Posts Tagged ‘Edward Fuller’

The Humble Waltons Among Us (Sears Waltons, That Is)

November 19th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

The Sears Walton was probably one of Sears top-10 best selling models.

It was also one of Sears’ most practical houses, with 1200 square feet, a spacious front porch, compact kitchen, and less than 40 square feet wasted on the one small hallway.

One of the defining characteristics of the Sears Walton is that small box window on the front bedroom, the oversized front porch (which extends beyond the main wall of the house), and the contrasting rooflines on the porch and main house. Plus, the dining room has a gabled bay with three windows.

In short, it’s an easy house to spot, due to its many interesting architectural elements.

The Sears Walton was also a popular house, but John Boy never slept here.

The Sears Walton was also a popular house, but John Boy never slept here.


And it even has the little box window on the front of the house!

The floor plan for the Sears Walton shows the spacious living room and dining room, and wee tiny bedrooms! (10 x 9, 10 x 10, and 10 x 11).


Sears Walton in the Craddock section of Portsmouth, VA

Sears Walton in the Craddock section of Portsmouth, VA


Sears Walton in Muncie

This is my favorite Sears Walton. No kidding. Talk about "original condition"! This thing is a beauty! This photo was snapped in early 2004, and I'd bet money that this sad little house (in a commercial district) is probably long gone. This house is also a testimony to the quality of building materials used in Sears Homes. This house hasn't seen a coat of paint in 40 years (or more), and every smidge of paint is long gone from its cypress exterior, and yet - it still stands. Try neglecting a modern McMansion for 40 years and see what you have left! This house is (was) in Muncie, Indiana.


Sears Walton in West Lafayette, Indiana

Sears Walton in West Lafayette, Indiana. Notice the oversized front porch.


And a beautiful Walton in Glen Ellyn, Illinois

And a beautiful Walton in Glen Ellyn, Illinois


The Sears Walton

The Sears Walton in Champaign has had some changes (vinyl siding, replacement windows and a closed-in porch), but it's still a Walton.


Most of the Sears Waltons Ive seen are yellow! Just like this one in Danville.

On this Walton in Danville, Virginia, someone extended that dining room bay and turned it into a porte cochere! Despite the landscaping, you can see a piece of that box windows on the left front.


Sears Walton, but if only I knew where! Its somewhere near downtown Raleigh.

Sears Walton in downtown Raleigh.


Walton in Paducah, Kentucky.

I suspect this is also a Sears Walton, but has been dramatically altered. The small gable over the box window could easily have been added when all this plastic and vinyl was being installed. This Walton is in Paducah, KY.


Is this a Sears Walton? Id say it probably is, even though its missing the little box window on the front. Thatd be an easy change for a carpenter to make on the site.

Is this a Sears Walton? I'd say it probably is, even though it's missing the little box window on the front. That'd be an easy change for a carpenter to make on the site.


Sears Walton at 102 Oakwood Avenue

Sears Walton in a small town just outside of Richmond, Virginia.


This Walton is one of two, side by side, in Cape Charles, Virginia

This "Walton" is one of two, side by side, in Cape Charles, Virginia


Sears Walton

Sears Walton as seen in the 1921 Modern Homes catalog.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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My Dear Auntie Died Six Years Ago Today…

October 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the late 1990s, my mother’s beloved older sister “Engie,” became unable to care for herself. The family hired a caregiver who proved wholly unsatisfactory. In October 2000, my mother and I flew out to Alameda to pick up Engie and bring her back to Illinois (where I was living at the time).

My mother was in her late 70s at the time, and the stress of worrying about her dear sister was taking a toll on her emotional and physical health. I couldn’t bear to see my mother suffer so. I volunteered to move Engie to Illinois and put her in a good-quality home and watch over her as if she were my own sister.

This comforted my mother.

I also made a promise to my mother that I would continue to take care of Engie until the day she took her last breath.

A promise is a promise, but a promise made to one’s dear mother is a solemn vow.

