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Posts Tagged ‘nansemond street’

Solar Power: So Much Fun (Part II)

November 21st, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Three years ago (November 20, 2012) I did a blog on my first foray into the world of solar energy. Since then, I’ve added and upgraded my system a bit. I’ve taken a break from traveling and writing about kit homes, so I thought I’d do a blog today on my new “solar system.”

If you have any questions or insights, please leave a comment below!

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

Want to read my prior blog on solar energy? Here’s the link.

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Solar

Three years ago, I installed my first "solar system" on my little back yard shed.

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fff

I purchased this "Thunderbolt" solar panel kit from Harbor Freight. Thunderbolt strikes me as a silly name, but it's a good solid product. Each panel produces 15 watts.

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This Spring, we had a new roof put on the house and shed, and after we had that work done, I couldnt bear to put those solar panels back on the pretty new roof.

This Spring, we had a new roof put on the house and shed, and after we had that work done, I couldn't bear to put those solar panels back on the pretty new roof.

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Instead, I decided maybe it was time to upgrade a little bit.

Instead, I decided maybe it was time to upgrade a little bit. Pre-new roof, I had two sets of three panels atop the little shed roof. Each set of three produced 45 watts. The Thunderbolt solar panels were amorphous thin-film panels (older technology) while the newer panel (shown here on the side) is a crystalline panel which produces 100-watts with a single panel.

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fffee

And it looks snappy, too. The panel is manufactured by Renogy.

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I mounted the solar panel to the wall using a 360-degree flat-screen TV mount. It was on sale at Amazon for $19 and was exactly what I needed. This model has a feature (probably undesirable to many) that after the arm is pivoted where you want it, it can be tightened into place so it never moves again.

I mounted the solar panel to the wall using a 360-degree flat-screen TV mount. It was on sale at Amazon for $19 and was exactly what I needed. This model has a feature (probably undesirable to many) that after the arm is pivoted into position, it can be tightened into place so it never moves again.

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And mounting it on the side means I didnt need to drill fresh holes in that expensive new roof.

And mounting it on the side means I didn't need to drill fresh holes in that expensive new roof.

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Ive now got three 12-volt deep cycle marine batteries.

Inside, there were some upgrades too. I've now got three 12-volt deep cycle marine batteries. The battery on the floor is the one I use for my trolling motor, when I go out on the lake.

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Prior to last week, I was using this MPPT solar charge controller

Prior to last week, I was using this MPPT solar charge controller. This little jewel cost $130 on Amazon and lasted only five months before it died. And it didn't die easy. It took out one of my digital meters when it went. Plus, it didn't just stop charging the battery; it was actually draining the batteries down to 4 volts. MPPT stands for Maximum Power Point Tracking.

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You can read more about MPPT by clicking here. It’s a webpage unto itself.

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This was

Shown above is the PWM (pulse width modulation) solar charge controller than came with the 100-watt Renogy panel. We'll see how it does. It's the dirt-poor cousin of the MPPT solar charge controller. If it lasts more than five months, it'll be my new hero.

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Upgrade

With those three batteries, I was able to upgrade the inverter a bit, too. Shown above is a 1600-watt inverter. The green display shows the current charge on the battery. The now-dead meter above showed the incoming voltage on the solar panels.

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And I added a few lights, too.

And I added a few lights, too. Inside, I have four LED 12-volt lights. I mounted this one outside. It's also available at Amazon for the low, low price of $11.97 (or was). This small fixture puts out a surprising amount of light.

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The old solar set-up was a lot of fun, and it lives on at Miltons house (my buddy and next-door neighbor). Three years later, its still performing like a champ.

The old solar set-up was a lot of fun, and it lives on at Milton's house (my buddy and next-door neighbor). Three years later, it's still performing like a champ.

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Want to become a licensed ham radio operator? Check this out!

If you’re here to read about Sears kit homes, click here.

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Permanent Furniture II: Beautiful Staircases

December 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1900s, we seemed to place more value on the idea that we should surround ourselves with beauty.

The staircases shown in the 1927 Builders’ Woodwork Catalog ranged from simple to fancy, and yet they’re all elegant and beautiful.

Too many modern staircases (post-1970) are not just utilitarian; they’re seriously ugly. Looking through several online listings of “new” houses for sale (under $500,000), I didn’t see any staircase pieces and parts that I haven’t seen for sale at Lowes. In other words, the focus of modern staircase building seems to be “fast, cheap and easy.”

What happened to the idea of making a beautiful entry?

As the 1920s text says below, “The staircase is the central feature of the hall or living room and must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling.”

Perhaps that explains why contemporary staircases are so blasé and unappealing.

The pedestrian staircases in modern homes are “in harmony” with their pedestrian surroundings.

Many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing his historic architecture books with me!

Read about bookcase colonnades here!

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Staircase

Even the front page for this chapter is a thing of beauty!

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Stiarcase

"The designs...represent harmonious units." The text also adds, "The staircase...must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling." How many builders today stop and think about how much "harmony" is expressed by their creations? (In the text above, K.D. stands for "knocked down.")

