Stops and Stairs…

The first house I lived in had no stairs.

The lack of stairs made my father worry that his children might not know what to do when they encountered stairs elsewhere.

My father was a practical man, was a planner, and was able with tools and with his hands.

So he built a playhouse for the yard.

His tools always had a patch of pastel blue-green Rustoleum paint on them.  The color name was “Cascade Green”. He used that color because nobody else used it on their tools. If he ever lent out a tool, which was seldom, that color made sure he always got it back.


At one time in his life, in a progressive nursery school in New York City, he taught woodshop to very young children . He said that toy and “kiddie” tools were useless, and gave his young students real tools, as sharp as they ought to be. Nobody ever got hurt.

For almost any project he ever undertook, he would first draw plans on paper. There were probably plans for the playhouse he built, but I’ve never seen them.

The house had one small room downstairs. The ceiling height was about four feet, enough for us littles, but nothing a grownup could ever enter. Outside, a set of stairs with five or six stairs went to the top level, which had a railing roundabout, to to keep us from falling. He painted the playhouse a toned-down blue-green. He was fond of that color family. He particularly liked the way it looked next to dark woods.

His playhouse-with-stairs idea must have worked, for I can climb stairs to this very day.

You may have a favorite set of stairs somewhere. Maybe more than one, even.

The Woods Hole Community Hall has a wonderful set of stairs that goes from basement level to first floor.

On the plaster wall at the bottom of the stairs is a fine patch of deterioration. I’m fond of deterioration, especially of paint deterioration. In the art world, they get fancy, and call deterioration a fancy name, “craquelure”. Ceramicists call craquelure “crackle”, or “crazing.

Dig them crazy potters.


Craquelure on below-grade plaster wall, Woods Hole Community Hall.
Craquelure is a subject that artists, dealers, critics, and forgers have all made extensive study of.
There are even specific types of craquelure.
Italian – usually perpendicular to the grain of the panel.
Flemish – usually ordered network.
Dutch – usually connected network.
French – usually curved cracks.
Italian – can have small to large islands.

There are two landings, one of which has a door to the outside. To improve ventilation on nights when people are dancing on the first floor, the door gets propped open with a rock.

Next, from the first landing, we see the second landing and the steps that rise to the first floor.


Much of the varnished wood here is old-growth southern yellow pine.

Break time is over for the Woods Hole Folk Orchestra, and R. A. passes by, on his way to the stage, to help play music for the second half of the dance.


(RA plays squeezeboxes and a host of stringed instruments)

Hey, R.A. — See you up there in a minute, OK?


When I go back up, I’ll play guitar. Other places, I play other instruments.
Mandolin family.
Duck Call.
Washtub bass.

Looking down from the top of the stairs, you can easily fall into the abstract.


It makes you stop.

And stair.


One response to “Stops and Stairs…

  1. My favorite stairs are in a couple of buildings in the North End of Boston that used to house the North Bennett Street School where they taught piano tuning and technology/rebuilding. The flight I like wandered in a narrow way left and right as well as up and down as it connected two very old buildings.

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