Little did I know that my own mother would die about 14 months later. Despite my deep grief, I pushed on and upheld my end of the bargain, and continued to visit Engie frequently and watch over her and pray for her and sing her to sleep at night and kiss her on the cheek - which always made her smile.

Below is an excerpt from an unpublished manuscript, detailing my care of Engie. This excerpt discusses Engie’s last day, October 25, 2005.

*   *   *

Engie and I had come a long way together and now our walk together was coming to an end. Just six days earlier, I’d been sitting at the local restaurant, eating pumpkin pancakes with Pamela, with no idea of what awaited me at the nursing home. Now I was parked at Engie’s bedside, basking in the glow of this heavenly energy, and waiting for that shimmering tether that connected her soul and body to snap free.

And five days earlier, I’d been sitting in this same spot when my eyes fell on an old photo of Engie. It was a good clear photo, showing Engie, her husband Charlie and Engie’s brother, Harry. They were all dressed in their Sunday best, with Engie wearing a fashionable hat, white gloves and clutching a small purse. She sure looked cute in her classic 1950s dress with green polka dots. I picked up the picture to take a closer look and noticed that it was taken in 1959, the year of my birth. Isn’t that a coincidence, I thought to myself.

Then I looked at Engie’s 87-year-old body laying on the bed. And then it hit me. When that photo was taken, Engie was in her mid-40s, or about my age. When that photo was taken, she was where I am now, on the nine-decade timeline that is the average woman’s life. If Engie was my age in 1959, then did that mean that one day, I would be the age she is now?

Now we all may know - on an intellectual level - that our time on this earth is limited, but this little example gave me the proverbial smack between the eyes. While still reeling from this revelation, I noticed something else about this photo that I’d never seen before. In the background, there was an old wall clock with its hands positioned neatly at 10 and 2. An angel voice whispered to me, “This will be the time when Engie passes on. Remember, our times are in Thine hands. God knows the end from the beginning.”

Another angel message that was not aligned with my personal belief systems, but there it was. Did God really know such details of our mortal life? I decided I was probably thinking too much and gently set the photo back on the night stand and returned to singing “Rock of Ages” for the 49th time.


I could hear the hospice nurse in the hallway, rustling about and asking what had happened to Engie’s standing order for morphine. Upon overhearing this, I felt a wave of irritation arising in me, gathering strength and momentum. For several days, we’d been talking about having morphine ready if needed and now, someone thought it was needed and no one could find it? I decided to let that little drama stay outside in the hallway. I didn’t want to leave Engie and I didn’t want to come down from this mountaintop of spiritual clarity. I don’t remember a time in my life when I felt so calm, serene and completely unafraid.

I continued to hold Engie’s hand and sing hymns. The words of these hymns came alive with meaning to me and I sang softly, slowly and with tears in my eyes. The time between her breaths was getting longer and longer and often it was more a series of little sighs than a breath. For a few moments, I tried breathing in concert with her but couldn’t hold my breath that long.

Then I heard the hospice nurse approaching our room. I bent over and whispered into Engie’s ear, “He’s well-intentioned, but he’s coming back in here with something neither you nor I think you need. You might want to get while the getting’s good.”

I said it in half-jest. She took me seriously.

Morphine in hand, he started to dribble the liquid into her open mouth and her breathing became quite odd, almost like tiny puffs. He said, “I think she’s going.”

I looked down at her and she had stopped breathing, but she’d already done that so many times. But then she let out a tiny little squeak and the last bit of pink color, on her chest and neck and parts of her face, disappeared in a flash.

“She’s gone,” he said.

I closed my eyes and prayed the most earnest, heart-felt prayers of my life, pleading that God’s angels would lead her and keep her safe. I prayed that the angelic ushers would lead her directly to the light of God’s love and that her transition would be blessed and joyous and simple. I thought of my favorite Bible verse and its applicability to this moment: “Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way and bring thee into the place I have prepared” (Exodus 23:20).

The hospice nurse spoke again and said, “She gone to heaven now. She’s with Jesus and safe forever.”

