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Ten Things You Should Never Say to a “Suicide Widow” (or Any Trauma Survivor)

July 1st, 2018 Sears Homes 9 comments

It’s been two years since The Bad Thing.

From my own life experience, I’d like to offer a list of things NOT to say to a suicide widow. As the title indicates, this might also apply to other trauma survivors.

First, some guiding principles.

Too often, “normies” try to fit a horrible trauma into a tidy box that dovetails with their world view. This is the one thing that should never be done, because while it makes the chatty visitor feel better, it will eviscerate the survivor.

When people talk to a survivor, they’re often trying to comfort themselves. Some folks like to reason out - mentally or verbally - why this horror could never happen to them. They want to put a framework around trauma, and thus isolate it in their own minds, and then they can take some solace believing (hoping) that they’re safe.

Secondly - do not attempt to compare your story to someone else’s: No two stories are the same and no two people are the same. There are many reasons for suicide, and it’s estimated that some degree of mental illness is involved in “about 90% of suicides” (according to online sources). Comparisons are always a bad idea, and ever more-so when it comes to complicated grief.

Below are real world examples of things I’ve been told, and in some cases, they caused a significant set-back in the healing process.

1) Only you can decide if you’re going to get over this.

This is probably one of the worst things you can say to someone who’s experienced trauma. I have yet to meet a trauma survivor who wouldn’t endure almost any treatment and/or any process if it would offer a respite from the hell in which they live. Telling me that “only I can decide” is a harsh comment that only inflicts additional suffering. It’s also dismissive of the intense mental anguish and emotional pain that accompanies suicide of a spouse or child.

2) You need to be grateful for what you have.

Advising me to be grateful makes all manner of negative assumptions about my spiritual journey. The emotional pain of suicide can be so crippling that normal thought processes go out the window. When word first came of my husband’s death, I tried to use my phone to make a call. I looked at the telephone and thought, “Why did I buy a device that I don’t know how to use?” I’d lost the ability to make a phone call. It was as though a nuclear bomb had detonated inside of my brain.

3) It’s been six months (or two years). Shouldn’t you be over this by now?

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. I’m never going to be “over” this. I can only hope that Carly Simon was right, and that there is “more room in a broken heart” because mine was shattered into a billion pieces. One day my heart will heal, but I’ll never be over this.

4) Rosemary, we all miss him. This isn’t just about you.

Yes, I’ve heard this from his co-workers and others. And yet these are the same people I saw at Wayne’s funeral, clinging to their own spouse a little tighter when they strolled past the closed casket. You lost your cousin, your boss, your lunch buddy. I lost my person; I lost the person that I handpicked out of seven billion people. I lost my anticipated future. I also lost my home and my social standing and my entire life.

5) If anything happened to my husband, I’d just lay down and die. He’s my whole world.

Following Wayne’s suicide, I suffered crippling chest pain that went on for months. Even now, a minor setback brings back that terrible pain. More than once, I laid down somewhere (often in my car so no one could find me) and waited for my heart to stop. It never did. I don’t know why. Too many times to count, I would pray at night that I would pass quietly in my sleep.

“Laying down and dying” is not an option. Apparently, the human body is very tough.

This comment also presumes that if I DON’T lay down and die, the bond I had with my husband wasn’t that strong. If I could die from a broken heart, I would have died 1001 times. Or more.

6) You don’t understand depression. It’s a pit so deep and so dark that there’s no way to make sense of anything.

There’s so much wrong with this statement. First, about 10% of suicides do not involve mental illness. Don’t presume to know why my husband killed himself because you DON’T know what you’re talking about. Secondly, how is it that I’m expected to buck up, shut up and carry on after my husband does this, and yet he gets a pass for causing this much emotional carnage? Quite a dichotomy.

7)  I know how  you feel. My grandmother died last month and it was such a shock.

Any comment that beings with “I know how you feel” is wrong. This is probably the #1 comment I’ve heard again and again. Suicide is “a death like no other.” It leaves a gashing wound, and to compare it to a disease process or even an accident is so very wrong.

8.) You need to get help.

This comment is frequently left at this website, and perhaps it’s because I have an online presence. Folks don’t ask if I’m getting help - they just say that I need help. It’s almost comical. Were it not for the help of trained professionals, prayer warriors, kind-hearted folks, generous strangers, angels in human form and dear friends, the author known as Rosemary would be no more.

9) Stop worrying about what other people are saying about you.

This is not realistic. Studies show that suicide survivors (as we’re known) have the highest chance of healing and restoration when we’re surrounded by supportive friends and family. I’ve heard multiple stories about suicide widows who are overtly or covertly blamed for their husband’s death (as I have been). It’s common for suicide widows to be shunned (or worse) by family and (former) friends, and/or openly criticized for not saving/rescuing the dead spouse. Some suicide widows have found that they need to leave the community because the criticism and gossip is so severe.

10) Have you seen this article on suicide prevention?

