a very cold night.
We knew that one of our neighbors in the sub-division where we lived owned a small Heating & Cooling business. So I looked his home number up and dialed. He answered and I started telling him about the problem. He got our street number and said, "I'll be right there."
A few minutes later he pulled up in his company van and got out. I introduced myself while noticing how nicely he was dressed for Christmas Eve. He opened a back door to the van, got out a pair of coveralls, and started pulling them on. Then he got a flashlight and toolbox and walked over to the small door to the crawl-space under the house. Getting down on all fours he disappeared under the house. I could hear him working way up under the house...for what seemed like hours!
Eventually I heard him crawling back, and coming out he said, "The main component for the heater is gone. I'm hoping I might have one to replace it in the shop. If not I'll have to order it. So, I'll be right back." He returned a short time later, and got out smiling saying "Thankfully I did have one!" Then it was back under the house for a long time, taking out the bad component and installing the new one. All of this time I had been trying to figure out what I was going to tell him as far as paying him. At that time in the 70's and in the South...most repairs were cash...due at the time of service! And I knew this was a very expensive repair!
As I heard him coming out from under the house, I was dreading having to tell him I couldn't even begin to start paying anything until after the new year. I helped him carry things back over to his van, and he took his dirty coveralls off and put them away. I then asked him, "How much do I owe you?" and told him, "I'll have to make some kind of arrangement as far as paying you." He had the sweetest smile on his face as he firmly shook my hand and said, "You don't owe me a penny. Merry Christmas to you and your family." With that he climbed into his van and waved as he drove away. I just stood there, with tears in my eyes, pleasantly stunned! What a wonderful...warm Christmas Eve that was.
After a few years and having built up some equity in the home and needing more space for the family, we started checking into the idea of enclosing the car-port and making a master bedroom. This would free up a bedroom for the kids to use. We also wanted to paint the house, put in some sliding doors and a patio, and a few other improvements. But, as we checked into some estimates and quotes...it all sounded so very expensive!
Since there were several steps down from the house into the car-port...we wanted to build the floor in the addition level with the rest of the house. Also we wanted to extend the duct-work from underneath the house in order to bring heat into the added room. All of the estimates we had gotten stated that this was going to be very expensive to do. They all recommended that we just put a pad over the concrete of the car-port and install carpet over the pad. They also recommended that we could get our heat source for that room from a plug-in electric heater or fireplace. Even if we did these recommended things rather than doing what we wanted to do, the estimates we got were in the range of thousands of dollars. That one project would use up all our money just to enclose the car-port...if we could afford to do that! We just didn't know what to do!
Shelley's dad Shelton worked for a Builders Supply Company. Knowing of our dilemma, he told us he was going to send a carpenter, who was a regular customer in the store, out to our house the next afternoon to talk with us. Shelton told us to tell the carpenter exactly what we wanted done as far as enclosing the car-port.
The next afternoon was Friday and I was out working in the front yard waiting for the carpenter to arrive at his appointed time. Hearing a noise I looked up and saw a very old pick-up rattling down our street and pulling up and parking along our front yard. An old fella got out who I swear was in his early eighties! Walking over he introduced himself as we shook hands and then said, "Mr. Shelton asked me to stop by and see if I could lend a hand. Why don't you show me what you' all would like to do."
Even though I was still coming out of shock, I was able to walk him over to the car-port and started explaining to him about how we wanted to enclose the car-port in order to make a master bedroom. He said, "Of course you want to raise the floor level with the rest of the house. And you can have the heat ducts from under your house extended out into the addition." I said, "Yes, of course! That is exactly what we want to do!" We then talked about paneling the walls, double windows for the front of the house, a single window for the side, insulation for the walls and floor. Everything we wanted and needed for the room. He said, "I can do everything you want except running the duct-work. You will have to get a heating contractor to extend your duct-work into the addition."
He then said, "If you wish I can start next Monday morning at 8:00...half hour for lunch at noon...stop at 4:00. I will work 40 hours a week until the job is done. I charge $5.00 an hour. If this is agreeable I will see you on Monday morning." I couldn't believe my ears! But...I agreed...and shook hands to seal the deal.
After he left, Shelley and I...remembering that special Christmas Eve from the past, knew exactly who that heating contractor would be! We saw this as an opportunity to repay his loving gift to our family on that special night years ago. I immediately gave him a call and he was so very happy to hear about our opportunity to enclose the car-port. He said he would be more than delighted to do the work for us, and that he would schedule with our carpenter the right time during the framing-in process to install the duct-work.
On Monday at 8:00 our carpenter began enclosing our carport into a master bedroom. I took some vacation time off from work in order to be a second pair of hands, doing whatever he needed me to do. It was amazing to watch this man work...he was a craftsman! Never a wasted motion. He always seemed to know exactly what he needed to do. I guess this came from years and years and years of experience!
Once he got the floor and walls framed in, and before putting down the sub-flooring, he notified our heating contractor (our good Samaritan from Christmas Eve past). He arrived the next morning and spent the day doing a beautiful job of installing the new duct-work. These ducts ran to vents in a couple of new walls and were tied into the existing heating system under the house.
When we paid him the amount we had previously agreed to, we added a nice bonus which more than compensated for his amazing gift years before. He was more than surprised about the bonus and said it was not expected nor necessary. But we insisted and told him it was our expression of gratitude for his gift to us on that special Christmas Eve.
Our carpenter soon completed all of the finishing touches on our new beautiful master bedroom. We had very nice carpet installed and moved in. Even with the cost of raising the floor level with the rest of the house, and having the new duct-work added and tied into the existing heating system; we still saved enough money on this project in order to do some other things. We had sliding doors put in the dining room through which you could step out back onto a beautiful concrete patio a contractor had poured and finished. Plus I painted the outside of the addition, and the rest of the house trim and shutters. I put extra insulation in the whole attic, along with a few more small projects.
This freed-up bedroom went to our oldest daughter who had been sharing a room with her two sisters. Our son, the youngest, already had a bedroom. Our other two daughters continued to share, but now with a little more room. All-in-all it was a very productive project! And the perfect ending to...
"A CHRISTMAS STORY"
WORDS OF WILLIAM™
William F. Carawan
All rights reserved
Boston, Massachusetts U.S.A.
I interviewed and hired a blue cow (see picture below) with a one of a kind attitude! Her name is Sally, although she says "sassy" is what most people call her...and I can understand why.
She recently arrived in the USA from a very tiny country called Kows'r'blu. In fact it is so tiny...that no one seems to know where it is located. Sally says its' one claim to fame is a small population (or herd) of blue cows which are not found anywhere else in the world. She says that makes her very rare and special! And I might add...seems to be the main cause of her attitude.
Sally has agreed to manage the "Comment Section" of my blog. She will get paid by commission based strictly on the tally of comments for that months' blog post. She seems to think that her attitude will be a big help in reaching that goal. And I can only imagine that it certainly will.
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