Classic Belle Vernon house offers look back in time
Visitors who step into the Good Ol' Days House could believe they've wandered onto the set of “Mad Men,” or perhaps “The Brady Bunch.”
The cheery house in North Belle Vernon, with its working rotary telephones, bright Fiestaware dinner plates and nubby chenille bedspreads, appears to be frozen in mid-20th century, a time Baby Boomers in particular find familiar.
The wall-mounted copper molds, bread box, coffee percolator and Kit-Cat clock make the kitchen a drawing point.
“People walk in here and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, that's my grandma's kitchen,'” said proprietor Melanie Patterson, 53.
Billed as a “nostalgic guesthouse,” the two-story home, built in 1928, was purchased in 1949 by Patterson's grandparents, Guiseppe (Joe) and Guiseppina (Josephine) Stringile. It was later owned by an aunt.
“When she died five years ago, this is how the house looked,” Patterson said.
A former teacher, Mrs. United States and entrepreneur — she invented and marketed paper bibs for children, called PIBS, when her son was young — Patterson saw an opportunity.
She did some research and found nothing like what she had in mind.
She noted how much tourists like the Cleveland house where Ralphie's family lived in the movie “A Christmas Story.”
“But you can't stay there. (This) is like a museum that you sleep in,” she said.
After buying and renovating the house, Patterson opened the doors in 2009 and has welcomed more than 500 guests.
Unlike many people's memories of Grandma's house, nothing is “hands off.”
A collection of Jackie Kennedy-style pillbox hats and fedoras displayed atop a china cabinet tempts visitors to try one on.
Guests get a kick out of the metal ice cube trays and the push lawn mower parked in the backyard.
Shelves in a peach-and-cream bathroom hold VapoRub, Lavoris mouthwash and Aqua Net hair spray.
“These are Sonny Bono pants,” Patterson said, holding out a pair of striped flares from a boys' bedroom closet.
A girls' bedroom closet reveals old prom dresses and a Brownie uniform.
“Women who stay here have taken it out and started singing, ‘I've got something in my pocket,'” Patterson said, reciting the lyrics to the “Brownie Smile Song.”
Donny Osmond and Leif Garrett posters hang on the door; bottles of Wind Song, Love's Baby Soft and Charlie perfume line the dresser.
Behind the house, her aunt's former beauty shop has been converted into a “Happy Days Hideaway For Two,” a smaller version of the Good Ol' Days House.
Bloomer-style swimsuits hang from a clothesline; Radio Flyer wagons double as planters.
Six women who graduated together from Franklin Regional School District 35 years ago and plan an annual girls' getaway recently spent a night at the Good Ol' Days House.
Rae Ann Marscher of Harrison City, Cindee Perry of Jeannette, Debbie Latta and Mindy Markovich, both of Murrysville, and Nancy Wallace and Jackie Painter, both of Delmont, particularly enjoyed the roominess of a three-bedroom house rather than a couple of hotel rooms.
The women dressed up in garb from their high school days, including crocheted vests and platform shoes, and played pinball in the basement rumpus room.
“Nancy had fun posing with the (life-size) cutouts of James Dean and Dean Martin,” Marscher said.
“There were so many knickknacks and pictures and statues. Several of us said, ‘Oh, my grandmother had that,'” she said.
Marscher said the women appreciated the backyard, an option hotels typically don't offer.
They enjoyed seeing shampoos and perfumes from their teen years, but admittedly were stymied by the percolator.
“We had to Google how to work it,” Marscher said, laughing.
The details of the house impressed the women, right down to a candy dish filled with hard-to-find treats from their childhoods.
“You know how some people take the shampoo from hotels? I said I'm going to take a Slo Poke,” Marscher said.
For the second time, Patterson will host a holiday open house to benefit Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania, which serves clients in Washington, Greene and Fayette counties.
From 4-8 p.m. Dec. 21, visitors are welcome to tour the house at 914 Broad Ave. and donate pajamas, socks and slippers for women or children.
“Remember the old tradition of getting new PJs for Christmas? I'll be wearing my Dr. Dentons,” Patterson said.
For more information, visit www.NostalgicGuesthouse.com.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.