Every time I see/read/hear about suicide prevention, it’s a kidney punch that reminds me: Maybe there was something more I could have done. But Smart Rosemary™ knows this for certain: No one could have stopped Wayne Ringer. No one.

11) Maybe you should write a book about all of this.

It’s only wanna-be writers who say this. Writing requires total immersion. I want to get as far away as possible from this intense emotional pain. I am not going to be writing a book about “My 27 Months In Hell.”

12) You need to stay busy.

Well into my first year, I gave this one a try. I went to every function, party, soiree and gathering that I could find. It worked for about a month, and then I found that I was more miserable than ever. Out in the world, I was expected to wear The Mask and pretend that I was happy and well, and that act was exhausting and depleting. And I heard people grumble and whine about inane topics, and that’s something I now have zero tolerance for. Maybe it’s good widow advice; it’s lousy suicide widow advice.

13) Karma will settle everything in the end. Just  you watch.

For starters, most people don’t really understand this complicated Buddhist concept. Secondly, if Karma does settle scores, then what in the world did I ever do to deserve a punishment so severe as this? The answer: Karma is a human concept, and not a comforting one if you’ve had a severe trauma.

14) You really need to forgive your husband.

No, I really need to forgive myself.

Any phrase that starts with, “you really need to” is doomed to invoke a lot of misery.

15) I have PTSD from when my daughter screamed at me (or some other non-life-threatening event).

There are folks who tell me that they want to help me, when in fact, what they really want, is to have me listen to their story.  Taking Grandma off the ventilator at the hospital should not be compared to learning that your husband died a violent, ugly death at his own hand. I don’t doubt that it was awful telling the kids that Fido has gone to the Rainbow Bridge, but don’t compare it to my anguish. PTSD is not about suffering from anxiety; it’s a mental derangement so severe that it impacts the individual’s ability to function to society. Two weeks ago at Panera I was having lunch with a friend, when someone slammed a heavy exterior door next to my table. It startled me so badly that I jumped up and screamed (at the guy who was already gone), “WHAT THE F*** IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

I immediately left the restaurant.

I’m a gentle soul and a good Christian, but that loud bang triggered something deep in my brain that caused a visceral reaction.

16) You need to see the good side: It could have been worse. What if he’d killed you too?

I hear this one a lot. I can’t even find the words to explain why you should never say this to someone who’s dealing with trauma.

17)  God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.

This is not only cruel and thoughtless but an inherently flawed argument. As Rabbi Harold Kushner responds so perfectly: If that was the case, then I wish I was a weaker person, and then maybe God wouldn’t have placed this burden in my life. (Kushner wrote, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”) Kushner also reminds his readers that if it is God that decides how many weights to place on our spiritual shoulders, then sometimes, he gets the math wrong. Kushner says that he’s seen many people crack under extreme stress and emotional strain, but those stories don’t get wide-spread publication.

18) If you read this book, you’ll find your answers.

Please don’t send me a link to a book or lengthy article. First, I’d much rather have a six-word personal note than a link to anything, be it an article or a book. Secondly, I’m still having trouble concentrating. I tried to read a scholarly article last week, and had to give up. I couldn’t grasp the meaning in the words. I could read the words, but I couldn’t put them together to form a meaning. It was embarrassing but I had to ask a friend to read it and tell me what it said. This is not uncommon in trauma survivors.

19) And please do NOT regale me with a long story about how your spouse almost died last year, but God is good, and the whole church prayed all through the night, and he pulled through, but my oh my, what a scare that was!

And don’t be surprised when I respond by telling you that I am unwell and then dart for the exit. Yes, this happened to me at a social function. The person involved knew my “back story” and yet (apparently) had no idea how much pain this story inflicted. By my calculations, I was praying for my husband when the Bad Thing happened. I’ve made my peace with that, but it took two years.

I do believe in the goodness of God.  I embrace Rabbi Kushner’s view, that God helps us heal after bad things happen, and that’s the place where we can learn about the goodness of God (and His children).

20) Do NOT make harsh inquiries or statements about my poor memory.

As a therapist told me two years ago, trauma can make you forget your middle name. Several times, people have asked me, “Don’t you remember that we talked about this?” It’s pretty humiliating to admit that you don’t remember something, but perfectly normal. Be patient with trauma victims because they’re struggling to keep it all together and the things that are of lesser importance may get lost in the shuffle.

Thank goodness, my memory is coming back (another evidence of healing), but there are still gaps. Before The Bad Thing, I’d built a career on my “amazing memory” and “encyclopedic knowledge” of old houses. Who am I, if I’m not The Sears House Lady? These days, I rely less on that “amazing memory” and more on books and other resources.

21) Do not EVER make a statement that casts blame on the survivor.

Two years after The Bad Thing, my phone dinged with a text from a friend of Wayne’s. “That’s a surprise,” I thought at first. And then I read the text. It said: “Did Wayne kill himself because he thought you were having an affair?” That comment - which came out of the blue - caused a setback so severe that I had to make an emergency appointment with a doctor. It wasn’t true, and I think the sender knew it wasn’t true, but it was still devastating. It put me right back into the mode of, “Could I have stopped this?”

