Despite Hardship Susanville People Find a Way
April 18th, 1946
Self-reliance and a refusal to wait for government bureaus to do something are lifting this northern California community of 8,000 out of the worst housing shortage in its 90 year-old history. The answer to the universal problem found by folk here is simple, they merely have got busy and built homes for themselves.
Few of the 91 new owner-built dwellings are pretentious, but all will provide desperately needed homes for families which now are living in substandard places, or are cooped up two families to a dwelling, or are just starting out as newlyweds.
A good proportion of the men who have built homes already are veterans, and more than half the new construction now being planned is by former service men.
Susanville had its war-caused influx of workers, men and women who came here to work in the three big lumber mills. Houses, apartments, cabins, even hotel rooms all were at a high premium.
Then just before the war ended a few community leaders headed by R. L. Kemp, manager of the Paul Bunyan Lumber company obtained the necessary priorities and arranged with a contractor to put up 65 new houses.
VJ Day came, and one week before construction had been scheduled to start the contractor withdrew from the deal. It was then that home building took a sudden spurt, spontaneously and in all parts of the city.
Folk took the attitude: Nothing fancy but, “We had to find a place to live. There’s nothing for rent and prices are too high for us to buy. The only thing left is to put up our own house. We aren’t going to have a big or a fancy place.”
“However, it’ll be our own and nobody’s going to be kicking us out or boosting the rent if OPA controls go off. The place will be new and clean and it won’t make us go broke or mortgage ourselves for the next 15 years.”
The work was not done by the men alone. Often the whole family pitched in. Smaller youngsters pick up scraps and hold boards. Mother and the older children helped nail siding, lay flooring, put up insulation.
In other cases neighbors have traded work back and forth. One man may do the wiring in his own and a couple of other houses. Their owners would do an equivalent amount of ditch digging or carpentry or foundation work.
While most are being put up for occupancy by the builder himself, a few are for sale or rent. Among the latter is the apartment above a new three-car garage built by Dr. J. R. Packwood, optometrist. When it was partly finished, the carpenter raised his labor price far above what Packwood considered reasonable. So Packwood himself and Jack Price, beverage wholesaler who had arranged to rent the apartment, pitched in and completed the place themselves.
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