Everyone who moves into a new house expects to search for a light switch here and there but our 1950’s-era Sonoma County cottage took it to a new level. Our neighborhood was originally a summer vacation destination for people from the Bay Area and the accommodations were sparse and simple. The larger resorts in the area were where people socialized, dipped in the therapeutic waters of the local hot springs, ate their meals, played games and danced – the cottages were pretty utilitarian and mostly used for sleeping.
Our kitchen sink appeared to have an old garbage disposal hooked up but there was no switch to be found. We didn’t think to look behind the curtain under the sink but when we did, we discovered that we had the small luxury of a disposal after all.
The first time he used the shower John called out “There’s no hot water.” Taking a look at the water heater confirmed that it was working and I could run hot water from the kitchen sink so it was a bit of a mystery. I had an idea so I said “turn the water to cold and see what happens.” Sure enough, the hot and cold water in the shower were reversed.
We discovered unlikely outlets sharing the same electrical circuit when we realized that we couldn’t watch TV or listen to the radio in the bedroom unless the front porch light was turned on.
When we scratched our head and wondered “Why would anyone have done it that way?” the answer was obvious – because it was somehow simpler at the time and it just worked.
Whenever friends or family wanted to stay at the cottage we had to leave them a note explaining the quirky nuances. No one minded – in fact, they got a kick out of it. We’ve fixed most of the issues over the years but twenty years later we still reach behind the sink curtain to run the disposal.2