After his death, I came to suspect that Wayne had been reading my private journals, and within those journals, I talked about the fact that a woman friend had not been true to her husband, and that I couldn’t imagine such a thing, as I was so “out-of-my-mind in love with Wayne.” He knew I would never cheat on him. That’s a non-sequitur.

And what if a man kills himself after his partner is untrue? Should she feel blame then? Absolutely not. People divorce. People break up. There are 101 intelligent alternatives that are better than suicide.

There’s this, too: Anyone who survives the suicide of their intimate partner is already hanging onto the edge of an emotional cliff by their fingernails. Don’t walk up to that cliff and start stomping on their hand.

The fact that one of Wayne’s friends sent me this text is a clear example of how suicide is “a death like no other,” and the survivor - the victim - already being crushed under a load of guilt, becomes the subject of scorn and blame.

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That’s 21, not 10, but once I started I couldn’t stop. And I could write another dozen.

Now, what is the right thing to do?

Several months ago, I missed a lecture. Just didn’t show up. Problem was, I was the one giving the lecture. I was so filled with self-loathing that I couldn’t function for an entire 24-hour period. I was inconsolable. A kind-hearted friend said, “Your husband killed himself. Stop trying to get back to ‘The Old Rosemary’ and focus on how much progress you’ve made in the last two years.”

That was just what I needed to hear.

Praise is always welcome. Point out the progress; don’t talk about my shortcomings. I rehearse those shortcomings for hours and hours every night as I lay in the dark. Help me remember who I really am. Remind me of my accomplishments. And most of all, tell me that it’s okay to struggle and stumble.

If my mother were alive, if Tom Conran were alive, if those people that loved me unconditionally were still here, they’d tell me, “Rosie, you’re something special. You’re hurting so bad right now, but you’re also resilient. This horror is just a passage. It’s not a place where you’re going to live. It’s temporary. And you’re going to get through this.”

To conclude, The most important thing you can do for someone who’s hurting is this:

Show up. Listen. Don’t offer advice. Just listen.

If you must speak, say something like, “I want you to know that I love you, and I care about you.”

Or it can be reduced to three words: I love you.

If this person is mature (not a kid), and you find yourself offering them advice or suggestions, bite your tongue. You’re there to love. You’re not there to judge. You’re not there to fix. You’re there to show them that they’re not alone in the world.

Do NOT tell a grieving person, “Let me know if you need anything.” Instead, you might say, “I’d like to drop off a meal at your house once a week for a time. Which is better, Tuesday or Thursday night?”

When I moved into a rental house in Churchland, my new neighbor came over to meet me and brought me Rice Krispie treats. Now that was a happy moment!  I was pretty raw then, and told her that I was trying to pull myself together, and that my husband had killed himself. Tears came to her eyes. Her brother had killed himself a couple years prior. She said, “You’re a bit gaunt. Are you eating?”

I told her, “No. I’ve lost 40 pounds.”

She said, “I love to cook and I always make too much. I’ll bring you dinner every other night until you tell me to stop.”

She’s one of those angels walking this earth. I regained the lost weight and my health improved.

In the earliest days, a woman friend took me into her house. She worked late hours and would often come home too tired to stand up, but every night (for three months), she’d enter the guest bedroom (where I slept) and stand at the foot of the bed and pray for me.

Knowing that people I barely knew were praying for me was such a blessing, but when someone took me by the hand and prayed with me, it stirred my soul and I felt like the angels were right there, knitting my heart back together. It was a powerful experience.

Please remember these seven tips:

1) Show up.

2) Sit quietly and let them talk as long as they want to.

3) Tell them that they’re loved.

4) Offer praise and encouragement for any and all progress.

5) Remember, just knowing that someone cares is immensely comforting.

6) Pray FOR the person in pain, but better yet, pray WITH them. These prayers (and the love behind them) saved me.

7) And ask if Tuesday or Thursday night is better for them.

And why did I spend three days writing this? Studies show that suicide widows and those who have lost a very close loved one to suicide are 10-12 times MORE LIKELY to have suicidal ideation (studies vary in this number). If you have a friend who lost a spouse or a child to suicide, you should know that odds are good that they’re already contemplating ending their own life. The first six months are especially risky. Unconditional support and indefatigable love for the survivor will help them navigate those very treacherous rapids. At the very least, stop crucifying the survivors. We’re already drowning under the waves of guilt and grief.

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This is the best article I’ve seen on what happens to “The Widow” after a suicide.

If this blog has helped you, please post the link and share it on Facebook.

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Teddy

Teddy, for the most part, has proven to be a good grief counselor. She never says the wrong thing, and she always forgives me, which is pretty amazing. I could learn a lot from Teddy.

