Grandpa’s Wallet – Zip Code, House and Poem

The next item from my Grandpa’s wallet that prompted a response is this:

zip code

It isn’t special or important, just the code for Elk Horn, and perhaps he never bothered to memorise and kept for info. It did, however, encourage me to look at a google map of Elk Horn, to see if I recognised any places – which I couldn’t – but to then see if I could find whether my grandparents’ house is still there, even though I don’t have an actual address.

What I did recall, and mentioned in yesterday’s post, was that it was on the main road in and out of Elk Horn. So I went on Main Street and traveled visually out of town, or what I recall was out as we would arrive in from Omaha from the opposite direction. The small house with its porch – though most will have them in America – was also as I clearly remember on the left hand side of the road, so that’s where I looked.

And I am sure this is it:


This has to be it – one of the smaller houses on this road, with the porch, and the two windows either side for the two rooms, though I think it was open plan. This is the porch where my Grandpa would sit, on the left as you look, with his pet bee in the summer. Really.

Perhaps not of that much interest to the casual reader of this blog, but it is an amazing find for me, especially in the nostalgic mood I am in with his wallet. But I will leave this discovery at that.

I’ll close this remembrance on another slant. I was going to post a poem I had written about my Grandpa and published in the Anglo-American poetry magazine Argo in 1979. Published in Oxford where I was living and studying, it also had Peter Porter and Peter Levi in that edition and I thought I had ‘arrived’ as a writer. It is a natural celebration to have had, as fleeting as it was in being realised!

Looking at the poem yesterday I was surprised how poor I now feel it was, and is. Whilst earnest and carefully crafted, I seemed to try and write everything there was to write about my Grandpa, especially all of the naming details I could. It is in three parts and concludes with a self-referencing piece on the act of writing, the intrusion from my literary studies at the time. So I am not posting it here. It is of its time. But I did write this yesterday, and it is a dedication to the memory of my Grandpa I now prefer:

Grandpa Carlson

He slept alone in the whole broad attic and
I heard his slow heavy steps up the turning stairs
as she read me a bedtime story in her room having
un-turned that surprising long hair from its bun.
In the day he’d be on the outdoor porch communing
with a bee, or riding the rocker’s run, plug ringing in
the living-room spittoon, cigar smoke later on breath
or being blown into my ear to send an ache away.

He would have been aware I took that dollar bill, a curfew
for being home not punishment but because he’d
always know, and when the driver rode by and stopped
with his window down – dried mud on the side of his
face – Grandpa didn’t need to see my hands to warn the
man how the day had been hot and to be on his way.

The following photo is of my Grandpa Axel and Grandma Aasta with me at 3 years old, but not at their home, probably around 5 years or so before the main memories in the poem:

g g and me0002


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