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staircase 1

"For the modern American small home, this design is very pleasing and practical."

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staircase 2

Another very simple design, and yet it's quite attractive. This type of staircase is often found in mail-order kit homes, because it's both simple and easy to construct.

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staircase 8

According to the accompanying caption, those doors lead out to an "elevated sunporch." I don't recall ever seeing an elevated sunporch off a landing like this - in real life.

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staricase

Another simple staircase, but with a 90-degree twist.

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staircase 8

"The unusual panel effect is a distinctive feature of this staircase..."

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staircase 7

This staircase is categorized in the original literature as a "Colonial design."

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house house house

Another favorite staircase. Years ago, I looked at a house for sale in South Norfolk (Chesapeake, VA) on Park Avenue and it had this very same design, all with original varnish/shellac. I thought it was the prettiest bit of "permanent furniture" that I'd ever seen. I shudder to think what's become of that house and it's gorgeous interiors. Note the phone niche next to the bench.

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staircase

"This panel buttress staircase is suitable for English or modern American homes. The complete absence of balusters and handrail make it easy to keep clean." While I do love the rope, I'm sure modern codes would not allow it.

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staircase

"The charm of this Colonial stairway is the continuous handrail ending in the graceful turning of a volute." Please raise your hand if you knew that this "round thing" at the end of the banister was known as a "volute." :D

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staircase 38

"Very suitable for the modest home without a reception hall." If a mother could have favorites, this would be one of mine. So pretty and so elegant, and yet, "suitable for a modest home."

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house house

"The attractive arches give it real character."

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house house house

Another beautiful staircase. The window mirrors the pattern on the built-in bookcase.

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staircase

"The large central hall is an attribute of the Colonial home, the main feature of which is the stairway." This is the same stairway we had in our 1925 Colonial Revival on Gosnold Avenue (Norfolk), even down to the tapered spindles and center post. Lone difference is, we had three spindles per tread, where this has two. Nary a soul entered that reception hall without making a nice comment about the beauty of that staircase.

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staircase

"This is one of the simpler lines, very economical in construction."

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staircase

Not my favorite, but it must be a design of enduring appeal, because I've seen it in many post-WW2 houses. Original caption says the "sturdy lines of English architecture are faithfully retained in this beautiful stairway."

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staircase 187

"The unusual feature is the handrail is mitered into the newel cap." Makes sliding down a bannister much easier (and less painful). Although it's a mighty short run.

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staircase 8883

"For real charm and beauty, a winding stairs can not be excelled."

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staircaseieie

"This Colonial stairway is very impressive." I agree. Check out the phone niche.

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In the 1920s, we seemed to have more of an understanding that it was important to surround yourself with beauty. Modern staircases are not just utilitarian; theyre ugly as sin.

The image on the left is from a $500,000 house currently for sale in Hampton Roads. The image on the right was a very simple design offered in the 1927 "Builders' Woodwork" catalog. In the 1920s, we seemed understand that low-priced and simple didn't have to equate with cheap and ugly.

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Stiars

To end on a happy note, I've always loved old houses, and that's due in large part to my mother, an artist, who always felt it was important to surround herself with beauty and light and color. She's shown here, sitting on the beautiful staircase of our Colonial Revival home in Waterview (Portsmouth, Virginia). It was about 1968, and she's holding "Bernard," a mutt she'd recently adopted from the local SPCA.

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To read Permanent Furniture, Part I, click here.

To read one of the most popular blogs at this site (featuring a beautiful staircase), click here.

Ready for a change of pace? Read about a really spooky basement here.

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A Brief Social History of 20th Century America, As Told By Porches

February 27th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

When you cut a tree down, you can learn a lot about local history by examining its exposed trunk. How many rings does it have? How old is the tree? During which years did the area experience a drought?

By studying America’s early architecture, you can learn a lot about life in that time period. For instance, in the early 1900s, why did the Victorian Manse fall from favor so fast? Why did the diminutive bungalow gain ground so fast?

What ignited The Bungalow Craze?

The germ theory.

In the late 1800s, about one in five children died before their 18th birthday. Parents were desperate to do anything to protect their children’s health. When it was discovered that “germs” were the culprit and that sanitation was the cure, people couldn’t get out of those big houses fast enough. It’s a fascinating topic, and to learn more about this one slice of American architectural history, click here.

Porches also tell a story about the social fabric in early 20th Century America.

In the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, we loved our front porches, and by design, they were intended to “woo and welcome the weary wanderer.”

Men, women and children passed many happy hours on the oversized front porch, and it was an open invitation for folks to drop by a “set a spell” (as we say in the south).

In pre-air conditioning days, the front porch also provided a welcome respite from the summer heat.

Last but not least, there were the salutary effects of fresh air. Primitive heating systems (usually fired by coal) had no filtration, and were probably partly to blame for the fact that so many children suffered from pulmonary diseases.

