This is self-evidently a white house. For many years, it was also the Whites’ house: Arthur A. White (b ±1908), a carpenter and plumber; his wife, Mary C. White (b ±1908); and their daughter, Rose White (b ±1934). Rose, who had been born with disability that kept her housebound for her entire youth, was given a television set by the people of Provincetown in 1950, when television sets were luxury items commanding prices akin to a top-of-the-line Mac computer today.
About five years after Rose’s birth, White was working at the old Cape Cod Cold Storage, 125 Commercial Street, when he opened a gate on the fourth floor to step into what he thought would be a waiting elevator. The elevator cab, out of service, was stopped one floor above. White plunged 50 feet to a cement floor, probably striking his head on the side of the shaft as he did so. He was rushed to Boston in a Lower Cape ambulance, accompanied by state troopers, and survived. Is “miraculously” too cliché? (“Survives Fall of Fifty Feet; Arthur White Doing Well After Plunge in Cold Storage Elevator Shaft,” The Advocate, 29 June 1939.)
The list of people who contributed to the fund for 16-year-old Rose White’s television set reads like a Who’s Who of Provincetown at mid-century. (“Rose Is Blooming as TV Entertains; Townspeople Join to Bring Cheer to Young Shut-In,” The Advocate, 18 May 1950.) And, yes, it was quite possible in 1950 to be a teen-ager who had never watched television. (We didn’t have a set in my Chicago household until 1959, when I was seven.) Rose responded with a touching poem, “My Sincere Thanks”:
Oh! I thank you kind-hearted people
For you have made my life very cheerful.
As each day to me would seem a year,
For I knew tomorrow I would still be here.
My thanks go to each and every one
For the kind-hearted deed you have done.
I cannot enjoy what others do.
With this T.V. set my life is new.
Now again I thank you, one and all,
For the gift you gave me was not small.
My thoughts will always be of you
To see the outside world, that is true.
Donald L. Reil converted 42 Franklin into a three-unit condo in 2007. • Assessor’s Online Database, Unit A • Assessor’s Online Database, Unit B • Assessor’s Online Database, Unit C ¶ Posted 2012-12-29