Monday, April 25, 2016

Rocking Chair Memories (w/pic)

Click to enlarge image.

The two rocking chairs you see here are currently sitting on my front porch, but that’s not where their service began. The one on the left was a wedding present to my parents in 1948. My maternal grandfather’s dad had refinished it for the occasion, including having a new split seat woven, I think. I believe he also put new rockers on it, as they are fastened to the legs with bolts, rather than mortise and tenon joints. According to Great Granddad, the chair was over 100 years old when he gave it to my folks. That would make it over 168 years old today. I suspect it had just been a dinner table chair at one time that someone put rockers on, but I can’t be sure.

I always remember it sitting near the side door of our old farmhouse, where company always entered. That placed it near the woodstove, too, so it was an especially popular seat in winter. Mom rocked both of us kids in the chair as she nursed us, she said. I sat there a lot when I lived at home, as I could keep up with the conversation and still keep an eye on the outside through the storm door. It was popular with company, too, I suspect due to its relative novelty in the 20th century. In later years, the old farmhouse developed a low spot in the corner behind it, with almost a break-over line, where the sills were slowly rotting into the ground. At certain times, too large of a rock would leave you feeling like you were going over backwards, but no-one ever did. It was good for laughs, though, to see the look on people’s faces. The chair was often used during large holiday meals when there wasn’t enough room at the table, and it became my great aunt’s favored spot to sit and talk, when she moved in with my folks during her last few years. The finish got a bit warty and bubbly during those years, as my great aunt would sometimes park herself a little too close the woodstove to warm her aching bones.

A few years after Dad passed away, and then my great aunt, my mom moved to a senior high-rise in town. When offered me the old chair, I eagerly accepted it. For several years, it graced our living room. I was too large to safely use it anymore, I thought, but my wife would use it so company could have “the good furniture” when they came. Once again, it also was used during family get-togethers when there were more people than table space. Eventually, though, we quit having family get-togethers, or company, and my wife condemned it to the attic. There it sat the last few years, collecting dust, until my wife pulled it out recently to sell. I hope Mom doesn’t catch wind of it, it might upset her.

For those who don’t recognize the lines, the chair on the right is a shaker rocker. It spent quit a few years in the barn, down at the farm, before I cleaned it up and brought it here. Before that, it sat for many years on the front porch of a Jenny-Lind house at Volcano, West Virginia. Some elderly half-first cousins of my dad’s lived there, before my aunt moved them to town and into nursing homes in the 1970’s. They were an old oilfield family and had lived there for many years. There were six kids, three boys and three girls. I think only one of the boys married, had a child, and soon divorced. The rest remained single and lived in the family home, except when the boys worked out of town. The youngest girl died of TB at age 20. The brother who’d married was killed in an auto accident a few years later. The middle brother lived there until he retired, I believe, and died a few years afterward. The oldest brother and two remaining sisters lived there until they were no longer able to care for themselves. I don’t know if the house predated the big fire in Volcano (1870, I think), or if was built afterward, but the oldest brother was born in 1874, and I think he always lived there. I’m thinking the chair had probably been there the whole time, too, so it could easily be over 146 years old. I can remember sitting in it when I was a kid and we visited a few times.

Sometime after my dad passed away, I got the old chair out of the barn, cleaned it up and stripped off what tiny bit of purple paint remained on the frame. I suspect it was originally blue, but had faded to purple from all those years of weather on the porch. For several years, my wife used it for decoration in the living room, with a big doll or stuffed animal sitting in it. It too was condemned to the attic when her son bought her a nice rocker from Cracker Barrel that was actually usable. Since we’re currently selling things to thin down our “stuff” and to raise a few bucks, she decided it was a good time to get rid of both of the rocking chairs. Of course, were it up to me, I’d keep all my old stuff and sell her “good stuff,” but I try to keep the peace.

The bad thing is, 20 years ago, I could probably have gotten $100 each for the chairs, these days, I’ll be lucky to get $25. Forty years of declining standard of living in this area, including seven years of Obama has pretty well shot our economy. Oh well, such is life! © 2016


Marian Love Phillips said...

Thanks for sharing the stories behind the old rocking chairs on your porch. So sad to know they have to go but at least you wrote the history behind each one and you have the memories. I enjoyed reading about it. I too have an antique black straight-back chair that was in our living room when my sister, brother and I were growing up. My youngest daughter (who has asked for it) will take care it after I'm gone. She already has my Dad's antique small cane chair that was his when he was little (DOB 1916) and she has the means for repairs. I know both chairs will be in good hands. :)

Vicki said...

What beautiful old chairs. Their monetary value may not be much, but the memories associated with them are priceless.

Ralph Goff said...

Those are good memories of the old chairs and their history. Too bad somebody in the family does not want to keep them. Those hard wooden chairs are not my choice for comfort with my bony frame. I have a couple of old wooden rockers here that are from my grandparent's generation. Well used with flat rockers on one.

Lady Locust said...

Good Morning Gorges, Just a thought, might give the local historical society a jingle and let them know you have them for sale. They often know the collectors. Might help get a few 'extra' dollars out of them:) They are beauts.

Gorges Smythe said...

It's nice that you have someone to pass things on to, Marian.

So true, Vicki.

Some things are worth keeping just for the memories, Ralph.

I never thought of that, LL.