The Dymaxion House

How would you like to live in a cool looking round house that’s energy efficient and easy to move?

If Buckminster Fuller had his way, that’s exactly how we all would live – in his Dymaxion House. Sadly, his ideas about affordable, environmentally efficient and portable housing were ahead of his time in the thirties and forties.

That’s right, all those soldiers coming home from World War II may have ended up in communities of these shiny houses that resemble an Airstream trailer or maybe a Jetson’s house.

Instead, squares and rectangles of wood and brick won out and houses continued to balloon in size with every passing year.

Fuller was an inventor and architect who reimagined human shelter and dreamed of how mass production could revolutionize the way people live.

With space saving moves like revolving closets, a gallery kitchen complete with built-in appliances, and an easily adaptable floor plan, it sounds pretty appealing to the modern mind. It could even withstand harsh weather.

Sadly, Fuller never found financial backing for his project. A prototype was created by Beech Aircraft Corp in 1946 and was the only one ever sold. It was purchased by a fellow named William Graham who combined this house with a traditional ranch. I’m guessing it simply wasn’t big enough for his family but he liked the idea.

Graham’s family donated the house to the Henry Ford Museum in the early nineties and it’s been on display there for going on twenty years. This is a fantastic exhibit. You do have to wait in line for a few minutes on busy days because they limit the number of people allowed inside at one time. I thank them for that.

It’s a cool thing to tour and would be an amazing place to live if you don’t have many possessions. As a hoarder of books, handbags and assorted oddities, I would need to build on a ranch home as well!

Not to mention, the kitchen is way too tiny for my brand of dish hoarding and recipe experimentation.

If you go, be sure to read the posters and displays on your way in to the house and watch the short film at the end. It tells the story beautifully.

This is just one of many unusual things you’ll find at the Henry Ford. If you go, allow a day for the museum and a day for Greenfield Village. Click here to visit their website!

I’ve also written about it a few times including my experience at the Rosa Parks bus and about the planes, trains and automobiles here.

Reflections On The Rosa Parks Bus

When planning a day at the Henry Ford Museum, there was one thing I really wanted to do. I wanted to have a few uninterrupted minutes on the Rosa Parks bus.

To make this wish a reality, I was there when they opened and then headed straight for this exhibit.

For the benefit of my international friends, Rosa Parks was a pioneer in the American Civil Rights movement. In 1955, when segregation ruled the American south, she refused to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. The police were called and this mild mannered African American seamstress was led off to jail.

She became the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted for over a year and forced the desegregation of the city’s buses.

The Henry Ford Museum confirmed the authenticity of the bus and outbid some major players (including the Smithsonian) to the tune of $492,000. However, after sitting outside for about thirty years, the bus required a massive restoration project that cost another $300,000. As you can tell, they really wanted to preserve this piece of history.

And honestly, they did a great job.

Sitting there, I kept thinking it could be 1955 just as easily as it was 2019. The bus is immaculate but it’s not just a museum piece. You are welcomed aboard and invited to sit a while. You can even sit in her seat.

The docent was good at his job, answering my questions and relating the story for me. He even took my picture.

However, he also gave me time to sit quietly and absorb the magnitude of this space and of the actions of one woman, who on that one day, said enough is enough. History was made with that split second decision, made under the glare of a white driver who was known for being unfriendly to his black passengers on a good day.

A hastily organized boycott crippled the city bus system and forced changes into law. She wasn’t seeking fame or money or publicity of any kind. She didn’t appreciate the attention she received but later said she was just tired of giving in.

With all that is happening in our country today and with leaders who seem to encourage the divide between races, there was something reassuring about sitting in her seat. It was a great reminder that a 42 year old seamstress could start a revolution because she was tired of giving in.

The moment felt both sacred and peaceful.

I had that bus all to myself for several minutes before anyone else arrived and I was grateful for every passing second. Still, it was gratifying to walk by later in the day to find the bus full of a diverse group of people who wanted to have the experience too.

The bus is part of a larger exhibit that covers segregation and the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. At the same time the museum bought the bus, they also acquired a scrapbook containing a number of news clippings you can read. There are some interactive features here and some truly disturbing things including a flier for a cross burning that sounds like an invitation to a Sunday school picnic rather than a hate rally.

I felt sorrow that our country hasn’t advanced more than it has and I felt gratitude for the progress we have made, even knowing there are plenty of people who would look at such hateful materials and think they’re ok.

If you find your way to the Henry Ford Museum, make time for this exhibit. Read the materials, watch the videos, listen to the songs and think about what it all means.

Sixty-five years ago sounds like a long time but it isn’t that long at all. We have plenty of people living in this country today who remember all too well not being allowed to eat in a restaurant, drink from a water fountain or use a waiting room because of the color of their skin.

After Rosa Parks stood up for her beliefs by sitting down, close to another decade passed before President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law changing all of that for good.

But while the law guarantees equality, racial divide is still far too great in this country. I’m as white as can be and I do not take responsibility for things that happened before me but I do think it’s my right and duty to contribute something positive to the world I live in now. I can’t change the past but I can help change the future by showing kindness and empathy and by celebrating our similarities rather than complain about the differences.

The last words today go to Rosa herself.

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.”

Road Trip to the Henry Ford Museum

My last road trip of the year took me to Detroit to visit the Henry Ford Museum. This museum of innovation features all sorts of things I love – artifacts from history, cars, planes, trains, machinery, furniture, dollhouses…. the list goes on and on.

This was not my favorite road trip but this museum is incredible, making it all worthwhile. I’m going to tell you about a few special exhibits in the coming days but for today I’ll leave you with a handful of pictures.

That last picture is of a train snow plow from Canada. That’s right friends – this museum is so big it has a set of railroad tracks to accommodate a collection of trains. Not to mention the airplanes hanging from the ceiling and the acres of other cool stuff at ground level.

Check back tomorrow. There are stories to tell.

I’d Love To Be An Oscar Mayer Weiner

Want to get a song stuck in your head? I’ll just leave this right here.

P1016977.JPG

Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I’d truly like to be.
‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,
Everyone would be in love with me.

Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I’d never want to be.
Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.
There would soon be nothing left of me!

And in case you ever wish to visit the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile, you can do so at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Last year I wrote about the Rosa Parks Bus which is on display there. I also wrote about their Mold-A-Rama machines and they happen to have a machine where you can get a Weiner Mobile made.