Thursday, July 1, 2010

Procelain* (for Porcelain*)

How would you like to live in a lunchbox? Unless you're a fruit fly or Pee-wee Herman, you're probably not too keen on the idea, but hold on a sec. What about a house that never has to be painted, inside or out, or have its roof replaced, ever? For a brief shining moment, it looked like a great many Americans might end up in just such an abiding abode, and in the late 1940s, nearly 3,000 families actually did. These marvels of post-war, pre-fab architecture known as "Lustron houses" were the brainchild of inventor and entrepreneur Carl Strandlund, who tirelessly (some might say zealously) preached the gospel of Lustron throughout the land. He extolled its virtues, bought up ad space in magazines, handed out coupons, and took lots of purchase orders for these porcelain-enameled steel bungalows of a sort, which came off an assembly line and were often ready to move into a day or two later. Just add magnets! (Hammers and nails are anathema to Lustron, which depends upon your not breaching the enamel finish.) Lustron homes were 1950s Googie at its best. As a speaker from the Historic Albany Foundation put it during a recent neighborhood walkabout: "Your Fiestaware would've looked great in the cabinets ... and there was probably Boomerang in the kitchen..." There were 21 cases of Procelain* (for porcelain*) in the OhioLINK database. Typos, like Lustron homes, are extremely durable and, unless you start chipping away at them now, will probably last forever.

(Lustron houses at 1, 3, and 5 Jermain Street in Albany, New York, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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