Friday, March 18, 2011

Primrose Hill, London - Paradise Hill Adams County, Iowa

One of the books I read last week and a book I am currently reading both had mentions of Primrose Hill in London, England in them (pictured above). I could not read "Primrose Hill" without thinking about "Paradise Hill".
Primrose Hill is a hill of about 260 feet located on the north side of Regent's Park. The name also includes the surrounding area which has always been one of the more fashionable districts in the urban belt of London. Current and past residents are a who's who of notable names.
A one-bedroom flat can be had for a mere 300,000 pounds - about $486,000 at today's exchange rate. Paradise Hill in Adams County, which was comprised of a house and garage, an old barn and forty-six acres could have been purchased for one-fourth that amount three years ago.

Crystal and Dean Firkins with grandsons, Bruce and Steven taken in 1954.
The Firkins were our neighbors about 3/4's of a mile north of us in Jasper Township. They moved to their farm in 1936. Dad & Mom moved to ours in 1938. The friendships formed were close and long lasting. As kids, we called them 'aunt' and 'uncle'. I still have a double heart pin that he gave me when I was eight or nine which has my name on one heart and 'Uncle Dean' on the other. Their younger son, Norman, and my brother, Ronald, were best friends all the way through country school.
Crystal, daughter-in-law, Mona, son, Jim Firkins, and Jim and Mona's son, Bruce. Jim's lived in Minnesota so when they were home for a visit, we usually went up to see them. And years later Jim would always come down to see Mom when he was back.
Crystal could be a bit of a character. She wasn't the typical farm wife like my mom, but she had a heart of gold. (She moved her invalid sister in with her and took care of her many years.)
One of the things I remember most about her was learning to play Canasta. Before the advent of television, more time was spent socializing. Getting together with neighbors and playing cards was a common pastime. Crystal took her card playing seriously. She was out to win every time. What I remember is the way she would scream if someone else went out (won the game) before she did. (The screaming was even more prolonged when she won.) In later years, Crystal, her sister, Ruby, Mom and another neighbor got together regularly to play Pitch.)

Norman Firkins, Ronald Lynam, Sammy Jenkins taken during the 1946-47 school year. Ruth Perrin was the teacher at the time. The Jenkins family lived on the corner a mile west of us. They moved to California around 1950. The Firkins also moved to California when Norman was in 8th grade, but moved back to Iowa within a year.

Dad, our dog, Laddie and Bruce taken in front of the Firkins home. At some point in my Grandpa and Grandma Lynam's marriage, they lived in this house. I think it was in the late teens or early 20's. Grandpa George was listed as one of the director's of Jasper # 2 in some of the old secretary's books Dad had. (Dad was secretary for many years including when the school was closed.)
The house was the typical two-up, two-down (rooms) with a one story kitchen added on to the side. If you went in this front door, there was a room to the left, a room to the right and the stairs right in front of you.
I don't think Crystal named her place "Paradise Hill" until after Dean died in 1981. She was a big fan of Helen Steiner Rice's poems which were used in an inspirational card line from Gibson Greetings. Those were Crystal's favourite cards to send to others. She always underlined significant words (like 'friend') in the cards she sent on Mom's birthday. (Sometimes double and triple underlining.)
In her last few years, Crystal paid for space in the local newspaper to print "On Paradise Hill". Sometimes her writings would be thoughts about her family; often they would be one of the Helen Steiner Rice poems. Sometimes they would be both, but always they ended with a personal thought from Crystal, On Paradise Hill.

(Crystal Firkins died in July, 2003; five months before her longtime friend, Ruth Lynam.)


  1. This brings back memories. My grandmother did indeed scream during card games! I still have several of the Gibson Greeting cards she sent me - which contained many double and triple underlined words, her dear commentary, and signature closing, "On Paradise Hill." Grandma was indeed a character...with a golden heart. She was an example of self sacrificing love, an example which is more difficult to find "nowadays."

    1. Kristi - Thank you for your comment. I think I met you and Mike once, maybe? I know you remember my Mom, Ruth. Your grandparents were a big part of my life and, of course, your Dad was around a lot when we were kids. It was a good neighborhood in which to grow up. Good memories.