Saturday, June 17, 2017

Where Have All the Front Porches Gone?

When I was younger, many houses still had front porches.  A lot of time was spent on them, especially in the days before the air conditioner.  People would go out on the porch for the fresh air, to catch a breeze and in many cases, to shoot the breeze with their neighbors.  Many neighborhood streets were lined with homes that had a front porch and it became a time where they could socialize with one another. 

Have you ever been on a front porch that had a swing, and just sat there rocking back and forth, enjoying the peacefulness of it.  There is something about time spent in a swing that is so relaxing and being on the front porch allowed you to see the happenings in the neighborhood.

I have been on many front porches and they were all different.  They may be as wide as the front of the house, just large enough for a couple chairs by the front door or just a stoop to an entryway.  My favorites were always the ones that spanned the length of the front of the house.  This was where family members and friends could gather and solve all the problems of the world.  Where you could watch for fireflies or hear the whippoorwill and bobwhite calling their names.  (As I write, the fireflies are very plentiful in my backyard.)  The pictures below are all of my mom on or by the front porch of the Garrison home.

My all time favorite front porch was at my Grandma and Grandpa Garrison’s house.  It looked out on two majestic magnolia trees and had a view of the original family home.  Over the years, many people gathered there and lots of family pictures were taken and memories were made.  My mom was the youngest of twelve, and many of our family reunions were held right on the property where my grandparents lived.  Many of us would sit out on the porch and catch up, having not seen each other for great lengths of time.  For my family, being that my dad was Air Force, it was usually several years, depending on where we were stationed at the time. 

Grandma and Grandpa Garrison's house.

The Garrison Clan on the front porch.
This is the way the front porch looks today,
thanks to my Cousin Gwen and my
Aunt Gladys.

Chairs similar to ones on my
Grandparent's front porch.  
I can remember one reunion where we were sitting out there and my dad was in one of those metal chairs, and I went over and plopped down in his lap.  Well, that was a rude awakening moment as the chair collapsed under us, leaving us laughing and mortified at the same time.  I want to believe that the chair was weak and that it was not our weight that caused the damage. 

We played lots of outdoor games at those reunions and they would start and end at the porch.  Boo-boos were bandaged there and beautiful pictures were taken, sitting or standing with the porch as a background.

South Dakota, 1958 above, Alaska
early 60's below.
Have you noticed, though, that many of the houses being built today don’t have front porches?  Many have elaborate decks and patios behind the house, closed off from their neighbors.  The porch of yesterday has pretty much vanished.  I couldn’t get one chair on my porch, much less more.  It is more of an entryway, plain, not near as inviting.  But they just don’t seem to make them like they used to.  All the new fangled amenities have taken us indoors, computers, smart TV’s, air conditioning.   Are we missing out?  I think, to a certain extent, we are.  It was a part of the lifestyle…a little piece of Americana.  To the left are some of      the front porches of houses I lived in, growing up.  

There is a movement out there, (slowly growing) to bring back the front porch.  There are even organizations that are actively promoting it.  According to an article there is actually a “Professional Porch Sitters Union Local 1339” in Louisville, Kentucky.  The author of the article, Michelle Norris, titled the article, “Sitting on the Porch: Not a Place, But a State of Mind”.  I agree with that.  To see the full article, click here.   

House in Southern Pines,
NC, we lived in a short time.
How many times did you sit on the porch and watch a storm roll in?  Or watch the kids play in the street?  Those times were much more tranquil and quiet than now, with all the loud cars, stereos blaring, and revving engines.  But being out there is still so much better than sitting inside, with all those electronic devices we have become attached to.  (Myself included)  Would it be healthier to have that “down” time, fresh air, and neighborhood fellowship?  I can’t help but think it would be.  

So, here’s to houses with front porches!  If you have one, make a point to go out and enjoy it more.  If you don’t, figure out a way that you can accomplish the same type of experiences.  You won’t regret it!

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