My solution was to create a new file 1coulmn.phtml (this is the style I use for the home page.) and place it in a new theme directory structure:
The I go in the admin, and first I need to make the “modern” template (which is the template my site is using) the “default” template for the site.
System> configuration> Current Configuration Scope: (used default config - top level)> design (left column)> themes (accordion tab): default: modern, template: modern.
Now the “modern” template is the real default template in heiarchy.
Then assign the new modified page: /app/design/frontend/default/modernalt/template/page/1column.phtml to the home page.
CMS> manage pages> choose: home page> custom design (tab left)> custom theme choose: modernalt.
This will assign only this page to the home page, and everything else will default to the modern them (now the default theme.)
I write this to help anyone who is experiencing a similar need to completely customize the home page.