And there was a body of belief that fresh air was a cure for so many diseases. Being “cooped up” in an unevenly heated, often drafty old house was a recipe for disease, according to the prevailing thought of the day. In the early 1900s, a daily dose of fresh air was akin to today’s fascination with vitamins and herbal remedies.  (In the 1920s, “sleeping porches” became the rage for this very reason.)

And we were a society of walkers. Most communities were full of walkers, on their daily rounds. Without modern refrigeration, excursions to the butcher, the grocer, the baker and the general store were daily events.

And if you passed by The Thornton Home on Thornrose Avenue and saw Rose sitting in her wicker swing on the front porch, it was de rigueur to walk up to (but not on) the front steps and say hello. If Rosemary was in a fittin’ mood, she’d invite you to “set down for a bit and rest a spell.”

Front porches were a significant piece of our social construct in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

When houses got smaller, so did the front porch. By the 1910s, they were significantly downsized. And by 1920, a funny thing happened on the way to the wicker swing. The porch got moved to the side of the house. We still wanted to be part of the community, but we also wanted our privacy, and some alone time with our loved ones.

And in the 1950s, the porch moved again - to the back of the house. After making the commute back home from the foundry or the mill or the Skippy Peanut Butter Plant, we wanted to relax and put our feet up and enjoy our own little oasis in the back yard, away from the madding world. If someone wanted to drop by, they’d darn well better call first, and if they just showed up at the door, we could ignore them, and remain safely ensconced (and hidden) on the back of the house.

As I said, it’s a fascinating thumbnail sketch of American society.

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Aunties home

My great Aunt (Addie Hoyt) lived in this classic Victorian home, which was extensively remodeled (completely rebuilt) in 1895. Note the massive front porch, replete with three hammocks hanging from the porch posts. This photo as taken about 1899 or 1900.

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close up

Here's a close-up of those three hammocks. Very inviting!

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auntie poker

Front porches were very inviting - by design - and also became kind of an "outdoor den" and social center. Here is Addie (facing the camera) playing poker with an unidentified woman friend on the front porch of her home. She captioned this photo, "We have a real kitty for the kitty!"

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contemporary shows off porch

A contemporary view of Addie's home (2012). This photo really shows off those amazing porches. The second floor porches facing the street were sometimes known as "Parade Porches." This house has two second-floor porches. BTW, this house is now a famous Wisconsin landmark, and it's also a B&B. It's known as the Fargo Mansion Inn. Look below for a link to the site.

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1920sw

In 1957, my parents moved into this house at 515 Nansemond Street (Waterview) in Portsmouth, Virginia. It was built in 1924, and you can see the open porch is now on the side of the house. By the early 1920s, porches had migrated to the side, giving the homeowner a little privacy.

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side porch

My parents loved this house, and they captured a picture that really showcases the idea of the "private oasis" and the side porch. This house was in the suburbs (of the time), and not many people were likely to be walking down the street (compared to downtown districts), and yet we still wanted a bit of privacy from the world. Between the long awnings and the tall shrubs, it's hard to see much of anything on that porch, and that was probably by design.

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house house

Close-up of the side porch. In the late1950s, my mother stepped out to her beloved side porch one summer evening and saw a bat hanging upside down in the corner. The next week, a contractor was at the house, screening in Mother's porch. She dearly loved that screened-in porch and spent many happy hours there, looking out at the side yard.

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front porch shelter rain

By 1925, front porches were a place to stand for a moment, sheltered from the elements, while you dug out your house keys. Or in this case, pose for an Easter photo (1957). My brother Tommy stands on the left, with Rickey on the right.

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house house

By the 1950s, porches had migrated to the back of the house. After a hard day at the office, we wanted our privacy and we didn't want to share our quiet time with strollers meandering down the street. There were new social rules. Visitors were by invitation only, and if someone decided to drop by (without calling ahead), we could hide safely in the back of the house. This house (my house) was built in 1962. The porch on the back is invisible from neighbors on either side. When built, this was a screened-in porch with a cement floor. In 1979, the windows were installed, and the 12x14' room became a sunporch. We purchased the home in 2012, and did a few more improvements to the room (some repairs and the installation wall-to-wall carpet). This is now the place where we spend 95% of our time.

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house house

Even before proper porches, people tended to congregate in the front of the "old home place." This is a soddie ("the first house") in Dighton, Kansas. It was made of sod - literally.

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To learn more about Addie, click here.

To stay at Addie’s home, click here.

To read more about Rose’s much-loved mid-century brick ranch, click here.

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Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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It’s Official: I’m Now a Ham (Part V)

November 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

One of the most interesting features  of Ham Radio is that its operators are expected to have access to alternative energy sources during times of regional or national emergency.

After all, what good is it to have a Ham Radio if you can’t use it when the power goes out?

For as many years as I can remember, I have been utterly fascinated by alternative energy sources. Capturing a tiny drop of the sun’s massive nuclear-reactive power (386 billion billion megaWatts) is a  fascinating concept.

