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Memories of the IVA-LU Bungalow upriver from Accomac

The Bungalow IVA-LU (Photo from late 1940s, Collection of S. H. Smith)
The Bungalow IVA-LU (Photo from late 1940s, Collection of S. H. Smith)

During the 50s and early 60s, summer weekends following Memorial Day often included a visit to the IVA-LU Bungalow.  The usual routine was go to the bungalow early Saturday, sleep over until Sunday, then travel back home late Sunday.

The bungalow was always a fun place to visit.  There were plenty of things to do, places to explore, play with our cousins, and see our aunts and uncles.  Weekend gatherings of 20 to 30 were typical; occasionally more.

This picture shows the bungalow as viewed from the edge of the Susquehanna River.  The unpaved river road is out of sight; it is located behind the tall grass, just a few feet in front of the bungalow.  All the bungalows had names attached to them; ours was the IVA-LU, named for my grandparents Iva & Luther Smith.  I definitely have many good memories of times at that bungalow.

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The IVA-LU Bungalow has a connection to the 19th Century Railcar building company Billmeyer & Small.  In the early 20th Century, the Pennsylvania Railroad had their carpenters move an old Billmeyer & Small building from their former plant along North Duke Street to use as a Train-mans Bunk-house at North Duke and Arch Streets.  When this bunk-house was slated to be tore down in 1930, my Grandfather Luther Smith purchased and recycled the material to build the bungalow.

Luther S. Smith and his son-in-law Charles Strickhouser went 50/50 on leasing land along the Susquehanna River upriver from Accomac.  My Grandfather and Strick were responsible for much of the initial construction.  My Dad Harold L. Smith, his brothers and several brothers-in-law helped in the initial construction and in expanding the bungalow over the years.  There was always plenty of help; Dad had two brothers and seven sisters.

The principle feature of the main floor of the bungalow was a large interior common room that had a high peaked ceiling.  Tree trunks on cement pads supported the front part of the main floor.  By placing the bungalow on these stilts, the main floor was not as susceptible to high waters when the Susquehanna River flooded.

A wide screened porch wrapped around this large interior room.  A row of chairs was usually positioned next to the screen windows over the whole length of the porch.  A row of beds was positioned back next to the interior wall of the porch, plus queen size bunk beds were built into the porch.

Wood-Burning Stove at the IVA-LU (1960 Photo, Collection of S. H. Smith)
Wood-Burning Stove at the IVA-LU (1960 Photo, Collection of S. H. Smith)

A wood-burning cook stove in the common room provided the only bungalow heat source for cool mornings.  This stove also provided an extra cooking surface.  Much of the time at the bungalow was spent either outside or on the screened porch.  If it rained, for entertainment, there was an old phonograph that played large 78 Rpm records.  However if we had to be inside, most of the time was spent playing games or cards with cousins, aunts and uncles.

We usually went on at least two big walks each time we visited the bungalow.  Our walks were on the unpaved river road.  One walk followed this road downriver to Accomac and the other walk followed this road upriver to Wildcat Falls.  Playing down next to the river was always fun.  We did not swim very much in the York County side of the Susquehanna, it tended to be pretty muddy and the bottom was rocky.  If we wanted to swim, we would usually boat over to the Lancaster County side of the river where the water was clearer.

Out the back porch was a path that led to the large outdoor fireplace against the hillside; the place for grilling hamburgers and hot dogs.  It was not unusual to steam 15-dozen ears of sweet corn on the top plate of this fireplace.  One can’t beat the taste of sweet corn, steamed in partially husked ears, on the top of an open-air fireplace, between layers of wetted husks and burlap bags.

Stanley & Luther Smith at the IVA-LU (1954 Photo, Collection of S. H. Smith)
Stanley & Luther Smith at the IVA-LU (1954 Photo, Collection of S. H. Smith)

There was a long-long bench with a seat back located to the downriver side of the bungalow at the main floor elevation.  This bench had a good view of the river and across the river into Lancaster County.  This picture of my brothers Stanley (in front) and Luther (on the long-long bench) was the first photograph that ever took.  My Aunt Norma let me use her camera to snap this picture when I was 5-years-old.

To the downriver side of the bungalow, our neighbors were the Beshores; part of their bungalow can be seen in the background of this photograph.  The Beshores had a nice shuffleboard pad that they allowed us to use.  The two large trees in the upper left side of the photo were used as supports for a hammock that often hung in that location.

Immediately behind the bungalow the slope rose steeply up over the river hills.  When I was older, I went on a few walks up that steep rocky hill.  At the top was a section of Mahlon Haines’ Boy Scouts Wizard Ranch.  In looking at a topographic map, the average slope from the back yard of the bungalow to the top of the hill is 30 degrees, with certain sections up to 40 degrees slope.  The hill behind our bungalow is 340 feet in elevation above the Susquehanna River.

The bungalow was occasionally rented out for family gatherings or for other families’ summer vacations.  The bungalow was closed the remainder of the year, however check out photographs of winter scenes in this post.  As we got into the 60s, the Smith family use of the bungalow started to drop off from the much heavier use that I remember during the 50s.  This was the result of some aunts and uncles moving from the area and other interests and activities developing.

In September of 1964 our family had back-to-back reunions at the IVA-LU Bungalow.  On my Father’s side, the Smith Family Reunion was held September 6th.  Then the following weekend, on my Mother’s side, the Barshinger Family Reunion was held September 13th.  These were the last two big gatherings at the bungalow, as it was sold the following spring on May 7th 1965.

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