A Slice of Life
By Bill Lites
DiVoran and I moved to East Central Florida in 1965 and bought our first brand new house. At the time, the area was booming with the Manned Space Program, and the construction industry couldn’t keep up with the demand for new houses. Our new house was located in a small new sub-division, and was typical for the time and area; concrete block construction, with pitched roof, jalousie windows, and minimal insulation.
Having both been born and raised in the southwest, we were not used to the heat and humidity here in Florida. As a result, I spent a lot of my spare time during those first several years in the attic building board walkways, installing lights, and wiring ceiling fans for every room in the house.
There were stories of how the contractors were cutting corners to meet their schedules and reduce costs. We didn’t pay a lot of attention to the stories at first, as we were just happy to have been able to find and buy a new house in such a “Buyer’s Market” so quick. However, working in the attic gave me a good idea of some of those shortcuts.
For instance, the attic insulation was very flimsy. It was made of Aluminum coated corrugated craft paper! Try to imagine, in the picture below, that the top and bottom layers are corrugated craft paper (somehow bonded together) with the aluminum coating on the outside surfaces. The aluminum coating, we were told, was supposedly to reflect the radiant heat from of the sun. The open area between the top and bottom layers was an “insulating air space” to keep the heat from reaching the ceiling. I can’t imagine how any building industry standards organization could have ever approved such a flimsy and ridiculous design. But, there it was. And of course, there was NO insulation of any kind over the garage area.
DiVoran and I always had pets while growing up, and of course we had to have a pet to go with our new house. Our beautiful long-haired gray and white tabby’s name was “Pepper” and he was a very active in-door addition to our family. I can’t remember just when the following episode occurred, but suffice it to say it was some years after our move to Florida.
In the middle of the night, I woke to hear what sounded like a small critter in the attic above our bedroom. It sounded like it would scurry around quickly, on that flimsy craft paper insulation in the attic, and then it would stop and I could hear it gnaw on something. Then it would scurry around some more, and then back to gnawing. For the next few nights, I pondered on how I was going to get rid of that pesky critter. I could just see it gnawing through the insulation on an electric wire and starting a fire. And, I didn’t want it to make a home in our attic and start raising a family to add to the potential problem. Then I believe God gave me an inspired idea!
The next evening I put Pepper in the attic and closed the access door. He circled the access door a few times, meowing. When he finally realized I wasn’t going to open the access door and let him out, I heard him walking across the craft paper insulation to the vent holes in the soffit.
He kept moving from one vent hole to the next, looking for a way to get out of the attic. He progressed around two whole sides of the house until he got to our bedroom, when his movements stopped. All this time our pesky critter had been busy gnawing and scurrying around its usual area of the attic, just above our bedroom light fixture. There was silence from Pepper for a full minute, while the critter kept gnawing. Then there was a loud thump! And then complete silence. We heard no more sounds from the attic for the rest of the night.
The next morning, I opened the attic access door and called Pepper. It took him a while, but then I saw him walking toward me on the walk-way board, meowing all the way. I lifted him down and he seemed happy to be back in the house with his family. As it turned out, we never had another problem with critters in our attic. Who knows, maybe Pepper left his scent up there, and it deterred any other adventuresome critters from making a home in our attic. Whatever the case, we are happy they have stayed away. Just in case you were wondering, we did put some real insulation in our attic not too long after that.