"The House On The Hill"
by Jacqueline Kazarian
live in one of the worlds created by William Saroyan. He
lived in many worlds and he left his mark on each of them and the people
around him. The Fifteenth Avenue home is the only remaining Saroyan
property. All of the others have been sold ... the beach house in Malibu,
the apartment in Paris and the two tract homes in Fresno. There were a few others;
the flats on Taraval and the home for Aram and Lucy on Maroney Lane in
Pacific Palisades; they too have long been gone.
They moved in during the spring of 1939, after much excitement and preparation. It was a big thing to move into a brand new home, built just the way you wanted. The furniture had been made to order. There were special bookshelves, fireplaces, an Armenian cracker bread closet, an extra bedroom, a bathroom and a library for his own warm and wonderful apartment downstairs. He was in charge of making the decision for their house and money was never a consideration. He asked Nana and Cosette their opinions and showed them samples, but I think he really made the choices. They were pleased he did. The lower floor was his private domain, complete with player piano, often blasting loudly when he was home. The neighbors could attest to that. His desk, really a plain oak table that he refinished, was placed in front of the huge window that overlooked the garden and the Pacific and there was his typewriter. The walls of his library, study, workroom were covered with brushed white pine bookshelves going from ceiling to floor. They were filled with books and books and more books. The room even smelled like him; a kind of haunting, musty, mannish one.
He wanted this to be the best home he could get for his mother, Takoohi and his sister Cosette and himself. In 1943, when he wrote the best seller, Book of the Month Club selection, The Human Comedy, he said, in the dedication to his mother: "I have wanted it to be an especially good story, the best I might ever be able to write". So it was with this house. It had to be the best he might ever be able to provide. He had always longed for a home of his own and this house was to be the beginning of dreams come true. They had been living in a rented, upstairs flat at 348 Carl Street overlooking Kezar Stadium and the Golden Gate Park. Moving to Fifteenth Avenue was like moving to the Top of the Mark, a fashionable, historic hotel in downtown San Francisco.
was ten years old, my home was down the hills on Sixteenth Avenue.
The idea of Nana's living up the hill filled me with excitement as I
used to run up the long flight of stairs on Sixteenth Avenue, over the
hill to Nana's house. The house immediately had a sort of enchantment
for me and going there made me feel like a little princess. When I got
to spend the night, it was almost as though the black and green bathroom
shower sprinkled some kind of heavenly water on me, for the next morning
I fancied myself somehow different.
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