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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Primitive Mobile Home

On June 10, 1923, the Milwaukee Journal reported on the ambition of a retired Beloit couple, Charles and Capitola Kidder. Married for five decades, the Kidders had often told friends that, "Someday, we will follow the trail out into the golden West. We will see the things we have wanted to see, do the things we have wanted to do, and, please God, it will be together." They would follow the same routes and encounter the same vistas, whether rough or grand, that the pioneers had faced in their covered wagons along the Santa Fe Trail.

Originally, they envisioned a trip by train, but in the long years since their dream was born, the automobile was invented. As retirement neared, its potential suggested a solution to one problem that had always discouraged them. Mrs. Kidder had powerful regrets about leaving the comforts and keepsakes of home. And Mr. Kidder shared some of her anxiety, fearing that "I will not like hotel food and I will miss your cooking."

So they built a small house on the back of a truck. Having "stood shoulder to shoulder through more than 50 years of marriage and financial life," the Kidders no longer worried about leaving the possessions they'd collected over the course of a lifetime. They piled it all onto their rude "mobile home" and turned their eyes west. Their foster son was happy to do most of the driving; luckily, he was also an auto mechanic.

As they got ready to depart, neighbors asked how long they would be gone. "Why people should measure a trip by days or miles I cannot understand," Mr. Kidder replied. "We have all the time there is and we expect to decide as we go along how to use it."

So off they rolled into the sunset, never to be seen again in Beloit (so far as we can tell). Perhaps they roamed around the golden West long enough to smile at the mass-produced mobile homes that followed in their wake a generation later.

:: Posted in Curiosities on April 1, 2010

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