In 1934, my husband’s grandfather purchased a pre-fab home from the Sears and Roebuck Company. At the time, his brother, sister-in-law and their children were living with him, his wife, and their five children. Grandma would eventually have two more children, so space was getting tight.
Grandpa purchased a Cape Cod style home, for $886. It was delivered by rail and assembled on a full basement and had two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom, and a kitchen. Uncle Russell and his family happily moved across the yard from Grandpa and Grandma.
When Uncle Russell moved out, one of Grandpa’s kids, Matt’s Aunt Betty, moved her family into the small home. Aunt Betty and Uncle Howard decided California was their destiny and moved away. Aunt Carolyn and her family moved in, but soon outgrew the home, having four children.
In 1956, Grandpa and Grandma sold their original house to another of their children (my husband’s mother), and moved into the little house themselves. At that point, they expanded the small home to include a large master bedroom, a larger living room, and a larger kitchen. This allowed for a utility room behind the kitchen as well as a back entrance to the house. They eventually added a front porch off the new living room, and the old living room served as a wonderful dining room. The “little” house was actually a very pleasant ranch style home, bearing little resemblance to the Sears pre-fab of 1934.
In the early 1980s, when Grandpa and Grandma passed away, Matt’s brother Bill moved into the little house with his family for a while. Soon after, Matt and I were married and we entered into a land contract with his parents to purchase both homes. This afforded us the opportunity to live in the little house until at a time “of mutual agreement,” we would switch houses so that Mom and Dad could retire to a smaller home.
We made that switch in 1994 and the folks lived for many years as our next door neighbors and best friends. It might not have been an arrangement suitable for some, but it gave me many happy years.
When our son was in college, the last of our parents passed away. We were unsure what to do with the little house, but our son wanted to move in and commute to college. This suited us just fine and for the past eight years, he has lived next door to us, as the sixth member of Grandpa’s family to live in the Sears house.
We knew that the house needed some major repairs and we were starting to discuss plans to remodel. Then the washer, dryer, dishwasher, and air conditioner all died last June. Our son moved out for a year so that we could begin significant remodeling (floors, chimney, windows, gutting the kitchen, and getting new appliances).
It’s well underway, though we have been careful to maintain the integrity of the 1934 Cape Cod that Grandpa provided. We’re so blessed by the grandparents’ foresight and by the good old American ingenuity of Sears and Roebuck!
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.