Our original house on the Ridge Road in Houlton, burned down in 1944 just 2 months after we moved in. The shack was given to us by our neighbor, just across the line in Littleton. He hauled it down on a flat trailer behind a tractor. We(Everett Sr., Veronica, Everett II, Mary, Carol and John Mitchell) lived in the shack for nearly nine years; from 1944 to 1953 when we moved back to Massachusetts.
The house -- a loose term, shack really, was black. The roof and outside walls were covered with tar paper. The tar paper was held on by short zinc coated nails with large heads. The nails were designed specifically for tar paper. The short spiked part of the nail was to keep the nail from going all the way through the board. The large head was to keep the nail from ripping the tar paper. Any crack made in the paper while the nail was going through would not spread past the outside of the head. The zinc was to keep the nail from rusting. The entire shack was covered with layers of this black, zinc pocked paper.
Inside, the walls were exposed. There was no double construction. The inside wall was the back of the outside wall. The two-by-fours were exposed, and the black tar paper of the outside could be seen through the cracks between the boards. There were parts of the interior wall that were covered with newspaper. I think those papers were exposed to the wind, and the newspaper was there to reinforce the tar paper in keeping the cold winter wind out.
Every fall around the outside of the house, my father would build a fence of scrap wood that would be about a foot from the building and would circle the building except for the front door. After it was built he'd bring loads of manure from the barn and pack it in between the fence and the house. This served as an insulation from the cold when it froze, and kept the cold air from coming up through the many cracks in the floor. In the spring, when the manure thawed, the manure around the house was the first load to be taken away. Because as soon as it began to thaw, it began to smell.
Leaks in the roof were a constant problem. When it rained hard, one or two places in the roof would leak no matter how much or how new the tar paper on the roof was. Pots, usually for cooking, would be put under the leaks to catch the water. The water would be thrown out the front door as they filled. We had no plumbing so all water was thrown out the front door into the gutted basement of the burned out house just outside the front and a bit to the left.