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It’s Official: I’m Now a Ham (Part V)

November 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 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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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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Victorian Rituals of Death and Their Meaning

September 22nd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

In one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes, there’s a scene where a young woman dies and her attendant immediately arises and covers a large mirror and then stops a nearby clock. I’d always been fascinated by this old tradition/ritual and wondered about its meaning. I assumed that these practices must have a reason , but I had no idea what that reason might be.

And then I was talking with my friend Joyce, who explained the reasons for these “odd” traditions.

Joyce is in her late 70s now, but was raised in the backwoods of Georgia in the 1930s. It was a time and place more reminiscent of Victorian America. When Joyce was a teenager, her little sister Louise died from from whooping cough at the age of three. Joyce remembers “Granny” rocking the child through the night and praying for her, hoping against hope that the little girl would pull through. It wasn’t to be.

Sometime in the wee hours, the little girl looked up at Granny, smiled broadly and then died in her arms. Later that morning, a family member went outside and rang the large bell in the front yard.

“It was almost like Morse code,” Joyce said. “The bell was tolled a certain number of times for different things. When Louise died, they rang the bell a certain number of times and everyone knew what it meant. Almost immediately, people started coming to the house to help.”

Joyce said they sent the little girl’s body to the mortician who embalmed it and returned it to the family, for the wake at home. In preparation for the wake, the mortician brought heavy, deep red draperies into the front room of the old house and hung them over the windows, blocking out all sunlight.

“I’m not sure why they put up those drapes,” she said. “Maybe it was to give a solemnity to the wake.”

During the two days of the wake, the little girl’s beloved dog sat dutifully beside the coffin and emitted a mournful wail. The mourners commented on that lamentable howling, and it left them all with a chill. After the wake, the coffin was moved to the church where a service was held. The child’s body was buried in the church cemetery.

The dog followed the family to the cemetery. Later that day, the dog’s body was found. The little girl’s pet had literally laid down and died.

My friend Joyce knows a lot about the old ways and about these old rituals.

When one of her elderly aunts lay dying, a family member sat quietly by the bedside. When the old woman breathed her last, the family member arose and draped a heavy cloth over the mirror and opened the clock’s glass face and stopped the clock.

“I saw someone do that in a movie,” I told Joyce. “What’s that about?”

“The cloth over the mirror is for the protection of the departed,” she said. “It’s believed that the spirits of our loved ones may glance into a mirror and become frightened when they see no one looking back.”

That had a resonance of truth, as I’d heard stories about people with near-death experiences saying they couldn’t see any reflection when they looked in a mirror. Wonder how they knew about that back in the 1930s?

“And the clock was stopped for a much more practical reason,” she said. “The clock was stopped so that the mortician would know the time of death.

There was also a requirement - never to be breached - that a loved one sit with the body until burial. I’d imagine this was a throwback to olden days before medical equipment when the dead occasionally came back to life (much to the surprise of the watcher).

It was all fascinating.

As Tevye sings in Fiddler on the Roof, “because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many years.”

Traditions should be remembered and honored, because oftimes, they were created for very practical reasons.


Note at the bottom of this old tombstone, the macabre reminder, "Reader, you must die." Photo is courtesy of Crystal Thornton, copyright 2009, Crystal Thornton.

To read a similar article, click here.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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Choo-choos in Crewe, and Sears Homes Too!

May 18th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the late 1800s, the repair shops for Norfolk and Western’s steam locomotives were based in Crewe, Virginia. In the mid 20th Century, railroads abandoned steam (and their repair shops) and turned to diesel-electric locomotives.  One of the legacies left behind from Crewe’s former glory as a railroad town is a delightful train museum and a few kit homes, from Sears (Chicago) and Aladdin (Bay City, MI).

In late Spring 2011, I traveled through Crewe on my way home from Lynchburg, and found these delightful kit homes.

Enjoy the photos, and as always - please share the link with your real friends and your virtual friends, too!  :)

To read another amazing blog about Crewe, click here.

edison

Aladdin was actually another kit home company that (like Sears) sold their houses through a mail-order catalog. Aladdin started selling their kit homes in 1906, two years before Sears (1908). In Virginia, I've found many more Aladdins than Sears homes, probably because Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC.

Edison

Aladdin Edison on Route 460 in Crewe.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza in brick.

The Lynnhaven is one of my favorite Sears Homes, because it’s both stylish and practical, and it was one of Sears best selling models.  This house was offered from the late 1920s to the end, when Sears offered their last catalog in 1940.

Railroad towns and kit homes go together naturally, just like carrots and peas. These kit homes would arrive in a boxcar, in 12,000 pieces. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a man of average abilities could have the house assembled and ready for occupancy in a mere 90 days. In fact, most people needed a little more time than that.

Sears offered about 370 designs of their kit homes, and during their 32 years in the kit home business, Sears sold about 70,000 houses.

Aladdin was a larger company, selling more than 75,000 homes, and they were in business from 1906-1981.

Lynnhaven

Lynnhaven from the 1936 Sears catalog.

Lynnhaven

Lynnhaven in Crewe.

Sears Wexford from the 1936 catalog

Sears Wexford from the 1936 catalog. It was also known as the Bridgeport, but this little home's best chums call it "Wexxie."

Wexxie

This little house is not a spot on match to "Wexxie" but it's distinctive enough that I'd be willing to bet 50 cents it is indeed the real deal.

My favorite find in Crewe was the Sears Lucerne. This is the only Lucerne that I have seen in my many travels, and the one in Crewe is just a spot-on match to the original catalog image! And look at the price!  This darling little house could be yours for $867.

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia

Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia

This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.

This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.

Comparison of the two houses

Comparison of the two houses

One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.

One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.

Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.

Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.

More train coolness at Crewe

More train coolness at Crewe

The little train museum in Crewe is a delight, and well worth your time. It’s staffed by devoted volunteers and it’s a lovely way to spend some time. As a hard-core train buff, I loved the hands-on displays and being able to soak in the happy ambiance of the old Norfolk and Western steam engine (pictured above).

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy one of Rose’s splendiferous books, click here.

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