After several tours of Mike Neal’s very own “Radio Shack,” and after receiving several helpful tutorials on this topic from Mr. Neal (and lots of specific guidance), I was ready to take the plunge.

My “solar project” started in earnest about a month ago when Mike sent me an email to let me know that Harbor Freight was having a sale on solar panels. This was the very set that Mike had at his house and he said it was “a good solar set-up for the money.”

With a $30 coupon (gifted to me from a fellow Ham), I got the $229 solar panels for $159. (The original price for the panels was $229, with a sale price of $189. The $30 coupon got me to $159.)

Because I’m highly allergic to crowds and shopping areas and loud noises and small children and fluorescent lights, I paid the extra six bucks to have the unit shipped directly to my house. It was well worth it.

It took about 12 hours to install the whole rig, and my oh my, it was a fun project. And watching those photovoltaic cells turn the sunlight into electricity is every bit as fascinating as I’d thought it would be.

If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d recommend that every homeowner in America have a set of these on their roof. It was a great learning experience. And I’ve shared all the nitty-gritty details below.

To read more about my experiences with Ham Radio, check out Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV of this series.

House shed

The little shed in our back yard is now electrified, thanks to these three solar panels on the roof. Each panel produces 15 watts, for a total of 45 watts.

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solar thunder

I'm not sure why a corporation would adopt the name "THUNDERBOLT" for their solar products. Nonetheless, it's a sound value and seems to be a well-made product.

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Solar panels

The solar panels were set on a 2x4 which was fastened with screws into the roof and painted flat black. The PVC frame was secured to the 2x4 with 3/4" metal pipe clamps. This will enables us to change the angle of the panels (for winter and summer) without any major disassembling.

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house house house

This shot shows the panels and 2x4 more closely. In a mere 12 hours, the solar panels have already been assaulted by both birds (far left) and pine straw (bottom).

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Thinking about how to get the leads into the little shed took some thinking.

Figuring out how to get the leads into the little shed took some thinking. In the end, I decided to drill a hole (3/4") through the 2x4 (and the roofing sheathing below). I reasoned that it'd be easier to patch a clean hole through a piece of lumber rather than trying to patch a hole in an irregular surface (such as an old roofing shingle).

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solar

Using stretchy weatherproofing tape (which probably has a much better name), I bound those three wires (from the three solar panels) together and fed them through the hole into the shed's interior. I purposefully used a lot of tape so it would fill the 3/4" hole. For the tiny gaps that remained, I used a compound putty substance (again, don't know the name but it looks a lot like Silly Putty). Back in the day, a contractor friend told me it was called "Dum Dum" because you use it to patch a dumb mistake. However, I'd like to point out that it should be called "Smart Smart" in this particular application.

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Inside,

Inside, the wires drop down from above and into the controller (right side on the shelf above the battery). From there, the wires go into the 12-volt deep cycle Marine battery. Another set of wires carries the power from the battery back to the inverter (left side on the shelf). The inverter turns the 12-volt current into 120 volts (for household use).

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The

The controller that came with the solar panels is quite impressive. The digital display is large and easy to read, and reports on the battery power (12.4 volts shown here). For $159, it's a pretty fancy set-up and a darn good deal.

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Another nice bonus that came with this set are these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed.

Another nice bonus that came with this set are two of these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed. They plug into the front of the controller (as shown in the picture of the controller above).

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The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for  $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

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Part of the problem I encountered was that, despite my reading and studying, I didnt understand a whole lot about how these things work.

Part of the problem I encountered whilst doing this project was, despite my reading and studying, I didn't understand a whole lot about how all these things work together. I asked Mike Neal, "What's the difference between a 200-watt inverter and a 750-watt inverter?" Fact is, a 200-watt inverter was whole lot cheaper. Mike explained, "Think of the battery as a bucket full of water. You can draw that water out with a swizzle stick or a milk-shake straw. The 200-watt inverter is a swizzle stick. The 750-watt inverter is a milk-shake straw."

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The

The other helper in this project was my wonderful neighbor, Mike Mancini. I told him that I needed a deep-cycle marine battery and he got me a good deal on one at a local marine parts supply company. Plus, he gave me a ride out to the place and then hefted it out of his truck and out to my shed. This battery weighs about 50 pounds. I set it up on cinder blocks to make it easier to access, and I put the OSB down because I'd heard that batteries might discharge if placed directly atop masonry.

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Fie dollahs

You may notice the fine-looking wires shown in the picture above (of the battery). I bought these booster cables at General Dollar Store and paid $5 for the whole affair. I then cut the wires off from the clips and used them for the controller-to-battery run and the battery-to-inverter run. It's 10-gauge stranded copper wire.

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The

The last part of the project required anchoring the panels to the roof. In that the panels sit so high above the roof, they'll become a dandy sail in strong winds. Our solution was to tether the pvc frame to the opposite side of the shed. For the tether, I used 10-gauge stranded copper grounding wire. May seem like a waste, but I recently bought a spool of it to ground a couple antennas and masts and such. Seems I had about 400 feet left over from those other projects.

