Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Building mail-order house was an exciting adventure

My parents ordered a house from a catalog; fire had destroyed clothing, household goods, family treasures and everything in our old house. It was wash day, and before Mom left to get my brother and me from school, she brought in all of the dry laundry from the clotheslines and tossed it on her bed to be folded and put away later. Grandma’s big embroidered towel was not quite dry, so Mom left it on the clothesline, and thus it survived the fire. We had only the clothes we were wearing.

My brother and I wore borrowed things to school the next few days. The Eugene Crouch family took all four of us into their home for about a week. It was a weird sort of fun to wear our friends’ things when some didn’t even fit well.

Mom and Dad borrowed money in 1922 and ordered a house from the catalog of The Aladdin Company in Bay City, Mich. Dad, two hired men and some neighbors used teams, pulling big iron hand-operated scrapers, to dig a huge basement hole on a hill where our new home was to be erected.

Finally, the Wabash freight agent called to say, "Come and get your house." Several teams and wagons worked for days, hauling the lumber, shingles, paint, varnish, nails, locks, windows, doors, door knob kits, hinges - everything, including three Murphy disappearing beds.

Stacks of lumber and countless boxes, kegs and buckets went into this gigantic new home!

Every board and box was plainly marked, and the blueprints were detailed. Our new house would have running water but nothing electric; the city power lines didn’t extend far into the country. Our new home would have coal oil lamps, but we’d have an attic that, when completed, was my private bedroom.

Mom and Dad had the Murphy bed that disappeared into a large dressing room. The kitchen cabinets were assembled in the dining room; they fit in place without trimming!

We moved in when winter’s cold weather was predicted in October. The exterior structure was complete but not painted. Interior rooms were separated only by the framework - studs with no partition walls. Dad hired a skilled carpenter to hang windows and doors and frame them.

Every day we moved carpenter horses and swept shavings so we could eat and sleep in the new home instead of the leaky tent. Mother had her first kerosene cook stove - three open burners and an oven. For weeks we lived with the smells of fresh lumber, plaster, paint and varnish.

Three big closets held the Murphy beds. In daytime they stood on end out of sight in the closets; at night they swung into position for pulling down to the floor. Clamps kept the mattress and bedding in place, and springs made it easy to manipulate the heavy metal beds. One bed came from a dressing room into one end of the large living room; a second one was in the "sleeping porch," a room with large windows on two sides. The third one, used only when we had company, came down into the dining area, and that required moving some chairs to make room for the extra bed.

Where are the Aladdin houses, the Sears and Roebuck houses, the Lewis homes and others? They’re in demand today as collectibles!

The houses were very well made of fine material and, although many of them looked alike, they were functional and durable. Ours served us well and was sold when the land was sold; it stood in what is now El Chaparral’s small park. No one dreamed that it would have brought a premium price in this century!

Click here to return to the index

 Subscribe in your RSS reader

Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.