The tiny, one-story stone house at 2153 Brighton Road looked like it was stuck in a vise. A three-story brick building pressed in on one side; on the other, a two-story frame structure squeezed in.
A picture taken 60 years ago shows a house that seems ready to pop under the pressure.
Inside, things appeared even worse. In fact, by November 1954, they were downright weird.
William and Theresa Weichel weren’t getting along. The couple married in 1939 and enjoyed a fine relationship for a few years. Then the marriage soured, Theresa said, because William “objected to some of my family.”
Things got so bad that William and Theresa decided to live in separate parts of the little house.
Fine, William said. He was a carpenter by trade, so he got a hammer and nails and pounded some old boards over two interior doorways, thus formalizing the divide. Now the couple could live side-by-side and never have to see each other.
“It’s worse than an iron curtain,” Theresa said.
She and the couple’s 13-year-old son Donald occupied three rooms and a bath. William had two rooms and control of the furnace.
The furnace soon became a sticking point.
When temperatures dropped, the house turned cold. So did the furnace. Theresa claimed William was trying to freeze her out by turning off the heat. She wore a long coat inside the house and “chattered” while she told her story to a reporter.
“We’re all sick,” she said. “Donald has a cold and I have bronchitis.”
Theresa said she tried to get a coal stove installed in an open fireplace in the living room, but William stoppered the chimney with cement and vowed not to turn on the furnace until March.
A few days later, Theresa dragged William before a North Side alderman named William Luther. The charge: Child neglect.
None of the charges were true, William said. The furnace was shut off because he got sick and couldn’t get out to pay the gas bill, he claimed. Payment was late, so the gas was shut off. And, he said, he never closed up the chimney.
“This case is not willful,” William pleaded. He said he’d paid the $50 gas bill and heat was once again flowing from the furnace.
Then, according to PG reporter Alvin Rosensweet, “he said a lot of nasty things about his wife, and she replied in turn.”
William promised to keep the furnace turned on throughout the winter. Luther assessed him $17 in costs and sent the two away into the cold, dark night. At least their house was warm.