As a 5th-grade teacher, I took as much delight in reading Stinky Stanley books to my students as they took in hearing the stories. Of course, there’s a lot to appeal to a 5th grader. Stinky Stanley was just a blob of protoplasm until he was struck by lightning, instantly becoming a clone of the last person to touch the blob, ten-year-old Sam. Sam was kind of a normal kid, but Stanley–who lots of people mistook for Sam–was anything but normal. He eats his own earwax (and yes, I’m afraid he eats his boogers, too), “burps like a horse and smells like a toxic waste dump.” Mostly Sam is able to keep Stinky Stanley a secret, but of course, not always.
In the third Stinky Stanley book, Stinky Stanley Superhero, Stanley is kidnapped by the evil scientist, Dr. Wermer, who wants to conduct a few experiments on the boy-clone. Wermer lives in sleek metal house. I found that house in Great Bend.
Okay, so Dr. Wermer’s house was black and looked like a camera with its little windows. Not at all like this Lustron Home, which is the real deal. A metal home. In fact, according to the literature at the Barton County Historical Museum, in the 1940s Lustron was “The House America’s been Waiting For.”
Metal walls, can you imagine? When the house gets dirty, you just hose it down. No repainting, and since the trim and the awnings are all metal, too, clean-up is a breeze.
Returning World War II GIs had difficulty finding affordable housing, but post Depression and WWII had the veterans finding civilian jobs and going to college. Suddenly there was a demand for single family homes. The Lustron Home fit the bill.
Notice the magnetic alphabet letters on the wall? Yep. Even the interior is metal–metal walls, metal built-in cabinets, metal vanity . . . it goes on and on. Keep your spray bottle of Fantastik on hand, and hand smears are gone in a flash. Oh, wait–I guess you’d need a bucket of sudsy Ivory Snow or your Old Dutch Cleanser (No Fantastik back then.).
Hanging photos was probably a little bit tricky, unless you use magnets.
As described in the Historical Society literature, the Lustron–”luster on steel”–Homes “were embraced, appreciated and understood by forward looking customers. These homes were made for people who built and flew the mighty super fortress–the B-29.”
Mass produced prefabricated porcelain enamel became part of post-war architectural history. A family could place its order for a house, and then just wait in excited anticipation for delivery of their two- or three-bedroom home.
Even though everything is metal, even the standard vanity dresses up nicely with splashes of color.
Many Lustron homes are still standing and occupied today. Eighteen houses and their owners are located in Great Bend, “The Lustron Home Capital of Kansas.” Dr. Wermer doesn’t live in any of them.
In addition to this lovely example of a Lustron Home (made possible with a generous gift from the Marion Weeks family of Hoisington), The Barton County Historical Museum collection and its interpretive materials are worth perusing. We had a great time moseying through the museum proper–with lots of terrific artifacts, including a super exhibit about iron lungs, the Luster Home, and even the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, where my husband’s parents married. I recommend you take a look, too, and then take a ride on the old-fashioned gunny-sack swing. (I did. It was fun.)
Barton County Historical Society 85 South Highway 281, Post Office Box 1091 Great Bend, KS 67530 620.793.5125 www.bartoncountymuseum.org