I’ve been carrying around a single red brick since I was a kid. It’s not visually impressive. I mean, it’s a brick and a funky old one at that. But it holds a lot of significance to me. It holds a lot of “weight,” if you will.
What’s so special about this brick? The little Cape Cod town where I grew up was once home to the famous West Barnstable Brick Company factory. Millions of bricks were produced there until the Great Depression stopped production forever. When I was young, the factory’s ruins were located about half a mile from my childhood home, if you walked the railroad tracks and cut through the woods. Or so I hear.
My dad’s side of the family has a tradition of putting one of these embossed West Barnstable bricks in their home’s hearth. My mom told me that my grandmother would gift them to people when they were moving into their new home (which makes me think it was a “thing” outside of the family too). Well, at some point in my childhood, I was gifted one. And I’ve been hauling this dang clay paperweight around for over 40 years, just waiting to put it in its permanent place.
Now, my brother has been talking about relocating his family to a different state for some time now. And all his talk of moving got me thinking about where I want to be when SJ flies the coop for college… which is like three years away. (Yeah, crazy, I know.) As I started dreaming about life after the Bay Area, I started thinking of that brick again. It’s totally possible that I could finally have a home for it in the near-ish future. That may not seem like a big deal but what that really means is that I’ve grown up enough to envision myself owning a house! ME. All by myself. (You have to understand…I’m a late bloomer.)
Now, my brother is moving, and soon. Just last week he asked if I had a W.B. brick I’d be willing to sell to him for his family’s new-to-them hearth. I pulled mine out of storage and briefly contemplated giving it to him. But then I realized I needed it. I mean, I’m so close to placing my brick in my hearth… right? I told him ‘sorry, no,’ and he 100% understood. Within a couple of hours, not one but FIVE of these bricks showed up for sale online (like I said, millions were made back in the day). So, now he’s got one too.
It’ll be a minute or two but I’ll take a picture for you all when I can finally place mine — in 2023?
— Rusty Blazenhoff
P.S. The front steps of my childhood home were also made with these bricks. Yes, that’s me in 1976.