|Inspiration and Sources
The Burns children, 1925
The period around World War One marked the Burns family's continuing transition from blue-collar work and tenancy to white-collar status and home ownership. The family reached its full size with the addition of Number Four, Robert Milton Burns. By 1925, Ebba had gone off to college, and Don was preparing to leave the nest.
World War One provided a convenient backdrop for Story #1, where I was able to introduce many details about Burns family life gleaned from contemporaneous and later correspondence and Don's and Ebba's memoirs. In contrast to the Civil War, during which Ada's father and grandfather and Guy's grandfather all served, no Burns family men were conscripted for this conflict -- Guy and Lorenzo were too old.
I reprinted a love letter from Guy to Ada in its entirety for Story #2, because it shows the depth of love and passion he felt for her after 13 years of marriage and three children.
Ebba's memoir contains specific recollections of the family's experience of influenza at the close of World War I. Guy's files contained a list of important dates in his induction into Freemasonry, which began at precisely this time. I used this confluence to underpin Story #3. The Summit County history site supplied important details about Masons living in the Falls, and an online book about Mason rituals gave me details -- surprising ones! -- about the induction process. Military and census records provided additional context.
Hollyhock House is the name the family gave to the house on Center Street, to which they moved in 1920. Hollyhock House was also the name of Frank Lloyd Wright’s first Los Angeles project, built between 1919 and 1923. From the official website for this famous structure: "Hollyhock House is a remarkable combination of house and garden. In addition to the central garden court, each major interior space adjoins an equivalent exterior space, connected either by glass doors, a porch, pergola or colonnade. A series of rooftop terraces further extend the living space and provide magnificent views of the Los Angeles basin and the Hollywood Hills."
Ada was so happy to leave her parents-in-law and move to this nice little house three blocks away. The family put their hearts and souls into it for more than ten years. Ada especially loved her gardens, where she planted lots of hollyhocks. So Story #4 celebrates this move, using details from contemporaneous and later correspondence, maps of the neighborhood, family memorabilia and photos, and Bob's recollections.
Both Bob and Ebba spoke of their mother's illness after his birth, and the caretaking role Ebba assumed during this time. It would have been natural for her, at age 16, to act in a motherly way, but this special responsibility set that relationship on a footing that lasted until Ebba grew old and herself needed help. To write Story #5, I used details from contemporaneous and later correspondence, family memorabilia and photos, and Bob's recollections.
The house on Center Street was frequently referred to in letters as Madeover House, because Guy was forever working to improve it. Madeover Man seemed like a good title for Story #6, which celebrates the Burns family's ascendance into middle class white-collar socioeconomic status. Ebba was a frequent soloist at the church, and such a performance, attended by proud family, seemed like a promising vehicle for delivering the wealth of detail we have about this period of their lives -- from contemporaneous and later letters, Don's memoir, family memorabilia, and Bob's recollections.
The subject of Story #7 is a serious car accident in 1924 that caused no end of trouble and headache for the Burns family for a long time thereafter. Guy saved all the documentation relative to the case, which was eventually settled for a fraction of the astronomical amount for which they were initially sued by the people who ran into them.
Dolce Domum, the title of Story #8, was the name of Ebba and Elna's favorite chapter of Wind in the Willows, and so it seemed fitting to use it for this account of sweet home life at 131 Center Street in the mid-twenties. The details for this story were taken from contemporaneous and later letters, and from Bob's recollections.