In my journal, I wrote,

“The nurse’s comments - and the love that motivated them - were a great comfort. When she was actually passing on - those few seconds when she was leaving the building - I felt a powerful surge of all kinds of emotions and spiritual energy. I felt hyper-attuned to the things of spirit and felt supremely close to God. Tears poured down my face. It was a blend of joy that she was reunited with her family and it was also a relief that I had finished the work God gave me to do - that of being her caretaker. I always loved her and always will love her, but seeing her in that state for five years was very, very hard. But even now, writing these words a few days later, I remember experiencing those tears of relief and their odd coupling with a profound joy that she was with her family again.”

After a few seconds passed, I asked the nurse if he was really sure that she was gone. After all, she’d stopped breathing before - for periods up to 45 seconds.

“That’s why we get another nurse to confirm.”

With that, he dashed out of the room and reappeared in less than 20 seconds with a staff nurse from the home. She felt for Engie’s pulse, looked me in the eye and said softly, “Yes, she has passed.”

I replied, “Are you really sure?” Suddenly, I had an image of putting Engie  into a body bag while she was still alive. And she’d hung on for so long, how could we be sure she wouldn’t come back? In retrospect, I probably wasn’t doing my best human reasoning at this moment. But looking at her still form left little doubt. In less than two minutes, her color was now dramatically different, as was the appearance of her face and body.

The hospice nurse said, “I’m calling it. Time of death, 10:10 a.m.” And that’s when a chill ran through me. That was the same time in the picture by her bed, on the wall clock I’d never noticed until five days ago. All our time is in God’s hand. Really and truly and literally and figuratively. God knows the end from the beginning. Before Engie ever came to earth, God knew what time she’d returned to heaven.

The nurses left me alone with Engie and then a diminutive, young aide appeared in the room, carrying two towels, a sponge, a small plastic tub and a washcloth.

“Would you rather have a moment with her before I clean her up?” she asked.

“Yes, I would.”

I could no longer sit at the edge of Engie’s bed, but stood at its foot. I took a moment to pray and enjoy the presence of that angelic army that had silently shared this space and time with us. I closed my eyes and looked for them but found myself saying out loud, “Everyone’s gone!” The room was flat and cold and empty. They’d all left without saying good-bye and they’d left in a hurry! The life energy that I’d felt coursing through that room was simply gone. It  was akin to being a guest at a big, happy party, turning your back for a moment and then looking back to see that everyone had rushed off.


Years earlier, I’d read Catherine Marshall’s book, “A Man Called Peter,” a biography of Peter Marshall, chaplain to the Senate in 1947 - 1949 and well-known minister of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. The most memorable part of this well-written book was Catherine’s telling of Peter’s death. After he passed on, Catherine remained in the hospital room, seated beside Peter’s body. She said she became aware of a shining, loving and powerful presence in the room and it was made clear to her that Peter and someone else were there to help her through this difficult time. She said she didn’t want to leave the room because she knew she was in the presence of the very essence of divine love. After a time, this presence faded and she knew it was time to leave. This experience, she related, helped her deal with the grief of losing her husband so suddenly.

I suppose I was expecting to have a similar experience. In Peter’s case, he was 46 years old and his death was very sudden. Engie and I had had years to prepare for this. Perhaps that was the difference.


In my journal, I described the life-force that I’d felt in Engie’s room as “pure energy and pure love, if you can imagine the two conjoined, powerful and strong and awesome and amazing.”

But now everyone was gone and I was alone and I looked over at Engie’s still form and all I could think was, “What in the world am I doing in here with a dead body?” That single glimpse of the body brought on another wave of nausea, so I quickly rose and left the room. (Later, in my journal I wrote, “I feel like God was telling me that Engie had spent enough time in the nursing homes. When it was over, she didn’t want to linger. She was ready to get out of there.”)

Unsure of what to do next, I went to the nurse’s station and asked simply, “What do I do now?”