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Solar

Close-up of the tether on the PVC frame. It's not super taut, but it doesn't need to be. It's anchored into the steep side of the shed roof with an eye-bolt.

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Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such aas the many tall trees in our yard,

Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such as the big old tall trees in our yard. After the "Solar System" was all set up, we were both AMAZED and pleased to see that it started charging immediately. What was so amazing? It was a dark, cold, gloomy overcast day. I can hardly wait to see how it does with a little sunlight!

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Total cost of the entire project:

Solar Panels - $159 plus $6 shipping (and tax)

Interstate battery - $114

750-watt inverter - $39

Battery terminals - $8

Wiring - $5  (thanks Dollar General!)

Incidentals - about $20 (zip ties, pipe clamps, tape)

Total investment:  $351

Entertainment value: Endless!  :)

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To learn more about why Ham Radio is so relevant and important TODAY, click here.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

If you wish to contact Rosemary, please leave a comment below.

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WLS Radio and Sears Roebuck

October 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

What is the connection between the famed Chicago radio station - WLS - and Sears Roebuck?

In 1924, WLS began life as a promotional tool for Sears. In fact, WLS stands for “World’s Largest Store.”

On April 9, 1924, Sears own radio station signed on with 500 watts, with offices on the 11th floor of the Sears 14-story “skyscraper” at Homan and Arthington Street in downtown Chicago.

In 1925, the front pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog promised that, “WLS was conceived in your interests, is operated in your behalf and is dedicated to your service.”

It was a short-lived experiment for Sears. Four years after its creation, WLS was sold to the Prairie Farmer Magazine. The studios were moved to the Prairie Farmer Building  (also in downtown Chicago).  In 1960, WLS was sold to the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

Click here to learn more about the history of WLS.

Hey, is that a Sears House? Click here to learn more about identifying kit homes.

more

In 1925, Sears published its first employee newsletter, known simply as "WLS" (World's Largest Store). Inside the newsletter was a detailed account of The Kelly Family buying and building their own kit home.

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To read more about the Kelly’s kit home, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

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Portsmouth, Virginia: My Home Town

July 11th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

My parents moved to Portsmouth in 1954, so that my father could start his new job at Skippy Peanut Butter. Their first home was on Gladstone Avenue in Park Manor. (Seems apropos, as one of my favorite Sears Homes is The Gladstone.)

In 1957, they moved to Waterview. Using my mother’s Veteran’s Benefits (she was in the WAVES), Mother and Father obtained a VA loan and purchased 515 Nansemond Street. They paid $17,500 for the house. In 1971, they paid off the mortgage.

In 1978, I moved out to marry Tom Thornton, and we bought a house in Portsmouth. My mother remained in the house until 1985, when she sold it for $65,000, and moved into a duplex on Orange Street (in Waterview).

From 1985-2006, I lived in St. Louis, and when I returned to Hampton Roads, I married a fellow who works for the city of Norfolk, but I’m still a Portsmouth girl - through and through.  :)

When Sears Homes became my life, I had a lot of fun finding these “hidden treasures” in Portsmouth. Scroll on down to see a few of the many pretties in P-town!

Heres a picture of the Fullers homestead in Waterview (on Nansemond Street). The photo was taken in 1957, shortly after our family purchased the house.

Here's a picture of our family homestead in Waterview (on Nansemond Street). The photo was taken in 1957, shortly after our family purchased the house. This is *not* a Sears Home, but it's the house where I was born and raised.

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Waterview is home to several kit homes, such as this Sears Kilborn

Waterview is home to several kit homes, such as this Sears Kilbourne (1928 catalog).

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And what a fine-looking Kilbourne it is! This house is in Waterview, about 1/2 mile from my family home at 515 Nansemond Street.

And what a fine-looking Kilbourne it is! This house is in Waterview, about 1/2 mile from my family home at 515 Nansemond Street.

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Even closer to my house in Waterview is this kit home, The Marlboro. This house is not a Sears House, but it was sold by another mail-order company known as Lewis Manufacturing. The Marlboro was their biggest model, and we have one on High Street in Waterview!

Even closer to my house in Waterview is this kit home, The Marlboro. This house is not a Sears House, but it was sold by another mail-order company known as Lewis Manufacturing. The Marlboro was their biggest model, and we have one on High Street in Waterview!

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This is an old picture (from about 2004). I was unable to get a more modern photo because of the beautiful landscaping that now surrounds the house. Yes, its definitely a Marlboro, and its the house where Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker lived in the 1960s when they worked at WYAH.

This is an old picture (from about 2004). I was unable to get a more modern photo because of the beautiful landscaping that now surrounds the house. Yes, it's definitely a Marlboro, and it's the house where Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker lived in the 1960s when they worked at WYAH.

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And another Waterview kit home - the Sears Lynnhaven (1938 catalog).

And another Waterview kit home - the Sears Lynnhaven (1938 catalog).

