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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Attic Find and Other Vintage Goodies..........

A month or so ago, my mother made the decision to sell her house, the house she has lived in for the last 37 years.
It really shouldn't have come as a suprise to any of us; the house has been way too big for one person for way too long. My stepfather passed away in 2003 and my mother has been living there alone, like the last pea rattling around in a big empty can, ever since then. Her house is a tri-level situated on 13 acres, 5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and an in-ground swimming pool in the backyard. The size of the yard, and the pool, the orchard, and everything else has been way too much work for her to handle alone and things have been neglected. It's time for her to downsize.
Although I will be really sad to see my childhood home sold and never to be visited again, (and I will definitely miss that swimming pool in the summer), I know this is the right decision for her.

As a result of this decision, we have been helping her get rid of stuff.  Most of it will be going on Craigslist or freecycle; quite a bit of it will be going into the burn pile for a bonfire. My mother and father were from that generation and background that thought you should only have to buy one set of furniture in your lifetime and so they had the same old stuff for most of my life. When my parents divorced in 1987, my dad built his own new house full of new things and he now has a wife who makes all the decorating decisions.

 My mother, who kept the house, hung on to a lot of old stuff, moving it down into the lower level or somewhere else, saving stuff long after it was necessary. Some things changed, of course, but many things didn't. The couches in the recreation room in the lower level (didn't all houses built in the 1970s have a recreation room? haha) has had the same furniture and the same decor as it did since 1974, including blood-red wall to wall carpeting and walls that were covered in some kind of fake stone and a bar with red leather padding. Eek.

One of our tasks this weekend was to climb up into the attic and remove some furniture she had stored up there. She said there wasn't a lot up there and she was right. The attic was never really used and I had never actually been up there before, actually. It has no floor; you have to step across the beams and hope you don't plunge through the living room ceiling below. The only way to access the attic is through a very small square door in the garage, which is high up near the garage roof and you can only get up there with a ladder. The attic space was actually much smaller than I had thought and the ceiling was very low; you can't even really stand up all the way.

One of the things she had up there was an old crib and a wooden cradle that she had used for all of us children when we were babies.

Here's the cradle (the legs are behind it) and the crib is also behind it, dissassembled. To the left you can see an end table. My dad made this table (actually there were two of them), with a matching coffee table. As a young man he loved woodworking and because my parents didn't have much money when they were first married, he made some furniture for them to use. I don't know what happened to the second end table, but this one has a broken leg. The coffee table that goes with it has been in the basement for years.
I admit I was not expecting this to be in the attic!  There used to be a pair of these lamps and they were in our first house where we lived until I was about 3 yrs old; then they were in our living room of the new house for a long time. I don't know what became of the other lamp or why anybody would feel it necessary to save this one!

I had a laugh when this old high chair came down. I hadn't realized that my mother still had it, although I should have guessed, considering she still had the crib and cradle from when we were babies.  This high chair was used for all four of us children. Considering that the youngest of my siblings is now 35, you can imagine how long it's been up there in the attic. I can't imagine a modern parent considering using this for their child. They would have a heart attack and die; no safety straps? It's wood! Full of germs! And paint! It has paint on it!

It's true. The tray was painted. And as you can see, most of it is now gone. My Grandma Helen loved to paint...she did rosemaling, but she also liked to paint animals, birds, nests, flowers etc. There were two capering bunnies on this tray. One was a girl bunny wearing a pink bonnett pushing a little red wheelbarrow full of flowers, the other was a boy bunny wearing a red ribbon around his neck. Sadly, she must not have put some kind of protective coating over the painted bunnies and it all got rubbed off.  Again, I can imagine the horror of modern parents when they think of children eating in this high chair, but we did. And nobody ever fell out of the chair either.

Since it had been quite some years since I had actually seen this chair (probably 30+ years) I was surprised  when I looked it over and realized that this chair was probably already quite old when my parents acquired it. I had never known that the high chair we used was actually an antique. I flipped over the tray and found the stamped label on the back. The  Lehman Baby Guard Hi-Chairs were made by Lehman Furniture in the late 1930s. Later they made children's furniture, like desks, and also doll furniture. Sometime shortly after World War II the factory suffered a devastating fire and it was never re-built.

My parents were married in March 1968. My mom had recently graduated from college with her nursing degree and as was typical of the times, still lived at home with her parents. My father was in the Marines and had been stationed in Okinawa, Japan for over a year. He was due to return stateside in March 1968 and had a two week leave before he had to report for duty in North Carolina to finish out his enlistment. Their wedding was scheduled to take place during that two week period. My mom told me later that when they got married, pretty much everything they owned fit inside the car that they drove down to North Carolina.

When they returned to Wisconsin a year later, they rented a tiny house with 2 bedrooms and one bathroom and a miniscule kitchen and living room. This was where they lived until 1973 when they built the house my mom still lives in now. My older brother was born in 1969 (and me a year later in 1970) and I'm sure the purchase of this high chair was at a rummage sale, like most of the other furniture and clothes that we had at that time, since my parents had very little money then. I'm sure they never even knew the chair was an "antique" and were probably attracted to it because it was wood. My dad, being a woodworking hobbyist, loved anything that was made of wood.

Since my family has very few 'family heirlooms', it seemed a shame to sell the antique chair, so I decided it should come home with me. I've cleaned it up a little and right now it's in my dining room!

One of the other things that I appropriated was this big Ball jar. My mom used to make lots of preserves and has a root cellar that is full of canning jars. She is going to sell most of them, but I saw this one and wanted it.

Another item that I had always admired and which she said she was going to get rid of is this ironstone chamber pot.  It had belonged to my stepfather's mother. It is marked Johnson Brothers. I gladly took it home with me also. I'd like to put it in our guest bedroom.

It has some pretty details on it and it's in good condition except for a small chip on the edge of the lid.
I'll be joining Courtney at French Country Cottage for Feathered Nest Friday!

Thanks for stopping by!



Bella said...

Hi Katie,
what a bitter sweet day! It would be so fun to still visit your childhood home, I haven't seen mine in over 30 years and I guess never will again. But you have tons of memories:-))) Love your mom saved your baby furniture, and the chamberpot is a serious beauty!!

mississippi artist said...

A happy and sad day all at once. Love the treasures you brought home.It makes me want to clean out all of the junk in my house though!

Ann@A Sentimental Life said...

It is always hard to realize you have to leave the house you grew up in behind. But, what a nice day for you and your mom to spend together and come home with some treasures!

Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

What an interesting chore to help your mom clean out and downsize. It reminds me of my parents' house, which they still live in. They've never bought anything new, and save it all, too! I wish they would move out, if just to get away from all the junk! And there are no family heirlooms, not even any antiques. Maybe that's why I like the finer things, because we didn't have anything nice growing up!

Pam said...

Your mom sounds like mine. she never threw anything away, just stick it in the attic. That highchair is adorable. You probably ate a bit of that paint when you were sitting in the chair. And it didn't hurt you a bit.