They asked for the name of the funeral home I wanted to use and they made the call for me. I called my brother Tom, but couldn’t get through. I went outside to look at the pretty blue sky and breathe in some of the beautiful fall morning. I walked to my car and sat inside of it for a time. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or be disturbed. I just wanted to compose myself and gather my thoughts and ponder the enormity of this experience. After a few minutes, I walked back toward the front door of the nursing home and met the hospice nurse, loading his things into a crummy-looking, rusted-out Ford pick-up truck.

“I wish that someone doing such holy, sacred work,” I thought to myself, “could have the simple joy of a better-looking and more reliable set of wheels.”

I thanked him for his good work and told him how grateful I was that he’d been there when Engie passed. He seemed relieved and expressed concern that he had intruded on such a private moment.

“Oh no,” I told him. “I think she was waiting for you to return so I wouldn’t be alone in the room when she passed on.”

When I returned to Engie’s room, I found that someone had come in to clean her up a bit. Her hands were overlapped, resting on her chest and her eyes were closed and her hair had been combed. To think that some minimum-wage, overworked nurse’s aide had taken the time and effort to tidy up Engie’s body was deeply touching. I sat down on the empty bed in the semi-private room and waited for someone from the funeral home to show up. And then Engie’s body started making some really strange gurgling sounds and I had to leave the room. I told her good-bye, which was ridiculous, because I knew that Engie was long gone.

The funeral director arrived and I met with him in the nursing home’s atrium. We sat down and talked about the arrangements. I was surprised by how concerned I was about Engie’s body. I told him that it was part of our religious tradition that her naked body not be exposed at any time during this cremation process and that I needed to know that her body would be treated with respect and care. In voicing these things, I realized that my job as advocate wasn’t over yet.

I then asked him at least two dozen questions to which he gave thoughtful, carefully worded replies. I apologized for the interrogation but told him, “These things matter to me. I’ve taken care of her for five years. I need to make sure her body is taken care of properly.”

His reply surprised me.

“I don’t mind your questions. In fact, I’m glad to answer them. You have no idea how often the family calls us with a credit card and tells us where to pick up the body. We never meet them and we never hear from them again. You’re asking questions because you care. That’s a good thing.”

Next, he went to his vehicle (a white windowless minivan) and pulled out a gurney with a folded sheet laid neatly on top. I met him at her room and asked if he needed help moving her onto the gurney, to which he said no. I asked again that he take care to keep her body discreetly covered. He did so as I looked on, and he treated her body with great care. He then wrapped her up in the sheet, explaining that she would not be uncovered again and that the sheet would be destroyed in the cremation process.

I walked with him as he pushed the gurney down the nursing hall corridors. Realizing it was the last stroll I’d take with my dear Auntie, my still-damp eyes started to tear up again. Nurses in the hallway stopped moving, turned toward us and offered a solemn nod as our little procession went by. One young aide stopped and touched my arm and said, “I’m so sorry about your Aunt. I hear you stayed with her to the end. You’re a good niece.”

Her comments touched me deeply.

We walked out the back door and he loaded the gurney into the back door of the custom-designed minivan. We shook hands and I thanked him for his care and thoughtfulness. He said he’d be in touch and to call if I had any more questions. After locking down the gurney and shutting the back door, he got in the van and drove away.

I remember standing there at the curb, gazing up toward the deep blue sky and saying, “I did it, Mom. I stayed with her until she drew her last breath. Hardest thing I ever did, but I did it.”

A dear friend, whom I leaned on heavily during this time said, “You honored your mother by keeping that promise. She’d be proud of you.”

I took great comfort in that.

Walking down the sidewalk to my car, I remember thinking, “So this is how life feels when there’s no fear, no regrets, no guilt, no negative emotions of any kind? This feels real good.”

I felt more alive that day than I’d ever felt before. And I felt proud of myself for doing something hard, not quitting in the middle and seeing it through to the end. It was all good.

For the next few days, that feeling of being hyper-attuned to the things of spirit and the things of God remained with me. It manifested itself in several ways. I felt a deep-down-to-the-bones serenity. I couldn’t bear to hear people gossip or talk ugly about each other. I couldn’t watch television, for any violence was too disturbing. Before the phone rang, I knew - not only that it was going to ring, but who was calling. It was an amazing experience. And I’m sorry to say that that spiritual high eventually faded, but it was memorable, life-changing and transformative.