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The Eight-Cow Wife

Photo is copyright Dave Chance and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Prayers For a Quick Turning…

April 2nd, 2018 Sears Homes 15 comments

To start, a quote from O. S. Guinness:

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The story of Christian reformation, revival, and renaissance underscores that the darkest hour is often just before the dawn, so we should always be people of hope and prayer, not gloom and defeatism. God the Holy Spirit can turn the situation around in five minutes.

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As I sneak up on the two-year anniversary of my husband’s suicide, I seem to be struggling to survive. I am in great need of a “five minute” turn.

There are days that I think that I’m going to be okay, and other days when my sufferings are great.

In the last two years, everything has changed. The first six months after his death, I was in shock, and stumbled around - from pillar to post - trying to find a moment or two of solace. The second six monts, I was still in shock but (thanks to friends), found a rental home.

Last October, I purchased a small brick ranch in Suffolk, Virginia. Last month, I purchased a new car to replace my aging Camry. In the last few weeks, I’ve started looking through all those boxes that were hastily packed two years ago, only to find that I gave away or discarded about 50% of my earthly possessions.

My memory has returned, but most of those memories of life with him are upsetting, unnerving or devastating. There are no good memories left. They’re all tainted.

If you’re reading this, I would be grateful for your prayers for guidance and wisdom and health and wholeness.

In short, a turning of this situation.

Thank you.

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“Finding The Houses That Sears Built” - Available While Quantities Last!

May 9th, 2017 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of the many casualties of The Very Bad Thing™ were my book sales, but for many months following Wayne’s death, I didn’t care about anything.

Last week, someone pointed out that the price of Finding The Houses That Sears Built - now out of print - had hit crazy new heights. I logged into a popular website for books and was astonished to see that this modest tome - used - was fetching more than $145. The cost of a new copy was $495, for a book with an original cover price of $19.95.

I went out into the garage and dug around in some boxes (of which there are many), and found that I had about 15 copies of this title. (Note: This sounds simple but it was quite complex. I’m currently “camped out” in a rental and surrounded by boxes!)

So for now, while supplies last, this book will be offered for sale for $44.95 plus $5 shipping and handling. All orders are shipped out via priority mail.

To order a copy, click here.

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Finding The Houses That Sears Built

When I logged onto this website, I was shocked to see that "Finding The Houses That Sears Built" had a "low price" of $145. That's pretty incredible. And the cost for a NEW book was $495.

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FINDING

Prices ranged from $145 to more than $300. That's just incredible.

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Teddy

Teddy the Dog wants you to know that there are only a few copies available.

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ffff

On a different note, I may need an intervention. I keep buying stuffed horses.

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Yes, I now have six little horsies, but there will always only be one Horsie™

Yes, I now have six little horsies, but there will always only be the original classic "Horsie."™

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Want to learn how to identify Sears Homes? Click here.

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Thanks for reading my blog. And thanks for leaving a comment. Every day, I read and re-read every kind word left at this site, and every kind word helps put another salutary stitch in my shattered and broken heart.

Teddy and I thank you for your kindness and your prayers.

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Emails and Such

June 27th, 2016 Sears Homes 9 comments

My husband died a terrible and tragic death 10 weeks ago today.

Well-intentioned people keep sending me emails asking for more information on Sears kit homes.

It’s certainly okay to leave a comment at this site, as a friend is now managing it, but please don’t contact me personally about Sears Homes for now.

Most of my Sears House materials will soon be donated to the ODU Library.

If you’d like to learn more about Sears Homes, please read through the 958 blogs at this site, or join our group on Facebook.

If you’d like to read more about how much I loved this man, just search “Wayne Ringer” at this site.

Thanks.

Kit Homes in Kinston - What a Bonanza!

January 25th, 2016 Sears Homes 3 comments

Was I surprised to find 19 Aladdin kit homes in Kinston? My oh my, yes! And those 19 were found during a very quick windshield survey. There are more lurking about, I’m sure.

Last week, my husband and I visited New Bern, and while there, we drove out to Kinston to look at the local architecture. Lo and behold, we found an Aladdin kit home on almost every street in the older neighborhoods. In one memorable area (near Harding and Pollock Streets) we found seven Aladdin homes together.

The older suburbs we visited had many wide-open spaces, suggesting that many of these early 20th Century kit homes have already been demolished.

If you’re new to this website, you may be wondering, what is a kit home? In the early 1900s, aspiring homeowners could order a “kit home” from the Sears Roebuck catalog. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that the neophyte homebuilder could have the house ready for  occupancy in 90 days. In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs, such as Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) and Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa).

Aladdin was bigger than Sears, in business longer, and sold more homes than Sears, but they’re not as well known as Sears. Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, North Carolina, which explains why Aladdin Homes were so popular in the Southeast.

Based on my research, the overwhelming majority of people living in these kit homes didn’t know what they had, until I contacted them (or they discovered their home on my blog).

What was the industry that promoted Kinston’s growth in the early 1900s, and put them on the map? Industries often turned to Aladdin to supply housing for the workers. It’s likely that someone turned to Aladdin for the houses we’re now finding in Kinston, but who was it?

