Christmas in Peoria was a green one that year and no one missed the cold
weather one bit. Lowering temperatures and snowfall only meant difficulties.
It was not something to be nostalgic about.
For Daisy and her family, the Christmas season meant spending time at her
aunt and uncle’s home on Peoria’s West Bluff. It was the only time of the
year that the entire family was sure to be together, and Daisy always looked
forward to seeing her three older cousins (who didn’t live in Peoria) and their
families. It was also the only time of the year that her aunt and uncle’s entire
massive home was at full occupancy.
The home itself sat comfortably back from the newly paved street and had a
large open front yard dotted with mature elm trees. From the street, a wide
wooden boardwalk stretched to the front steps of the house – which was
really a mansion even though no one in her family thought in those terms. It
stood at three stories – the first story with a fully covered porch stretching the
length of the home and around one side; the second story with three
oversized windows (the outer two belonging to two master bedrooms and
the middle one lending light to the home’s primary staircase); and the third
story which was technically an attic (even though it had high ceilings and
was “finished”) and served as extra living space for visiting family, or
exhausted party goers.
Below the home was a large stone cellar with a special room for the family’s
stock of wine and whiskey outfitted with a dumbwaiter to lift the barrels up to
the first floor, along with a door with a ramp leading out to the backyard.
Atop the home were four large chimneys for four fireplaces located in the
living room, kitchen and two bedrooms.
On one side of the home, Daisy’s aunt and uncle had recently added a two-story
extension where the servants now lived in semi-privacy. It had its own
(small) kitchen, fireplace, and bathroom on the ground floor along with
bedrooms above. On the other side, where the covered porch wrapped
around the spacious ground floor, were the stables where the family’s
several horses and wagons were housed.
Upon entering the home, visitors were greeted by a grand staircase leading
up to the second and third floors. Directly to the right, a large living room
packed rather tightly with overstuffed couches, chairs and various furnishings
from her aunt and uncle’s trips around the world. There were porcelain
statues from Germany, delicate vases from the Orient and fine Italian stained
glass. Along the far wall, beneath an enormous oil painting of the family, was
a grand piano that was put to good use quite often – especially during the
To the left and opposite the living room was the family dining room, featuring
a large, formal mahogany table that could comfortably seat twelve (and
sometimes a few more). Around it on all sides were sunken cabinets with
glass doors showcasing literally hundreds of pieces of dinnerware and
flatware, along with innumerable glasses, goblets, steins, decanters, coffee
pots, tea sets, serving platters, trays, and tureens. From the dining room, you
could access the family kitchen (which was connected to the servants’
quarters) and the family library which was equally packed with innumerable
books as well as photography equipment and a typewriter.
That year Christmas Day was on Friday, which meant Daisy would enjoy a
nice long weekend with her family. She still had to work on Thursday,
Christmas Eve, which was the busiest day of the year at the Post Office. Truth
be told she spent little time at the Post Office at all that day as she was out
making local deliveries via bicycle. After a long day riding throughout the
city (including up and down the West Bluff a few times) the last thing she
wanted to do was pedal back to the farm – only to have to come back into
Peoria the next day with her family.
So, Daisy decided to spend Christmas Eve with her aunt and uncle – and her
three cousins who were already back home – and stay overnight there. She
would see the rest of her family when they came into town early on