And there was another interesting piece of this experience that I still retain, even two years later. When I thought of Engie, I never thought of her as dead. I had a persistent feeling that I’d packed her off for an adventure in a new place. I felt like a mom who’d bundled up her child and sent her off to summer camp for a season of fun.

The movie “What The Bleep Do We Know?” refers to the human body as a four-layer bio suit. When I thought of Engie, it wasn’t even a feeling that, here’s the body and here’s the soul and they’ve separated now. Her bio-suit didn’t define her or even represent her. It was just the outfit she wore for these last eight decades. And now, she’d left the suit behind so she could move on to the next adventure. It was as though she’d left behind her snowsuit because she’d gone off to live in the sunny tropics.

Engie’s body was cremated and because she was a WWII veteran, I made arrangements to have her ashes interred at a Veteran’s cemetery in St. Louis (Jefferson Barracks).

Today marks the sixth anniversary of that life-changing day.

I hope her soul is at peace.

Auntie in the army

Auntie in the army

Aunt Engie with her father, Edward Brown.

Aunt Engie with her father, Edward Brown (and Huey).

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An Architectural Gem in Wisconsin!

October 22nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

During my stay in Lake Mills in early September (2011), I was invited by gracious innkeepers Tom and Barry to be their guest at the Fargo Mansion Inn. So for two glorious days and two restful nights, I lived and moved and had my being inside the walls of this unspeakably beautiful old manse on Mulberry Street.

I’m an architectural historian. I’ve seen plenty of old houses. If I had a nickle for every old house I’ve seen…

However, the Fargo Mansion is in a class by itself. It’s an extraordinary building that’s been meticulously and faithfully restored to its former splendor. And it’s massive, with 7,500 square feet of architectural grandeur. Every single spot where your eyeballs happen to rest is a new view of opulence and magnificence and Victorian luxuriance. Built in 1881, it’s a classic Queen Anne house, with towers and turrets and Victorian refinements and frippery and fretwork.

When the Fargo Manse came into Tom and Barry’s life in the early 1980s, it was slated for demolition.  Sitting in the front parlor with Tom and Barry last month, I was captivated with the story of how these two hardworking men saved the crumbling structure. The tired old manse had a failing roof (and rain water infiltration), boarded up windows, frozen and busted pipes (radiators and domestic water) and many of the fireplace mantels and moldings were gone. In anticipation of the home’s demolition, all utility connections had been removed from the building.

It’s disturbing to think that Wisconsin nearly lost this architectural gem.

In addition to its being a real gem, this was my great Aunt Addie’s home. Judging by the many photos I have of her in this house, this was a happy home for Addie - for a time. She moved in as a bride of 24 years old, and she died there, five years later.

This is one of those times when words are inadequate, so feast your eyes on the photos below. And if you’re ever within 100 miles of The Fargo Inn Mansion, you really should treat yourself to a night or two at the Inn. And did I mention, the breakfast that Tom served was one of the Top 15 Best Breakfasts I’ve ever had in my 52 years? And that morning memory was sweetened ever more when Tom brought in a small painted porcelain vase and set it down beside me on the table.

“This was your Aunt Addie’s,” he said softly. “I knew you’d like to see it.”

He was right.

The Fargo Mansion in 1896, soon after my Great, Great Aunt Addie moved in with her new husband, Enoch Fargo.  Enoch was 22 years older than Addie.

The Fargo Mansion in 1896, soon after my Great, Great Aunt Addie moved in.

Addie in front of the Fargo Mansion.

Addie in front of the Fargo Mansion.

The fam

The fam sits on the front step of the Fargo Mansion. Addie is on the lower left, with Enoch seated above her. Elsie (born 1876) is on the upper right and Mattie (born 1884) is on the lower right. Elsie was a scant four years younger than her new step-mother, Addie.

The same spot, 110 years later.