Lastly, before we get into the photos, I’m hoping some progressive-minded soul in Kinston will contact me about coming back to town to do a thorough survey. Perhaps identifying these bungalows as historically significant kit homes can be a key to revitalizing parts of Kinston.

Let’s hope.

Contact Rose by leaving a comment below.

In addition to the 19 Aladdin homes, I found a lone Gordon Van Tine home: The Peach House Restaurant! And it’s a real beauty! You can read more about that by clicking here!

You can read here about the kit homes I found in New Bern, NC.

UPDATE! We found a Montgomery Ward kit home in Kinston, too!

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1914 Moosejaw

Aladdin sold more homes than Sears, but was not as well known.

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1916

What was the industry that promoted Kinston's growth in the early 1900s, and put them on the map? It seems very likely that *that* employer turned to Aladdin to supply worker homes in Kinston.

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houses

Aladdin had catalogs devoted to "solving the problem of industrial housing."

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Aladdin 1916

Aladdin was named for the magical genie who built "a house in a day" for his master. Apparently, Old Genie is perusing the latest catalog to find a snappy design.

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1919

The Shadow Lawn is one of my favorites. It was spacious and beautiful (1919).

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Shadow two

When I drove in Kinston, the first house I spotted was this Aladdin Shadowlawn on Lenoir Avenue. Looks like it walked right off the pages of the 1919 catalog (shown above).

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Shadow

During our brief time in Kinston, I initially missed this Shadowlawn (another beauty) on Atlantic Avenue. Shown above is a screenshot from Google Maps. It's another delightfully original house.

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1916

The "Colonial" was probably Aladdin's biggest (and fanciest) kit home.

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19 Colonial

And there's one in Kinston! Do the owners know that they're living in a kit home?

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1919 Classic Bungalow

The Pomona was a classic early 20th Century bungalow (1919).

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Pollock 805

This was my favorite Pomona in Kinston (which has three of them). This house still as so many of its original features, including the half-timber effect on the porch gable, original windows with diamond muntins and those rectangular eave brackets. And that appears to be an old wooden storm door.

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305 Washington

This Pomona on Washington Street is also a lovely home, but its windows have been replaced.

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810 Collge

The years have not been kind to this Pomona on College Street.

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Carolina 1923

In all my travels, I'd never seen an Aladdin "Carolina." It seems fitting that there are not one but two Carolinas in Kinston, North Carolina. This image is from the 1923 catalog.

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605 Rhem

This Carolina on Rhem Street is in picture-perfect condition.

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308 Capitol

This is an Aladdin "Carolina" and it does have its original windows, so that's a plus. It's had some insensitive remodeling. Anything salt-treated on an old house is just not a good plan.

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Willard 1919

I've not seen that many "Willards" in my travels, but there are two in Kinston (1919).

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Details

It's also a cute little house with lots of interesting details and features.

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Willard 413 Harding

And this Willard on Harding Street is perfect - right down to the lattice!

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Willard on Harding

From every angle, it's a beauty!

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Porch

And it's astounding that 100 years later, that lattice is still in such good shape.

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811 Pollock

On an opposing corner, I found this Willard which has had some remodeling, but still looks a lot like a Willard. It's a pity that the guy-wire got in the way of an otherwise perfect picture.

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1919

The Virginia was a popular house for Aladdin (1919).

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310 Capitola

This "Virginia" on Capitola Street is next door to the Carolina shown above!

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Capitola

Okay, so we lost the little girl (in the image on the right) and gained a trash can, but other than that, it's a lovely match. And a pretty house, too!

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Florence 1916

The Florence was a popular house for Aladdin and I've found an abundance of these in North Carolina's mill towns. There are two Florence models in Kinston.

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Florence

And they're across the street from each other. This is on Harding.

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406 Harding

And so is this one.

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1919 BLVD

The Aladdin Boulevard was not a hugely popular house (1919).

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BLVD

But it is distinctive with that low shed dormer and the window arrangement. The Boulevard has 12/1 windows on the front porch (1919).

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Street

This was the first "Boulevard" I've ever seen. On this model, someone took out those living windows when they put in that fireplace. There's also an addition on the rear of the house.

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House

In this picture, you can see those 12/1 windows on the Kinston "Boulevard."

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1924 Sunshine

The "Sunshine" was a popular house with a really cute name (1924).

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Sunshine

"You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine..." This was the only Sunshine we found in Kinston.

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Street

These four models were lined up like little soldiers in a row on Pollock Street in Kinston.

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Harassment Street

The Willard is to the far left, with the Sunshine next, the Boulevard beyond it, and the Pomona at the end of the run. Kitty-corner to this Willard was The Perfect Willard, and the two Florences are behind this WIllard. These are the seven Aladdins mentioned above.

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Bruns 1923

I've been looking for an Aladdin Brunswick for a long time, butt prior to coming to Kinston, I'd never laid eyes on the real deal (1923 catalog).

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509 Washington

And Kinston has two of them. This house is on West Washington.

