WHITTIER – One Whittier couple will spend this holiday season housed in their own handiwork, where they raised a family and made a home more than 50 years ago. John and Jane Healis moved to unincorporated Whittier in 1948 from New Jersey to start a new life in a friendlier job market. They spent their first years in California in a tiny trailer while they built their dream home from pumice blocks. “Neither of us had ever done block work before,” Jane Healis said. “It was weekends, holidays and vacations.” Jane Healis, 82, and her husband John, 86, spent three years and $15,000 acquiring a lot on Burgess Avenue and building their house, block by block. “We wanted to keep out the termites,” John Healis said. Jane Healis said the house always felt homey, however. The large back yard was filled with old cars that John worked on with their sons, along with a coop that held 300 parakeets, a pen for pheasants, peacocks and quail, a rabbit hutch and an aboveground pool in the summer. The family also harvested avocados from the remaining trees on the lot, and one year brought in more than 1,000 pounds of the fruit to sell around the neighborhood. The couple has made few changes over the years. The 1,500-square-foot house was built with three bedrooms and just one bathroom (last painted in the 1970s in bright blue) and it stands with the same floor plan today. The kitchen is also all original, and the metal cabinets, stainless steel sink and old stove are more than 50 years old. Only the refrigerator and dishwasher have been updated. All three of the Healis children were raised from birth in the house, and the couple’s two sons and one daughter often invited friends over to the unusual abode to play. “This was the house that everyone in the neighborhood hung out at,” oldest son David Healis, now 49, said. “It was a cool place to grow up because there was so much room.” The Healis’ daughter, Susan Costa, said she will remember her parents as pioneers, both for their unique house and for the strength they provided for their children. “We had a great childhood,” Costa said. “One of the accomplishments that our parents are proud of is that all of us kids have been married 15, 20, and 25 years.” Like the house itself, Costa attributes the family’s success to their strong foundation. “I think the best lesson is that you can be whatever you want to be, you can do whatever you want to do, but you have to work for it,” Costa said. “That’s what our parents taught us.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat KingsConstruction began in February 1953, on a quarter-acre lot covered in orange and avocado trees. Six trees were removed for construction, but Jane Healis said the hardest part was digging trenches. “I think I spent half my time digging, digging, digging,” Jane Healis said. The house is built in the California ranch style, but has a distinct aesthetic because of the unique building materials used in construction. The blocks, with a similar look and feel to cinderblock, are exposed throughout the house, just painted over. Each brick weighed about half as much as a cinderblock, making construction a little easier, John Healis said. The fireplace in the living room, made of the same material, is painted dark brown. The windows are framed with steel, and the front door is painted metal, not a traditional wood door.