The same spot, 110 years later.


Addie prepares to board the train. According to Mary Wilson's book ("The History of Lake Mills"), Addie was inspired to start a local chapter of the DAR when she met Mrs. James Sydney Peck on a train ride, coming home from Sparta. Note the traveling bag at Addie's side.

Just inside the main entry is this small (and high) window. Notice the beveled glass and ornate quartersawn oak trim. At first glance, I thought this was a mirror. I thought Id joined Addies world when I stood in front of this mirror and no one was looking back!

Just inside the main entry is this small (and high) window. Notice the beveled glass and ornate quartersawn oak trim. At first glance, I thought this was a mirror. I thought I'd joined Addie's world when I stood in front of this "mirror" and no one was looking back!

Interior shots of the mansion. This is the music room.

The music room inside the Fargo Mansion. I believe this is Mattie (seated with book), Addie at the piano and Elsie standing (far right).


The grand staircase in the front reception hall. The woodwork is beautifully sculpted.

Close-up of the newel post.

Close-up of the newel post.

This is a shot from the foyer looking into the music room. If you look closely, youll see a guitar in the background.

This is a shot from the foyer looking into the music room. If you look closely, you'll see a guitar in the background. Note the newel post on the right.


This is a closer view of the "music room" (seen above) taken from the stairs, but it shows the horse-hair bench that sits within the rounded tower. According to Innkeeper Tom Boycks, this bench is original to the house.

Looking into the dining room

This tiled "solarium" sat at the edge of the expansive dining room. Tom explained that with its southern exposure, it made the perfect spot for growing plants and other greenery. The floor inside the massive bay window is tiled. At the far left was a small sink (cold water and a drain) for watering the plants, which was removed in later years.

Close-up  of the tiled floor

Close-up of the tiled floor, which is in beautiful condition. The floors throughout the Fargo Manse are maple, upstairs and downstairs, and they're in stunningly beautiful condition.


Notice the massive windows in the front parlor. As Tom pointed out, it's a tough house to decorate. It's all windows and doorways and radiators and fireplaces.


Detail of the oak trim and frieze in the front parlor.


This shot was taken from the steps, looking down toward the front door. Notice that curved wall by the front door. And all that wainscoting and trim is quartersawn oak. See that radiator to the far right? Every radiator throughout the house was destroyed when the house endured a Wisconsin winter with no heat. Tom and Barry sought out and found salvaged radiators for every room in this 7,500 square foot house. That's what's so remarkable about the Fargo Manse. To look at it today, you'd never guess that they started with a shell of a building, and brought it back to life.

Another view of this incredible staircase

Another view of this incredible staircase (second floor).

Curved hallway on the second fllor.

Curved hallway on the second floor.

Addies room is at the top of the stairs.

Addie's room is at the top of the stairs.


Addie was a beautiful young woman. She was 24 here.

Addie in her wedding gown?

Addie in her wedding gown.


My favorite photo of all.

My favorite photo of all. I love the detail and the beauty and the opulence. This was Addie in the master bedroom, now known as the Enoch Fargo room.


Close-up of the bed.

Happier times at the Fargo Mansion

Addie loved her cats. Judging by the look on this one's face, I'm not sure the feeling was mutual.


Addie stands in a bower of flowers on the grounds of the Fargo Mansion.

The Fargo Mansion today (or yesterday, actually).

The Fargo Mansion as it appears today. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.


Fargo Mansion in Lake Mills. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.


This grandiose Victorian manse was built in 1881 and extensively remodeled about three or four years later. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.


The porch of the Fargo Mansion. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.


Addie sits with someone (Elsie?) on the front porch of the house. The original fretwork and railings are still evident in the contemporary picture (above).

Addie in front of the house

Addie standing in the home's side yard.

Tall tower

Tall tower of the Fargo Mansion. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.


Porte Cochere on the Fargo Mansion. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.


A view of the home's rear. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.


Addie's obituary.

If you’ve any information to share, please leave a comment below.

