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What Do George Bailey and Sears Roebuck Have in Common?

July 19th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of my favorite movies is the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Many folks think it’s a movie about one man’s life making a difference in this world, but I saw it a different way. I saw it as a movie that explained why homeownership is so important.

In the first years of the 20th Century, magazines and newspapers of the day declared that Americans had a patriotic duty to be homeowners. It was well-understood that home ownership was a boon to individuals and their families, but the “patriotic” angle made the point that homeownership also benefited neighborhoods and communities, and by extension, it benefited cities and even the country, as a whole.

To put a contemporary spin on this, what better modern-day model do we have than Detroit? How much of Detroit is now rental (non-owner occupied)? Despite 30 minutes of searching, I wasn’t able to find an answer, but I’d guess it’s a lot. (Heck, how much of Detroit’s housing is just not occupied by anyone?)

The early Sears Modern Homes catalogs made this point in a variety of ways, but in short it said this: Homeowners have a vested interest in their community and communities with a large percentage of homeowners will enjoy a greater proportion of prosperity, stability and peace.

In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey sees what Bedford Falls, would have looked like if he’d never been born. Without George’s positive influence and his ever-fledgling Building and Loan, the modern subdivision of Bailey Park would never have been developed and many residents would have remained renters, rather than homeowners.

Without the Bailey Building and Loan, George finds that Bedford Falls is full of substandard rental properties.

And because there are so many rental properties, there is less stability in the family, and in a broader context, there is less stability in the community as well.

Look at Bert (the cop) and Ernie (the cab driver).

In this alternate “George-less” world, Ernie does not live with his family in their own “nice little home in Bailey Park,” but instead, he lives is a decrepit shack in Pottersville and it’s implied that this hardship is largely to blame for the fact that Ernie’s wife “ran off three years ago and took the kid.”

The streets of this alternate-Bedford Falls (now named Pottersville) are lined with liquor stores, night clubs, pawnbrokers, striptease shows and pool halls. Gaudy neon signs flash “girls, girls, girls” and illumine the night-time corridors of Main Street. Citizens are neither calm nor law-abiding and brusque policemen struggle to keep peace and order.

George’s revelation that he really had a “wonderful life” stemmed in part from the realization that his meager efforts to give people the chance to become homeowners gave them a feeling of accomplishment, prosperity, security and pride. By extension, the whole community benefited in important, significant and enduring ways.

I’m of the opinion that Sears was, to small communities in the Midwest, what George Bailey was to Bedford Falls.

Sears empowered and enabled tens of thousands of working-class and immigrant families to build their own home. What would countless Midwestern towns have become without Sears homes?

How many towns in the Midwest were spared the fate of becoming a Pottersville, thanks to these little kit homes? Probably many.

Sears Modern Homes made a significant difference in many communities throughout the Midwest.

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In the movie, Its a Wonderful Life, the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

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In the end, George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many peoples lives, enabling them to become homeowners. He saw that his town would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.

George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many people's lives, enabling them to become homeowners. The angel ("Clarence") showed George that Bedford Falls would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brother's Building and Loan.

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The value of homeownenrship was also touted in

The value of homeownership was also touted in the front pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog (1921).

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Father is throwing out rent receipts - because theyre worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

Father is throwing out rent receipts - because they're worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

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Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway.

Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway. Even the little girl is lost in bliss! Is there a Hathaway in Lima, Ohio? It'd be fun to know!

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A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Learn more about the biggest and best Sears Home by clicking here!

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The Halfway House, by Sears & Roebuck

April 22nd, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In 2002, someone called to tell me that they had a Sears House.  (This was way back in the day when my business cards included my personal phone number.)

The caller said, “I live in Washington, DC and I own a Sears Home.”

I asked if she knew which model it was.

She replied, “I sure do. It’s the Halfway House.”

“The Halfway House?” I asked, hoping I’d merely misunderstood.

“Yes, that’s right,” she said.

I asked if she could spell that for me, and she did. I had heard her correctly the first time.

I knew that Sears sold “The Morphine Cure,” in the early days (a patent remedy for breaking a morphine addiction),  and I knew that Sears offered “The Heidelberg Electric Belt” (guaranteed to restore men’s “vitality”).

But I was not aware that Sears had offered any 12,000-piece reformatory kit houses.

I asked the caller to send me a photo. A few days later, a picture arrived in the mail. It was a picture of the Sears Hathaway.

Sears Hathaway (1921 catalog).

Sears Hathaway, first offered with two bedrooms. (1921 catalog).

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It was also offered in a three-bedroom model (1928).

In later years, they offered in a three-bedroom model (1928).

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Floorplan

The third bedroom was created by adding that little bump to the right rear.

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Sears Hathaway in Elmhusrt Illinois

Sears Hathaway in Elmhurst Illinois - in brick!

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Perfect little Hathaway in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Perfect little Hathaway in Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm guessing the address is 1627 but I suppose it could also be 1267 (or 2716 in some Mideastern countries). (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Another Cincinnati Hathaway, courtesy of Donna Bakke.

Another Cincinnati Hathaway, courtesy of Donna Bakke. Not sure why it has two doors. Surely this tiny house has not been turned into two apartments! (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Sears Hathaway in Wyoming, Ohio.

Sears Hathaway in Wyoming, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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And heres a Halfway House in Hampton!

And here's a Halfway House in Hampton, Virginia!

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My favorite Hathaway is this one in Newport News, Virginia.

My favorite Hathaway is this one in Newport News, Virginia. It still has its original lattice work on the porch! Every detail is perfect.

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Comparison of the two images.

Comparison of the two images.

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Look at the details on the porch!

Look at the details on the porch!

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And compare it to the original catalog picture!

And compare it to the original catalog picture!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn about Addie Hoyt, click here.

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