Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Oak Wardrobe - Part 2

In my last post, I told you how a beautiful old oak wardrobe came into our family. After my grandma moved to a seniors home in 1981, my mom was next in line to have the new family heirloom.

The wardrobe was once again moved. This time it went out to my parents farm and sat in their sunroom. It has been admired there for almost thirty years. My parents also received a few offers to sell the piece but always said no.

Since my mom recently moved to an assisted living facility, it is now my turn to have this beautiful old piece of furniture to love, admire, care for and store my treasures in.

I wasn’t around during the last time it was moved, but mom said it could be taken apart to move. She said that it came apart in at least three pieces so that would make it a bit easier to move – bulky and awkward but not heavy. Even so, I still had no idea how I was going to get it back to my suite here in the city. I’d been trying to find someone I could barter with (baking and gas money for the move and reassembly) to help move it for a couple of months already but no luck. I didn’t know anyone with a half ton that could also do lifting. Hiring a mover would cost at least a couple of hundred dollars by the time you added in time and mileage – which I couldn’t afford - but I knew the piece was worth way more than that. I’d loved and admired this piece since I was a kid and I wasn’t about to let someone else have it!

What was I to do? As I mentioned in a recent post, I went out to the farm to sort through things a few weeks ago. While we were out there, my brother came in and said that he thought he might be able to get it in his SUV depending on the measurements. He measured it and decided that it would just fit. He started to take it apart and realized that it was almost all tongue and groove construction with just a handful of screws and hardware. He got it into four manageable pieces and my friend and he carried it out to his vehicle!

Two days later, he brought it into the city. With the help of another of my gal pals, they brought it into my building and assembled it in my bedroom.

Yes, it may be a bit big for my small bedroom, but I got rid of both of my dressers to make room for it! What can I say? I LOVE it!!

My gal pal that went with me to the farm, knows a bit about antiques and thinks that this may be over 100 years old. Many furniture pieces of that time were done in tongue and groove construction to make it easier for moving. Also many homes of the era had little storage space so this type of wardrobe was very popular. It may or may not have been painted when it was first made.

Personally, I’ve always loved the look of a natural wood finish and never really understood why there was such a fascination and trend with painting perfectly good wood. I remember asking my grandma why they painted furniture. I seem to recall her saying something along the lines of this: During the great depression, there wasn't the money to fix things up and then during WW2, there was such a scarcity of everything including paint as almost everything went to the war effort so things just got rather dull looking. After the war there was such a focus on renewal and freshening up things that everything that could be painted was painted - including perfectly good woodwork and wooden furniture. She also said that the brighter colours were a welcome edition in areas where there were nightly blackouts during the bombings.

Painted wood furniture has always been popular ... even before the war years. In some cases, it was done for the artwork and for others it was seen as a way to hide the flaws of lesser quality wood. When people were poor and couldn't afford high end wood they would resort to painting their wood to make a room brighter and cheerier.

When we were reassembling the wardrobe here, we looked for any markings that would tell us who made it and when, but we never found one. Somewhere along the line, this info was removed either by flood waters or through painting/refinishing. That really is too bad, as it would be interesting to know more of the history of the piece. It would be kind of neat to know where all it has been and the treasured possessions it has held over the years.

I’ve only had the wardrobe for a few weeks now, but it is truly treasured!
I find myself admiring its beauty and touching the oak, wondering what stories it could tell. Growing up, I didn’t get to see the wardrobe often. In fact I only saw it a few times when the upstairs suite in my grandparents house was between renters. Still, I used to wonder if other kids had played near it and dreamed of finding a secret door at the back that led to a land such as Narnia.

Actually, I still wonder about that! I also wonder what kind of clothes and other possessions had been stored in it? Did they store everyday clothes, fancier wear for going out or did they use it the way my parents did – for coats, hats and gloves? Where was it during WWI and WWII? How about during the roaring twenties and the dirty thirties?

Truth is, we will never know any of the history of where the wardrobe originally came from or how the church got it, but I for one am thrilled that they were willing to part with it for such a small amount all those years ago!

And just in case you were wondering, NO it is not for sale!!


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