I am sure that you have heard and probably used the expression, “If only walls could talk.” It is fun to think about what has happened in a place or who owned an object ahead of you. Rarely are we treated to a glimpse into the past. However, I want to share with you two stories, both interesting and true. The first one took place last summer on the very day that I attended my first garage sale in Charlotte, North Carolina.
If you have read this blog before then you know that I like to go to garage sales. So, when I asked a man in a driveway on that summer day in Charlotte how much a small child’s mission oak rocking chair would cost me he replied, “That chair was refinished by my father who died last year. He gave it to us a long time ago. We just pulled it out of the attic. I will have to ask my wife how much she wants to charge for it. She is in charge of pricing.” I waited a short time and his wife came out of the house to say that she was asking $5.00. I bought it on the spot because our granddaughter was coming for a visit and I thought that she needed a chair her own size.
I proudly showed it to my sweet husband and left it on the screened porch over night. The next morning, I wiped it down with orange oil….the golden oak just gleamed and I was mighty proud of myself for finding such a treasure for only $5.00. I wondered if I had been so lucky as to find a chair made by Gustav Stickley who is a famous furniture maker from the early twentieth century. As I turned the chair over to look for identifying marks, I saw that an envelope had been taped onto the bottom. Inside was an eight by ten piece of paper and in very neat hand was printed:
“Hi! I am a mission oak child’s rocker. I will tell you what I can about myself even though I don’t remember my first years at all. I evidently was made about 1900 in a style of Gustav Stickley. Maybe by him…and my sticker removed?
I hope my first years were happy with plenty of children. My first recollection is of a Mr. Miller (John) picking me up at the West Boyleston, Md. town dump in 1950. How I got there I’ll never know. I must have been in an accident as I was in bad shape. The back of one of my rockers had been broken off and was missing approx. 2”. I had a broken arm, dents and bruises, etc. Also, my joints were all loose.
Mr. Miller carried me to a place in his garage saying, ‘When my brother Dan comes to get you he will take good care of you. Boy was he right. At Dan’s fist exam he found that I had been repaired and re-finished in past years and that my broken rocker was not the one I had been made with. Dan sawed off my long rocker to match the short one, fixed everything, even my loose joints. I got all new varnish, my fumed oak color remained. Dan’s wife Ann kept me polished. These were happy years with three children-Sam, Mary, and Tim, and then four grandchildren. I held them all. We had moved to Lexington Park, Maryland in 1961. In Nov. 1991 Dan again took off all my coating, this time he gave me a bath in bleach. Boy was I ever white. He then rubbed a little light oak stain over me (to make my grain stand out), and then a new coat of satin polyurethane. I am now called, “Golden Oak.”
I heard Dan say he was going to take me to Tim’s house in North Carolina to live. Sounds great. If there will be a baby maybe I’ll have more to tell some day.”
At first I was delighted by this charming story. Then, I remembered the man in the drive-way. He said that the rocker had been refinished by his father who died last year. I have always thought that hand writing is a very personal and direct connection to loved ones who have passed away. The family surely did not know about the note on the bottom of the chair. I thought that it was my job to get the note back to them. What did I know? From the note, I knew that the man who did the refinishing was named, “Dan Miller.” I knew that he had taken the chair to his son Tim Miller’s house in North Carolina. It was a matter of minutes before I had the address and telephone number of Tim Miller who lived less than a mile from me. I telephoned. Mrs. Miller answered. She wanted the note and I told her I would drop it into the mail the next day. What a story! (please note that I have changed the names of people in the story.)
But, of course there is more. Not long afterward Tim telephoned me. Caller ID was working perfectly on his end. He told me a story about how his wife was terribly upset for selling his father’s chair….could I be persuaded to sell it back to them? What would you have done? I did the right thing and the rocker is now back with the family. Shortly after that I went to another garage sale and found Tabitha another chair that it just her size. This one is oak but it had been painted green and then turquoise. I sanded it and waxed it, and she loves to sit in her chair.
But, I digress! The point of this story is what is engraved upon the loving cup. It says:
March 26, 1928
Miss Mary Wood’s
The first thing you need to know is that my dear aunt was named, “Maryetta Wood.” She went by “Mary” to people who were really close to her. I called her, “Aunt Mary.” Could it be that this gift in 2012 was hers back in 1928? The answer is……………..”No.” Thought I would try to trick you! But, what is “Bristol Eisteddfod?”
According to Wikipedia,an eisteddfod is a Welsh festival of literature, music and performance. The tradition of such a meeting of Welsh artists dates back to at least the 12th century. The most important eisteddfod is the National Eisteddfod of Wales, the largest festival of competitive music and poetry in Europe. The dates of these festivals are reported to be in the summer….my loving cup was awarded in March. I cannot pin point exactly where it was awarded, but I am sure that Miss Mary Wood’s Ladies’ Choir must have been excellent. In 1926, the Pasadena Playhouse in California undertook an Eisteddfod of one-act plays by local authors presented to the public, offering a prize for the best. This evolved into an annual festival. Since the loving cup was shipped by a company in California, maybe it is from this Pasadena festival.
I am delighted that the beautiful trophy found its way to me. It took 84 years to get here and it is three times as special because it came from my dear friend and it has “Mary Wood” engraved upon it. I will pass this story along to our daughters.
If you have an object that has been in your family for years or if you have something that is so special to you that you want it to be passed down in your family, then take a little time to attach a story to the item. Tell where you got it and why it is important either monetarily or sentimentally. Create and be happy!