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Brunsh

A distinctive feature of the Brunswick is this window arrangement on the side of the house. The centered window is a staircase-landing window. The small windows are closet windows.

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Brusnswisk

This is another house that I missed on my first drive through town, and found when I was double-checking addresses via Google Maps. It's in pitiable shape. It's just off Perry and Atlantic, and just around the corner from that stunning Aladdin Shadowlawn. I hope this home has a hope of restoration.

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GVT

And the Gordon Van Tine #705 was the only non-Aladdin home I found in Kinston.

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Moo

Now this is a beautiful house - and it's also a restaurant!

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Gustatory Delights

Had we only been more familiar with the delicious delights offered at The Gordon Van Tine #705 Restaurant, errr, the "Peach House" we would have stopped there for lunch!

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At the end of the day,

At the end of our trip to Kinston, Hubby was mighty glad to get back to our "home away from home," The Aerie Bed and Breakfast in New Bern. He was tired of looking at houses.

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You can visit The Peach House website here.

To read about what I found in nearby New Bern, click here.

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The Wabash: A Dog’s Eye View

August 8th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Teddy the Dog noticed a couple things about the Sears Wabash (in yesterday’s blog) that I had missed.

1) The 1920 version had “chains” on the front porch (something a dog is always cognizant of);

2) The Wabash didn’t offer indoor plumbing (something a dog well understands).

So Teddy asked me to clarify these two important points on this blog.

To read more about Teddy, click here.

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Teddy asked me to do this subsequent blog.

Being a Sheltie, she's a herding dog, and has an especially keen eye for detail.

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The Wabash was first offered in 1916 and was apparently a popular house. The price tag was under $600, which - even factoring in average costs in 1916 - was a sound value. Heres a Wabash in Alliance, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2015 Robb Hyde and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

The Wabash was first offered in 1916 and was apparently a popular house. The price tag was under $600, which - even factoring in average costs in 1916 - was a sound value. Here's a Wabash in Alliance, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2015 Robb Hyde and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The

Even the "Already Cut" version of this house was a mere $599 (1916).

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But when Teddy got to comparing the floorplan with the

But when Teddy got to comparing the floorplan with the "interior view" of the kitchen, she noticed something wasn't quite right. She was puzzled, as was I.

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Its not a match

We both stared at this image a few minutes, trying to orient ourselves. How can this room have three exterior openings? It's on the corner of the house.

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House

Teddy put herself in the Wabash to re-create the view shown above.

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Thats when Teddy realized we had to rotate the image 90 degrees.

The view is easier to grasp when the image is rotated 90 degrees. The "interior view" can only be seen by a Sheltie with x-ray vision and the ability to look through walls. As shown here, Teddy would need to stand on the edge of the fireplace mantel, and look through an interior wall.

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Tw

Teddy suggested I put the images side-by-side. The floorplan shows a window next to the door (upper right), but the image (left side) shows just a door. The exterior view of the Wabash shows only one window in that spot. Seems like a tricky bunch of photos, doesn't it? Maybe the architects were wondering if anyone would notice if they mixed it up a bit. Or maybe those architects just made a boo-boo.

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The view of the living room is simpler: Youre standing at the front door, looking down that 19 expanse.

The view of the living room is simpler: You're standing at the front door, looking down that 19' expanse. I do not understand why there's only a cased opening going into that bedroom (front left).

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If you look again at the floorplan,

If you look again at the floorplan, you'll see that the screened porch has a cement floor, and opens up off the kitchen. That explains how the kitchen has three exterior openings: One of them goes to the porch.

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The image from the 1920 catalog shows that theres a chain on the front porch.

The image from the 1920 catalog shows that there's a chain on the front porch. As my friend Dale would say, "That's really cheapin' it out." Teddy wants to go on record as saying that "chains" and "dogs" are a very bad mix and she thinks that those two words should never be in the same sentence.

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You may have noticed that the Wabash does not have a bathroom. In fact, if you look closely, theres only one spigot on the kitchen sink, suggesting that it was cold water only.

You may have noticed that the Wabash does not have a bathroom. In fact, if you look closely, there's only one spigot on the kitchen sink, suggesting that it was cold water only. The cost of the Wabash would include an additional $41, for this "neat, attractive, little building." Teddy has a better understanding than most of the need to go outside - slogging through the muck and the snow - just to go tinkle.

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Fefe

This is disturbing. But what's even more unnerving is the third paragraph.

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Its reminiscent of the image on the cover of the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

It's reminiscent of the image on the cover of the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog. What's this fellow doing? He's exiting his shiny new Sears Modern Home to go to the outside pump and fetch a couple pails of water. His trusty Sheltie is right by his side.

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In closing, Teddy just wanted to say that she feels strongly

In closing, Teddy just wanted to say that she likes the Wabash and sees many good places for a Sheltie to lounge and enjoy life. In our own home, Teddy has a strong presence in the bedrooms, the sunporch, the living room and the dining room. She also enjoys hanging out in the bathroom (only when it's occupied) and in front of the fireplace. Her personal favorite spot is the kitchen, where there are many opportunities for her to get underfoot, and catch errant bits of food that hit the floor during meal preparation. Despite its hazards, she also likes to lay lengthwise in the narrow long hallway of our brick ranch at 3:00 in the morning, so that anyone headed to the bathroom will trip over her. I'm not sure why she does that...