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“The Law Requiring the Report of Dangerous Disease is Observed.” Kinda. Sorta.

October 12th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thanks (again) to Mark Hardin, I have now read parts of the “Nineteenth Report of the State Board to Health to Wisconsin” for 1901/1902, which covers the time period during which Addie Hoyt Fargo allegedly died of diphtheria. This report was for the state of Wisconsin, and has a listing of all reports from all health officers in Wisconsin cities, towns, villages and townships. Full text here.

Doctor Oatway was the county health officer at the time. The same Dr. Oatway that attended to Addie as she lay dying from diphtheria.

In this report, he states that there were no deaths from diphtheria in the city in 1901. But wait, how can that be? Addie contracted diphtheria. She died of diphtheria. The death certificate states that, and Oatway certified that the death certificate was true, but this report contradicts the death certificate.

What the heck?

So Addie allegedly died of diphtheria, but Oatway didn’t report her diphtheria or subsequent death to the state (in his report below)? Maybe if there’d been a requirement that murder victims be reported to the state of Wisconsin, he would have remembered to report Addie under that column.

No time for a loquacious blog today, so please read the text  in full, and please leave comments below.

As my beloved brother Ed would say, “This certainly puts another wheel on the wagon…”

Page 15 of this report states that the deceased victims of diphtheria and other communicable diseases were to be placed in “sturdy coffins.” When Addie’s disinterment day arrives, that could be a real blessing.

And the best part, is the last line of this report:  Oatway says that “the laws requiring the issuing of…burial permits are observed.”

Wow, wow, wow.

Guess he’d rather lie to the state than end up in jail?


An interesting read. Read the entire article to get an idea of how much he lied. So, does this mean that he FORGOT about Addie, one of Lake Mills' most prominent citizens? Or did his conscience win the day, and refused to state publicly that she died from a disease process?

Please leave comments below. I always learn so much from other people’s ideas and intelligent insights.

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Breakfast Nooks: Darn Cute

June 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Built-in breakfast nooks became wildly popular in the early 1920s and especially so in kit homes. After the grand Victorian home fell from favor, the bungalow craze took over and suddenly The Little House was the best house to have.

Bungalow builders and architects dealt with small houses by making the best use of small spaces, such as a built-in table and matching benches for the morning meal. It was a wonderful idea, and also saved the housewife some work. It was easier to set up and clean off a small table in the kitchen than dealing with the big fancy wooden table in the dining room.

This is the third of three posts on breakfast nooks at this site. Read more about breakfast nooks (and see many more photos) here and here.

Below are pictures from Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, showing the breakfast nook (with prices) of the early 1920s.


The 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog shows two breakfast nooks.


"The Dawn" has a fold-away table.



When the sun comes out, the table automatically drops down into place! Awesome!


The Dawn, although it lacks the automatic features of The Sunrise is a much nicer looking table.

"The Dawn" is 2'6" wide and 4' long. Pretty small, but the price is right.


The Sunrise

The Sunrise is only $32.90. I'll take two!



"The Sunrise" lacks the automatic features of "The Dawn," but it is a much nicer looking table, and quite a bit larger, too.



Cover of the 1932 Montgomery Ward Building Material catalog, which featured breakfast nooks.


A close-up of the built-in breakfast nook featured on the cover of the hardware catalog.

cover nook

The "cozy corner dinette" sold for a mere $14.95. Nice looking, too.


Nook room

Another room? Well, maybe. Good-looking nookie, though.


caption here too

This fine looking table was offered in the Sears Preston, a spacious Colonial kit home. Note that the benches don't have backs! Nothing says comfort like a hard-plaster wall!




The "Pullman Breakfast Alcove" came with your Sears Ashmore. More modest than the others, it has simple benches with no seat backs.

And its in color!  From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

And it's in color! From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

And the real deal - in the flesh - a 1930s breakfast nook as seen in the Sears Lynnhaven in southern Illinois.

