Home-The Lamp Lighter and Chrysteel Acres

Chrysteel Acres is a housing development created to house families of the steel workers that built Geneva Steel.  Geneva Steel was a steel mill owned and operated by U.S. Steel corporation out of Pittsburgh, Pa.  The mill was located along the shores of Utah Lake in Utah County, the heart of Utah.  The mill was dismantled in the late 1900's.  My father was a Steel worker and I grew up in Chrysteel Acres.  This short story is a night extracted from my life in the house in Crysteel Acres.

Soft music drifts through the frost covered windows of the brick homes in Chrysteel Acres.
The shadows of Mt. Timpanogos sweep across the valley covering the house and the music. The image of the Indian maiden, Pocahontas, defines the peaks of Mt Timpanogos and is believed to protect the valley and the brick houses below and those that live there.

Most houses in the acres are perfect squares. They are walls of brick laid on cement foundations that jut from the earth and form basements beneath the hardwood flooring. Directly in the center of the front of the brick houses are cement porches with three steps leading up to their front doors. The steps have no rails or personalities. On either side of the steps are large square windows formed with one pane of glass.

Even though the homes are the same, they are not the same. They have their own personalities. Their windows are their eyes, the doors are their noses and the steps are their mouths. Each house takes on the personalities  of the people I grew up with.

The red brick house on the corner emits soft music from a cello being practiced by a nine year old prodigy son of the dentist. He is accompanied by the teenage daughter of the ski lift owner that lives in the purple brick house in the middle of the block.

The music drifting from the home at 448 East 1010 South is coming from an RCA record player. The player is playing "The Old Lamp Lighter" by Sammy Kaye. The woman of the house rocks in her rocking chair as she knits another Afghan blanket to be given to another friend or relative.

She hums along to the music and sometimes even sings the words. She has a pretty voice but is self conscious if anyone dares to comment about it.

She is a heavy set woman with a beautiful smile. Her short cut hair has just began to show a hint of gray. As she works the needles with her hands and fingers, her lips seemed give her fingers silent directions as the player sings the words of the "The Old Lamp Lighter".

"He made the night a little brighter
wherever he would go
the old lamplighter
of long, long ago

His snowy hair was so much whiter
beneath the candle glow
the old lamplighter
of long, long ago"

The man of the house smiles as he watches his wife from the corner of his eye. He is of slender build with thick hair that was jet black when he was younger but now his hair is more gray than black. He combs it straight back but the only time you can see his hair is when he is in the house. He considers it bad manners to wear a hat in the house. When he is outside he always wears his welder's cap or a floppy Stetson style cowboy hat.

While the woman knits, if the man isn't in his basement workshop cutting and polishing stones, he sits in his easy chair and reads Zane Gray western novels. Sometimes he will drink a beer and sometimes a cup of coffee. Every so often he will get up and go to the garage and take a swallow of whiskey out of the bottle he keeps hidden there. The music follows him to the garage. I wonder if the music isn't somehow referring to the man I call dad.

"You'd hear the patter of his feet
as he came toddling down the street
His smile would cheer a lonely heart you see
If there were sweethearts in the park

He'd pass a lamp and leave it dark
Remembering the days that used to be
For he recalled when things were new
He loved someone who loved him too
Who walks with him alone in memories"

The couple have four children ranging from twelve to seventeen. Sometimes they grumble about the old music but they are not allowed to complain. The time after dinner is family time. The children do home work or read a book. The girls practice their crocheting or work on their needle crafts. The boys finish their homework and then read Zane Gray novels or other cowboy books that are on the coffee table.

The youngest boy looks through the frosted windows and watches the shadows created by the street light combined with the lights from the houses and sometimes the lights of a cars passing by. The shadows seem to him as if they are ghosts dancing across the snow covered yards. Once in a while a person walks by and the ghost shadows seemed to chase the walker and the boy would want to shout warnings but his mind would always catch him. The music would go on and the Lamplighter would walk with the shadows.

"He made the night a little brighter
wherever he would go
the old lamplighter
of long, long ago

His snowy hair was so much whiter
beneath the candle glow
the old lamplighter
of long, long ago"

The woman knits and hums. The man reads and dozes. The children slipped off to bed. The girls disappear to their bedroom up stairs to giggle and talk, the boys to their bedroom in the basement and continue their books. The basement is filled with the sound of the father's rock tumblers rolling and polishing his stones to a satiny sheen…swish…plunk…swish.

Their bedroom carries the aroma of fresh laundry hanging on the ropes strung from rafters in the basement laundry area.  Always present is the foul odor of fuel oil that feeds the oil burning furnace. The pelt of a Utah Cougar watches them from their bedroom wall. They go to sleep listening to the sounds of the music falling from above.

"Now if you look up in the sky
You'll understand the reason why
The little stars at night are all aglow
He turns them on when night is near

He turns them off when dawn is here
The little man we left so long ago
He made the night a little brighter
Wherever he would go
The old lamplighter of long, long ago"

                                                                                                                        gs batty/June 2011

About Me

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So Cal, United States
I am an apprentice writer of short stories and I also attempt a little poetry.