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There are TWO Lynnhavens on Grayson Street in Waterview, and both are in beautiful condition.

There are TWO Lynnhavens on Grayson Street in Waterview, and both are in beautiful condition. The other Lynnhaven is brick and pretty well covered by trees and bushes.

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Also in Waterview is one of my favorite pattern book houses in all the world. Pattern Book houses were a little different from kit homes. With a pattern book, youd select the house of your dreams and send in your money and youd receive the blueprints and a list of building materials needed to erect the house. You were on your own to buy the building materials. With kit homes, the whole kit and caboodle came right to your train station.

Also in Waterview is one of my favorite pattern book houses in all the world. "Pattern Book" houses were a little different from "kit homes." With a pattern book, you'd select the house of your dreams and send in your money and you'd receive the blueprints and a list of building materials needed to erect the house. You were on your own to buy the building materials. With kit homes, the whole kit and caboodle came right to your train station. This pattern book house is a beauty, and the extant home in Waterview is a perfect match.

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And its even painted the same colors!

And it's even painted the same colors! All the details are perfect!

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And just across the footbridge (on Riverside Drive), youll find this Sears Glenn Falls.

And just across the footbridge (on Riverside Drive), you'll find this Sears Glenn Falls.

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Ever since I was a little girl riding my bike around the neighborhood, I loved and admired this house. And now that Im all growed up, I realize its a Sears House!

Ever since I was a little girl riding my bike around the neighborhood, I loved and admired this house. And now that I'm all growed up, I realize it's a Sears House!

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Westhaven has several kit homes, too, such as this grand old Roberts (offered by Gordon Van Tine). Gordon Van Tine was also a large national company that - like Sears - sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog.

Westhaven has several kit homes, too, such as this grand old "Roberts" (offered by Gordon Van Tine). Gordon Van Tine was also a large national company that - like Sears - sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog.

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This Roberts is in beautiful shape, and sits on one of those quiet, tree-canopied roads that are so prevalent in P-town.

This "Roberts" is in beautiful shape, and sits on one of those quiet, tree-canopied roads that are so prevalent in P-town. Anyone know the owners? I'd love to see the interior.

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Another favorite in Westhaven is this Sears Westly.

Another favorite in Westhaven is this Sears Westly (shown here in the 1916 catalog).

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Close-up of the Westly.

Close-up of the Westly.

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Its an older photo (about 2003), but what a beautiful match! Notice that the house has a slate roof? Unusual, but not unheard of. Buckingham Slate weighs about 1,400 pounds per square (10 by 10 section), so the roof has to be built up to accomodate the weight.

It's an older photo (about 2003), but what a beautiful match! Notice that the house has a slate roof? Unusual, but not unheard of. Buckingham Slate weighs about 1,400 pounds per square (10' by 10' section), so the roof has to be built up to accomodate the weight.

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This Aladdin Lamberton is in Westhaven, not far from the Sears Westly (shown above). Aladdin was yet another mail-order company that sold entire kit homes through catalogs. Aladdin had a massive mill in Wilmington, NC which might explain why we have so many Aladdins here in Hampton Roads.

This Aladdin Lamberton is in Westhaven, not far from the Sears Westly (shown above). Aladdin was yet another mail-order company that sold entire kit homes through catalogs. Aladdin had a massive mill in Wilmington, NC which might explain why we have so many Aladdins here in Hampton Roads.

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The Aladdin Lamberton in Westhaven.

This is one of my favorite "finds," as it's such a beautiful match to the catalog picture above.

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Marsden

The Aladdin Marsden was one of Aladdin's most popular homes.

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Also in Westhaven, theres this Aladdin Marsden.

This Aladdin Marsden (in Westhaven) has had a lot of "improvements," but it's still easily identifiable as a Marsden.

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Marsden

Portsmouth has one of the prettiest Marsdens I've ever seen. This beauty is in Port Norfolk.

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The Aladdin Pomona was another very popular house. It was a classic bungalow with lots of attractive features. Personally, I love the diamond muntins.

The Aladdin Pomona was another very popular house. It was a classic bungalow with lots of attractive features. Personally, I love the diamond muntins.

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Located in Waterview, this Pomona has been remodeled, but its definitely a little Pomona hidden under all those extra square feet of living area.

Located in Waterview, this Pomona has been remodeled, but it's definitely a little Pomona hidden under all those extra square feet of living area.

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This Pomona is in Westhaven. Sadly, I didnt have my chain saw with me when I got these photos, so the landscaping is presenting a bit of an obstacle.

This Pomona is in Westhaven. Sadly, I didn't have my chain saw with me when I got these photos, so the landscaping is presenting a bit of an obstacle. Remember I mentioned Tom Thornton above? Tom's aunt and her husband (Betty Beal and her hubby Bobby) lived in this house for many years.

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And moving on down London Blvd, there are a few Sears Homes down in West Park View, too.

And moving on down London Blvd, there are a few Sears Homes down in West Park View, too.

