My childhood in the Tischlers’ Schindler house
Please also see my interview with Adolph Tischler, Diane’s father. It will help you understand the house and his history with it.
Steve Wallet: Anything you didn’t like about the house?
Diane Garver: Probably the only thing I didn’t like about the house was the stairs, although they kept us all in good shape, we were all thin. (Fig 3) It took a long time to get down the stairs when we heard the ice cream truck, we had to beg for money and then tear down the stairs often to see the truck turn the corner at the end of the street. This was also the case for the Helms Bakery truck although with them we could put the big blue “H” in the window and the truck would stop and sound the horn. Then the run would be on and maybe we could also get a glazed donut.
Both bedrooms have doors to the outside. Did you ever sneak out of the house?
All the rooms have doors leading outside and we did not sneak out of the house. Our parents were strict and our social lives started late. When we became social teenagers my parents moved downstairs to the “studio” room and put in an intercom so they would know what we were up to when they were downstairs at night. (Fig 4) The intercom only went one way, they could hear us and we could not hear them or turn it off. We did figure out how to put a pillow on the machine so they couldn’t hear us on the phone late and occasionally there would be a boyfriend who would sneak in. (Fig 5) So I guess we snuck people in rather than sneaking out. My mom was one of those who stayed up until we were home from our dates at our absurdly early curfew, even in college. She did let our boyfriends come in and stay later but they knew she was hovering.
Did you mind the two story walk up to the house?
I have already mentioned the stair issue, although I can’t believe how easy and how many times a day that we ran up and down the stairs. Now I make sure I make as few trips as possible and notice how narrow the tread area is on them. We also have more railings than at the beginning.
Were there any secret places that you (and your sister) hid?
The only place I remember hiding was the closet in my side of the bedroom. One time when I was probably under 5 I was playing with matches on the bed in the master bedroom. I don’t remember my father smoking but know he did and so there were matches around. My parents were sitting in the yard right outside the window. I lit a match and dropped it in the bed. I think it started smoldering and my parents were aware of it and got it out before there was any real damage. I know my sister was in her crib as I ran into the room and hid in that closet. I remember hearing my parents calling me and being too afraid of getting in trouble to come out for awhile. They were happy to see me and I don’t remember any punishment after all. I also used that same closet to hide a metal tape measure that belonged to my father. I had pulled it out too long and couldn’t get it to retract and so I coiled it up and put it in a bag of yarn in there. My Dad looked for the tape measure for days, I felt very guilty and finally did fess up. I think he fixed it and I was even more upset that it hadn’t really been broken and I went through all of that for nothing. I did get punished for lying although I don’t remember the punishment.
What was your family’s social life like at the house? Did your parents entertain much? How did the house work for large groups of people, at parties or holidays?
My family did have social events at the house. They had lots of friends, lots of other kids from those families and the neighborhood had kids who came up to play also. The back door was open and the parties flowed from inside to outside seamlessly. We played badminton and croquette in the yard. We had the BBQ parties, mostly hamburgers and hot dogs. My mom made a great potato salad. In the kitchen there is a bar area that has glass that slid open from the bottom. (Fig 6) There is also a large window/door that swings out to the front entrance hall that could open to hand out food. The kitchen is small and compact so most of the party cooking was outside during the day. My father was born on the 4th of July so we had an annual birthday party with fireworks that became a tradition for the family friends. Fireworks were still legal then and we would sit on the lower level of the yard while my Dad and his friends would set off the fireworks that would shoot pretty high, make loud bangs and lights. Also we always had sparklers. When my Dad wanted to back off these yearly parties his friends would claim they would have nothing to do with their families if they didn’t come to Dad’s birthday party. In fact we have always had a party there for him although the parties are more family now. The last party we had that was really large, maybe 50 people was for his 92nd, when he also had his new art exhibit. I was married in the backyard of the house and the yard made a beautiful setting. They also had a graduation party for me and my sister when I graduated high school and she graduated Junior High. There was also a graduation party for me when I graduated from college right before leaving Los Angeles.
Did you meet Schindler?
I never remember meeting Schindler although I know I did, especially when I was with my father at the site. My mom was pregnant with my sister and lived with her mother then. I was with my Dad a lot of the time and I understand Schindler was on the site adding his 3 cents to my father’s 2 cents.
Anything else you remember?
The tie rods or whatever they are called that run through the house and are exposed in the living room and kitchen. (Fig 6) My sister and I used to hang on them like a gym and my father used to freak out and say that they were holding the house together and we couldn’t hang on them. I thought is he nuts, these can’t be holding up the walls? But now I see that they did and am glad we didn’t break them.
When the living room still had the coral discs suspended from the ceiling (Fig 7), one in the living room and a smaller one in the dining area, we used to stand on the tables and push them together where they would just touch, obviously Dad went nuts about that too.
The floor furnace was something else different for us then my friend’s homes. My mom, my sister and I used to stand over that area to get warm, switching positions as there was only room for 2 as we got older. We still gravitate there even though he has built a display table for his work above the heater now, we can still stand in front for warmth. (Fig 9)
My friends thought the silverware we used was strange, for “nth” we could put peas all the way up the spoon and just let them flow in.
You and the house as art
When did you become aware that the house was a famous work of architecture?
I must have realized that the house was different from my earliest memories. Even the neighborhood kids called it the boat house and always talked about how big it was. In reality our house was probably the smallest on the block in square footage and now with most of the one story houses having added a second floor it is definitely the smallest. I also know that the high roof and large rooms without much furniture allowed me to open the top of the piano when I practiced and really get a lot of sound out.
When did you start to understand that it was a work of high architectural art?
The fact that the house was a work of high architectural art came as I got out more and really saw how different our home was. Also as the magazines started publishing articles and pictures, when the house was named a Historical Monument of Los Angeles, which was on one of my birthdays, when the LA Times had articles with pictures of my mom and dad with interviews, I began to realize that their experience was unique as was the house.
How was living in the house affected by your understanding of art and architecture?
I am very attracted to color and appreciate all non-objective art and seem to shy away from antiques and dark wood furniture. I don’t know how much of that is my personal taste or the influence of the house. I like natural light in the house as much as possible. I don’t like curtains or neighbors yards overlooking mine.
Did you miss living in the house when you moved out?
I didn’t miss the house when I moved out, I lived home through college in the turbulent 60’s and graduated from Cal State Northridge in 1970 and moved to Humboldt County. Need I say more…..I was getting a chance to establish my own home and environment and thoroughly enjoyed being away from my old environment and especially Los Angeles.
What kind of house do you live in now?
I live in a tract house now. Although my house is full of Dad’s art, I also have some more personal items in my environment and decorating that show my personality.
Many people find Schindler’s buildings, particularly his later buildings like your house, to be unpleasantly strange. Do you understand that view, or has the house always looked beautiful to you? Has living in the house affected your view of other non-mainstream, unconventional art and architecture?
I never found the house unpleasantly strange, different but it is what I knew and was used to. I found normal houses strange, dark, flat, exposed to the streets and the public. My friends didn’t know it was raining unless the sky had opened up. When I moved in with people who liked to move furniture around in the house I was utterly conflicted.
Continued in part 3