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My name is Teddy, and I approve this blog.

My name is Teddy, and I approve this blog.

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To read more about Teddy, click here.

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Orlando in Nebraska

April 4th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last year, I was watching the movie “Nebraska” with my daughter Corey, when I asked her to hit pause for a moment. I jumped up, grabbed a camera and took a picture of the tv screen.

My daughter quietly asked, “Sears House?”

Montgomery Ward,” I replied.

We continued with our movie.

As mentioned in a prior blog, I can’t just watch movies or television like normal people. I’m forever looking at the architecture. Doesn’t matter if they’re Sears Homes or not, I like looking at houses. When I was single, I kept hoping to find a dating site that featured pictures of men’s homes, rather than their faces. Some things are so much more important than looks. And then I ended up marrying a guy who lived in a concrete filing cabinet for people.

And then we moved to a fine home after we got married.

Shown below is the house I spotted in the movie “Nebraska.”  As movies go, it was okay, but pretty slow.

However it did have a nice house. Looks like it might be a Montgomery Ward “Orlando.”

Maybe.

To read more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

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Movie

This foursquare was featured in the movie "Nebraska" with Bruce Dern

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Dare I hope

Is it a Montgomery Ward Orlando? Might be.

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Montgomery Ward and Gordon Van Tine were one in the same. Montgomery Ward relied on GVT to handle all facets of sales, from catalog publication to order fulfillment. What's the difference between a Montgomery Ward house and a Gordon Van Tine house? Not much. Image above is from the 1918 catalog.

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I love reading this stuff.

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Classic foursquare, with one difference: No entry foyer. Instead, that extra space is used for a small den or first-floor bedroom. Notice also that it has "good-morning stairs" in the kitchen. Nice touch!

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This is the only Orlando I've ever seen, and it's in Beckley, West Virginia.

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My friend Ersela found this house in Beckley. For years, people had said it was a Sears House. They were close!

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To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

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Teddy: Watchdog Extraordinaire

December 30th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

One of my all-time favorite books is, “Kinship with All Life” (by J. Allen Boone).  It’s a short but delightful read, and the book’s premise is this; dogs are a whole lot smarter (and more intuitive) than we humans can understand.

Several years ago, when Teddy was less than two years old, she came to my bedside one night and demanded that I awaken and arise.

I opened my eyes and saw my favorite quadruped standing there with an intense gaze in her eyes.

With as much gravitas as a Sheltie can muster, she lifted her snout ever so slightly and said, “Woof!”

As any dog owner knows, a dog has different barks for different occasions. This “woof” was different from the others.

I looked into her eyes for a minute and said, “What?”

She looked at me as if to say, “Listen, you need to get up and take a look outside. It’s important.”

She stood still and continued to stare intensely at me.

I arose from my soft pink bed and looked outside, and that’s when I saw two miscreants studying my car, parked in front of the house. One was especially interested in the license plate. The other was leaning over and looking in the driver’s window.

The dog stood beside me and barked incessantly. I was trying to figure out if I should holler or call 911, but Teddy’s barking was enough. They immediately stood up and briskly walked away.

Once the drama ceased, I praised Teddy. And I wondered, “How did she know? And how did she know how to get my attention with that little staring maneuver? How could she hear those muted malefactors, preparing to do heaven-knows-what to my slightly used 2003 Camry?”

Teddy just turned seven years old last month, and I recognize with some sadness that her life is half over.

For the first 30  years of my life, I didn’t like dogs. I was a cat person, through and through. When I was 36 years old, I got my first dog. When my mother met “Daisy,” for the first time, she fell in love with her. My mother told me, “I’m glad that you have discovered what a joy it is to have the love of a dog. There’s nothing like it.”

Mom was right.

PS. One of my most-popular blogs of all time (8,000 views) was this story about Teddy, but the link (from 2010) is now a “dead link.” Not sure how that happened, and this post was an attempt to repair the broken link - unsuccessfully! My apologies if you’ve heard this story before.

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Roxy (black fuzzy lumpkin) is Teddys best friend, and sometimes, they have a sleepover.

Roxy (black fuzzy cutie-pie) is Teddy's best friend, and sometimes, they have a sleepover. At first glance, you might think this is a human bed, but you'd be mistaken. It's a dog bed that humans are permitted to use.

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Teddy has also mastered the art of relaxation.

Teddy has also mastered the art of relaxation.

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Teddy also enjoys looking for kit homes in her spare time.

Teddy also enjoys looking for kit homes in her spare time.

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This is one of my favorite photos of Teddy. She loves taking me for walks.

This is one of my favorite photos of Teddy. She loves taking me for walks.