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This Attleboro is in West Park View, and its a real find. In all my travels, Ive seen only a half-dozen Attleboros and to see that we have one in Portsmouth is pretty darn exciting!

This Attleboro is in West Park View, and it's a real find. In all my travels, I've seen only FOUR Attleboros and to see that we have one in Portsmouth is pretty darn exciting!

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Also in West Park View theres a Sears Elsmore.

Also in West Park View there's a Sears Elsmore.

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Sears Elsmore

This Elsmore is on Elm Street, which is pretty cool. There's another Elsmore on Turnpike Blvd, tucked away behind the trees.

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The Oak Park is a Dutch Colonial offered by Sears in the late 1920s and into the 30s.

The Oak Park is a Dutch Colonial offered by Sears in the late 1920s and into the 30s.

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And theres an Oak Park in West Park View.

And there's an Oak Park in West Park View.

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Just around the corner from the Oak Park is another unusual Sears Dutch Colonial, The Montrose.

Just around the corner from the Oak Park is another unusual Sears Dutch Colonial, The Montrose.

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And its a fine, fine house!

And it's a fine, fine house!

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And these folks

And these folks appreciate their beautiful Sears Montrose!

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At the other end of Elm Street, theres an Aladdin Shadowlawn.

At the other end of Elm Street, there's an Aladdin Shadowlawn.

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I wonder if these folks know what a treasure they have?

I wonder if these folks know what a treasure they have?

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Theres another Shadowlawn in Port Norfolk minus the porte cochere.

There's another Shadowlawn in Port Norfolk minus the porte cochere.

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In Prentiss Place, theres a Harris Brothers (yet another national kit home company).

In Prentiss Place, there's a Harris Brothers house (yet another national kit home company). There are six national kit home companies, and Portsmouth has houses from five of them. Pretty darn impressive for a "small" town. :)

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Unfortunately, I could only get a shot from the one side

Unfortunately, I could only get a shot from the one side, but it's a Harris Brother's Model #J-161. The other side has the polygon bay (as shown on the page above).

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Surprisingly, there are two Sears Alhambras in Portsmouth.

Surprisingly, there are two Sears Alhambras in Portsmouth.

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Alhambra

This Alhambra (looking fairly decent despite the replacement vinyl windows) is in the 1500-block of County Street, It's surrounded by a sea of empty lots, so one wonders, how many Sears Homes bit the dust when this area was "redeveloped"?

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Alhambra 2

In 2002, I gave a talk on Sears Homes in Port Norfolk. Five people showed up. Two of them were the married couple that owned this Alhambra in Craddock. They have me the full tour, and it's a dandy of a house - inside and out.

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And also in Craddock, theres a Sears Conway.

And also in Craddock, there's a Sears Uriel.

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Uriel

It's been through some tough times, but it's still identifiable as a Sears Uriel.

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To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To read about the Sears Homes in Norfolk, click here.

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Growing Up in Waterview (Portsmouth)

June 27th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In 1953, my father took a job at Skippy Peanut Butter in downtown Portsmouth, necessitating a move from their home (and family)in California to Virginia. They rented homes in Park Manor and then in Shea Terrace, and then they decided it was time to buy a home of their own. In April 1957, they paid $17,500 for a house in Waterview, at 515 Nansemond Street. They used my mother’s veteran’s benefits to get a 15-year VA mortgage on the house.

Mom didn’t like the kitchen in the new house. The only cabinet space was a six-foot wide enameled metal base cabinet with a cast-iron double sink in the center. There was a drawer to the left and right, and four doors under the sink. It was pretty primitive. My mother took $500 of her own money and hired a carpenter to build a room full of knotty pine cabinets with wrought iron hardware. Yellowish/greenish Formica with a non-descript squiggly pattern (trimmed with a stainless steel edging) was the finishing touch. She also bought a fancy new GE electric stove with push-buttons on the console. The result was transformative, and after the work was all done, she came to love her “new” kitchen.

Mom spent a lot of time sitting on her screened-in porch, looking out at the spacious side yard. The sturdy canvas awnings with their scalloped edges together with the thick canopy of the tall pines provided a bit of relief on those hot summer days.

Whether Mom was relaxing on the porch or walking around the house, she’d often tell me, “I’m so grateful to live in this big beautiful house. Just so grateful.”

Hearing such things from a parent can have a deep and lasting impact on a child. My mother taught me how to love and appreciate old houses, and yet, it was not one of those “I’m teaching my child an important lesson here” moments. It was an abundance of love and gratitude that overflowed from her heart and right into mine. Her comments touched me deeply. In fact, I’d say it’s probably the main reason that I became an architectural historian.

I love old houses. I love everything about them. I love thinking about them and writing about them.

I’m so blessed to have a career where I can spend my days thinking about and writing about old houses.

And I’ve enjoyed having an old house of my own. It’s been a fun ride. And now it’s time to move on.

Enjoy the old photos!  :)

Edited in May 2017: My “Happy Ever After” with Wayne - my husband - was destroyed in April 2016.