Sears caption

Awesome rooster towels not included.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, send an email to

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Endless Entertainment - From an Old Vintage Catalog

June 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

The cover of the 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog has proven to be a source of endless entertainment for me. But then again, I’m pretty easily entertained. I’ve started scanning catalogs and ephemera so that it may be preserved and shared with a larger audience. And this website’s traffic is growing every day. In May, this site had more than 22,000 visitors.

Read the captions below to see what *I* see when I look at this 1921 catalog’s cover.

Pretty darn interesting!

The cover

The cover of the 1921 catalog is so interesting for so many reasons.



We have the people showing up to look at the new house under construction.



Like the opening scenes of a low-budget horror flick, they have no idea that a massive elephant has surreptitiously blended into the landscaping behind them, and waits to pounce. Red arrow above is centered atop the forehead of the threatening beast.



"We just came from looking at those crappy little houses behind us," the man might be saying. "Over yonder is one of those little Sears kit homes." Pictured through this window is the Sears Ashmore, a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.



"That's right," says the woman who wears a hat with a flared brim and oversized bow." The kitchen in that crummy Elsmore right behind me was abysmal."



The second man speaks up and says, "And that Verona was so blase! Who'd want to buy a cookie-cutter kit home when you can have something nice that you've designed yourself!"



"Yes," the man with the blueprints says, "We looked at those three little boxes behind us, but we want to talk to you about this nice house that you're building here!"



But oh no! These people shouldn't be turning to this fellow for help and guidance! He doesn't even know how to build a carpenter's tool box! How could he possibly build an entire home!



The house isn't even roughed in yet, and the door isn't set, and yet he's putting in the lath board! Plus, there are several puddles with a strange yellow substance throughout the house. Icky!



And some of that yellow stuff is on the carpenter, too!



And perhaps most interesting, the house featured on the cover is clearly not a Sears kit home. Sears never ever offered a house with these arched windows. So the homebuyers have turned their back on the three Sears Homes (behind them), and are talking to this fellow about a custom-built house. Pretty darn interesting. And this image shows a better view of that angry elephant in the background.


And yet, the back page of the catalog features an advertisement for Seroco Paint (first syllable of Sears, Roebuck and Company), and in that graphic, there are several Sears Homes featured.

And yet, the back page of the catalog features an advertisement for Seroco Paint (first syllable of Sears, Roebuck and Company), and in that graphic, there are several Sears Homes featured. Top is the Sears Sherburne, and along the bottom are the Sears Roanoke (two left) and the Sears Matoka (two on the right).

To read another article on Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Dad, Part II

June 4th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

One year ago, we moved my elderly father (almost 92 now) into an assisted living facility here in Portsmouth. In the last couple weeks, he’s started slowing down quite a bit and his needs have increased quite a bit. At least once a day, I drop by and visit to make sure everything’s okay. I don’t know how full-time caregivers do it. I really don’t. Just dancing on the fringes of caregiving takes a whole heapin’ helping of my emotional energy.

These days, the time I’d normally spend writing new blogs is devoted to helping him as he writes the last pages in the last chapter of his earthly life.

When I was a little girl growing up in Waterview (Portsmouth), my father would walk around our neighborhood every evening after dinner. He called it his “evening constitutional.” He never walked out that front door without me running after him yelling, “Daddy, wait for me!”

I was his shadow, following him wherever he went. I adored my father. I thought he was the smartest, handsomest, most wonderful person on earth.

And then when I was 14, he walked out the door one night without me and didn’t come back. It was 30 years before I would be a regular part of his life again. And now, as his life draws to a close, the little girl in me still feels a little trepidation about saying good-bye for another 30 years.

Dad with Tommy and Rickey, mid-1950s

Dad with Tommy and Rickey, mid-1950s


Left to right is Rose (me), Dad, Rick, Tommy and Eddie. I'm not sure where we're at here, but this photo was taken during our trip to California in 1966.


My father (right) with his father, in Santa Monica.


Eddie (far left), Rick, Dad, Rose, Dolly, and Mom.

My father and my brothers at the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco, about 1966.

My father and my brothers (Rick and Ed) at the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco, about 1966.

To read more about my father, click here.

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