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To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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Christmas Comes But Once a Year…

December 23rd, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

The holidays are challenging for lots of people for lots of reasons. I have much to be grateful for but sometimes, I find the holidays a little difficult, too.

It doesn’t help that I’m a highly sensitive soul, who takes the world far too seriously and feels things way too deeply. Plus, I’m highly allergic to people, and shopping malls make me break out in hives, and blinking lights make me nervous. Short sticky people who move in erratic patterns whilst generating loud noises make me recoil in horror.

I love movies and in the movie“The Secret Life of Bees” I found a character with whom I could truly identify: “May” (played by Sophie Okonedo).

May is the consummate highly sensitive person, and in one very memorable part of the movie, she tells Lily Owens, “Sometimes not feeling is the only way you can survive.”

If someone invented an off-switch for feelings, I’d consider them worthy of the Nobel Personal Peace Prize.

In the meantime - to my fellow old house lovers and sensitive souls - I hope you have a good new year!  :D

And thank you very much for reading my blog! It brings me much joy to know that folks enjoy the stories I publish here. For that, I am both humbled and grateful.

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Teddy

Teddy The Dog hasn't told me how she feels about Christmas, but she has expressed a wish that she not be forced to sit in little red wagons again.

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And from the man who would be Santa.

One of the people in my life for whom I am grateful: Wayne Ringer, the lawyer who looks more like a logger (and a lot like Santa). Photo is copyright 2014 Morgan Ringer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Despite my fondest Christmas wish, the house featured in A Christmas Story is not a kit house. It is, however, a real house in Cleveland, Ohio.

Despite my fondest Christmas wish, the house featured in "A Christmas Story" is not a kit house. It is, however, a real house in Cleveland, Ohio. And the movie is one of my all-time favorite movies.

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To read about old houses, click here.

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More on Jim Walter Homes…

December 19th, 2014 Sears Homes 13 comments

In the last couple years, I’ve had probably about 20 requests for more information on Jim Walter Homes. As mentioned in a prior blog, the company started doing business in 1946 and ceased in 2009, having sold about 320,000 homes.

That’s a lot of houses.

Last week, Carmen Miller contacted me and asked if there was a way to authenticate a Jim Walter Home. (Carmen was interested because she had recently purchased an alleged Jim Walter Home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.)

I thought and thought about her question, and couldn’t come up with a good answer.

As it turns out, I do some of my best thinking when I’m semi-conscious. Bolting upright about 4:30 this morning, I had my answer: Grantee Records.

Jim Walter Homes (like Sears) offered a really sweet deal on mortgages on their kit homes; easy payments, unusually low downpayments and lower-than-market interest rates. Using Grantee Records (where mortgages are recorded), I could look up “Jim Walter Homes.”

I immediately awakened in-house counsel from his slumbers, who put a damper on my brilliance, and pointed out that I would need trustee names. I replied, “Maybe that’s true, but I’m going to try ‘Jim Walter Homes’ and see what happens.”

I was surprised at how much I found: Four houses within the computerized records in Portsmouth, Virginia!

If you enjoy the following information, you should thank the architecture-loving angel that whispered in my ear at 4:30 am. And thank Carmen, too!  :D

To read more about Jim Walter Homes, click here.

Sometimes, I write about houses and sometimes, I write about heroes.

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house house

The map book (showing a physical address for this site) is housed in Norfolk County (see red arrow) which is in Chesapeake, about 45 minutes away from downtown Portsmouth. Using the legal description and some help from my friend Milton, we figured out where this house is located. The trustees names are given as W. S. Sullivan and R. E. Kane, but the deed was found by searching for "Jim Walter Homes." At the top, this document references a "deed of satisfaction," showing that the mortgage has been paid in full. Notice the letterhead.

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Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above.

Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above. It was built in 1974, and unfortunately, I wasn't able to find this model in my 1972 catalog. It's endured some remodeling. Who knows what it looked like 40 years ago.

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Honestly, Im not sure what this document is, but I suspect its a cover letter for legal documents. Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouths land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

This appears to be nothing more than a cover letter for legal documents (which I did not find). Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouth's land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

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This one, I was able to identify.

I was able to identify this house on Highland Avenue. Construction started in 1988.

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Its The Oxford.

It's "The Oxford."

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Highland

Fancy name; simple house.

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match

According to city records, the house on Highland Avenue is 24 by 38 (912 square feet).

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Last

This also shows a trustee name of Robert E. Kane (for JW Homes). On another note, I can not make out the owner's last name. Is it Lyttle?

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And heres the little JW house that the Lyttles bought.

And here's the little JW house that the Lyttle's built on Holladay Street.

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As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And theres one I still cant locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that its located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, Legal description attached, but there was no attachment.

As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And there's one I still can't locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that it's located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, "Legal description attached," but there was no attachment.

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Jim Walters obituary, as it appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat on January 8, 2000.

Jim Walter's obituary, as it appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat on January 8, 2000.

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I’m on the hunt for a few more (earlier) catalogs. If you find one, please drop me a note!

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