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Eddie licks the beaters (always a fun thing to do) while standing in front of the original kitchen cabinet. When the house was built in 1925, this base cabinet, together with a small matching wall cabinet (to the right) were the only cabinets in the entire kitchen.

Eddie and my father in the kitchen.

Eddie and my father in the kitchen. You can see a bit of this "remodeled kitchen" in the background.

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My mother looking happy in her beloved home. Tommy Fuller, Jr. stands behind Tom Fuller Sr (seated), and Rickey is setting fire to something on the table. Both parents have a hand on Eddie to keep him still long enough for the shutter to click.

The two oldest boys got shiny new bikes in Summer 1959, and Eddie (the youngest boy) got a new baby sister. Im pretty sure he would have preferred a red bike.

The two oldest boys got shiny new bikes in Summer 1959, and Eddie (the youngest boy) got a new baby sister. I'm pretty sure he would have preferred a red bike. The look on his face says it all. Great shot of our living room and foyer - and a stunned little brother.

Mom

Mom holds me up and away from the male land sharks.

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Good picture of the fan light over the front door. Dad and I look very worried.

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Eddie tries desperately to make the noise stop. I'm not sure, but I think he's offering me a corn dog. Judging by the look on my face, I'm giving the offer some serious consideration.

Eddie goes to sleep under the watchful eye of Lil Bo Peep and Bugs Bunny. I saw this same Lil Bo Peep applique in an episode of I Love Lucy, and it was over Little Rickeys crib. I guess Lil Bo Peep was a big item for boys in the mid-1950s.

Eddie goes to sleep under the watchful eye of Lil' Bo Peep and Bugs Bunny. I saw this same Lil' Bo Peep applique in an episode of "I Love Lucy," and it was over "Little Rickey's" crib. I guess Lil' Bo Peep was a big item for boys in the mid-1950s.

Were probably in that 45-minute period, waiting for the TV to warm up.

We're probably in that boring 45-minute period, where we'd sit around and wait for the TV to warm up.

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Rickey, Eddie and Tommy, about 1960.

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Neighborhood kids gather for Rickey's 9th birthday party. That's me in the lower right, hoping that someone with more advanced neuro-muscular skills will turn my teddy bear right-side up.

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The tall trees and canvas awnings worked together to keep the worst of the summer heat off Mom's favorite "room" - the sunporch.

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Our house on Nansemond in 1973, following a big snowstorm. Photo was taken by Gerald B. Anderson and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

My family home in Waterview (Portsmouth) as seen in April 1956, when we moved in.

My family home in Waterview (Portsmouth) as seen in April 1957, when we moved in.

Pretty in pink

Here's our house in Norfolk - a 1925 Colonial Revival pretty in pink.

Our home as it appeared in 1948.

Our home as it appeared in 1948.

To learn more about Gosnold Avenue, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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My Favorite Father Story

June 18th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Several years ago, when my father was in his mid-80s, we visited an attorney and had some legal papers drawn up. Before signing the documents, the attorney talked about the need to confirm that my father was “of sound mind.”

My father was of sound mind, but he was a little deaf. Repeating the attorney’s question, I said (loudly and slowly), “Dad, he wants to know that you’re of sound mind.”

“Okay,” he replied. “What do you want me to do?”

“Spell ‘lugubrious,’” I said, and then paused before adding the challenge.

“Backwards.”

My father grinned from ear to ear. This was easy for him.

In less than three seconds, he rattled off the letters as if he was reading it from a paper.

“S-U-O-I-R-B-U-G-U-L.”

The attorney put his pen down for a moment and looked astonished.

“I’m quite sure I couldn’t spell that word forwards, and I know I couldn’t do it backwards. Heck, I’m not even sure what it means.”

My father was on a roll.

“Lugubrious,” he said purposefully, “Sad, dismal or mournful, sometimes to an exaggerated degree.”

My father, who helped fuel my love affair with words, had the most expansive vocabulary of anyone I’ve ever known. And in his 85th year, his vocabulary was so well established in his mind, he could rattle it off backwards and forwards. Literally.

My father in 1961 with my beloved mother.

My father in 1961 with my beloved mother.

father

Eddie sits on the arm of the big old chair, while I have the coveted spot - my father's lap.


Click here to read a non-lugubrious story.

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Dad

August 31st, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Despite my personal commitment to post something at this blog each day, I’ve fallen short. In June, we moved my elderly father (91 and counting), into an assisted living facility here in Portsmouth. I’d hoped that ONCE he got into assisted living, my troubles would cease. I was wrong. Nearly every day, there’s something to be done, or someone to be called, or paperwork to tend to. It’s a lot to deal with.

In 1974, my father left my life for several decades. I didn’t re-enter his life in any significant way until 2000, when his second wife passed on. When I think of my father, I think of him as I remember him as he looked in the late 60s and early 70s. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Dad with Tommy and Rickey, mid-1950s

Dad with Tommy and Rickey, mid-1950s

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.