Jim and Rose Marie "Boo Boo" Gomric bought their Signal Hill Boulevard home 43 years ago without seeing the interior.
They had been living in an East St. Louis home that they purchased for $2,500. They had fixed it up so nicely that it sold for $12,000 before they had a chance to look for another one.
"She found a nice young couple to buy it," said Jim, a retired attorney. "She said, 'We have to be out in 30 days.'"
Jim's boss back then was a guy named Jim Bandy who lived in the Signal Hill neighborhood.
"He told Jim about a house for sale on the Boulevard," said Rose, officer manager for a law firm. ("I've been here since 1983. They tell clients I came with the building.")
The Signal Hill home was built in the 1920s, said Jim. "Dr. Otho Schaefer, a dentist, owned it. (He was widowed at an early age.) He lived here until he passed away in 1968. I had never been on Signal Hill in my life. He rode me past here. That night, I picked her up. She said, 'That's the house I want. We bought it from his estate through the First National Bank of Belleville.""I loved the street," said Rose. "I fell in love with the house from the outside. I said, 'This is the house we're meant to buy."
How was the inside? Gray and dingy and filled with old wallpaper.
"The first thing we did was take down a lot of wallpaper and paint. Everything that couldn't move got painted. "
Woodwork went from dark brown to white.
"We did a lot of updating and redecorating."
Jim and Rose had a 9-month-old son when they moved to Signal Hill Boulevard.
"People said, 'Why buy a house that old and that big with only one child?' In 10 years, we had five kids."
And they needed a bigger kitchen.
As Rose tried to figure a plan to get more space in the kitchen, a friend suggested relocating the steps to the basement by cutting a hole in the dining room floor -- which they did. They bricked up a side entrance to the kitchen, got rid of the staircase and knocked out a wall.
The formal dining room didn't suffer and it's still the place where the family, that now includes 14 grandchilden, gathers.
"We do a lot of entertaining," said Rose. "Each child or grandchild requests what they want for birthday dinner. We do it formal in here. We just did it two days ago for Jimmy. They request my round steak and stuffed pork chops. There's a chicken and rice dish they like, too."
The Gomrics updated and renovated over the years to accommodate their growing family. Maid's quarters on the second floor was remodeled for their children.The lower level is now a large family room with fireplace, reading and TV area and wet bar. There's also a playroom with pool table and TV, games and toys.
Among the holiday decorations are items from Blessed Sacrament auctions. Look for the 3-foot metal Santa that stands in the living room -- thanks to fishing line that keeps it upright. Rose placed a wooden village scene decorated with greenery above the kitchen sink. "I used to display it on the fireplace mantel. It looks better here in the kitchen."
The jelly jars in another kitchen window also have meaning.
"My sister (Dolores Nissen) passed away suddenly a month ago. These are jellies she made and left me last year," said Rose of the apple butter and pepper jelly. "I left them up here for her for the holiday season."
What kind of comments do you hear about the house? "People are surprised how much bigger it is on the inside than the outside," said Rose. "There are actually five bedrooms in the house and 3 1/2 baths."
Do you have a favorite room or place? "I actually like my porch the best. It was screened in. We took the screens off six years ago." The open space is full of wicker furniture. A flat screen TV, a gift to Jim from his family, hangs above it. I like the backyard. We have a lot of grandchildren that come and play. We put the tennis court in 25 years ago." Now, it's used more for skating and basketball."
What should guests be sure to see? The white porcelain angel ornaments that hang on the small tree atop the piano. There's one for each child and grandchild. Also, a tree on the lower level is full of grandchild-made ornaments along with collectilbe Anna Lee dolls. "A lot of people collect those," said Rose. "Grandkids also strung cranberries and put together a wooden train beneath the tree." There's also a lower-level playroom for the kids, pool table and TV, games and toys.
Why did you put your house on the tour? "I wanted to give back to the community."
How did you get the nickname "Boo Boo?" "I always say I earned it. I'm from a family of 13 children. I was Number 9. I got the name when I was little and it was with me ever since. Most don't know me by Rose."
If you go:
What: 2013 Twentieth Candlelight House Tour, Includes eight Belleville homes.
When: 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8.
Where: Tour will start at the Philharmonic Hall, 116 N. Jackson. St., Belleville.
Cost: $12 in advance; $15 day of tour
Information: Historical Society Office, 618 234-0600.
Tickets: Purchase prior to the tour at
Cheesekeeper, 6500 West Main Street, The Abbey, 5801 W. Main S., Grimm & Gorly; Florist, Inc., 324 E. Main St., Dill's Floral Haven, 258 Lebanon Ave., Sandy's Back Porch, 2004 West Blvd., Peace by Piece Co., 132 W. Main St.; Eckert Florist, 201 W. Main St. and St. Clair County Historical Society, 701 E. Washington. In Freeburg: Paper Moon Cards & Gifts, 313 Marketplace Dr. In O'Fallon: The Painted Horse, 225 W. 1st St.