Friday, June 23, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Ode to the Folding Chair

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.


This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of a well-dressed couple camping prompted me to take a second look at the lowly folding chair. In particular, I remembered this one:

Unknown woman with folding chair probably an Eppard cousin https://jollettetc.blogspot.com


The woman is unknown, possibly one of my maternal grandmother’s cousins. It doesn’t matter. The point is the CHAIR. Much like the one in the prompt photo, it was wood with a canvas seat and back. Today such chairs are known as “Director’s Chairs.” Of course! In every movie about the making of a movie, the director is sitting in a chair with canvas seat and back.

I suppose lots of people fussed and complained about those wooden chairs getting loose and wobbly over time. Then the canvas wore out or ripped from dry rot. Enter Fredric Arnold. In 1947 he saved the day with his invention of an aluminum folding chair with fabric strapping for the seat and back. For years that chair has been the mainstay in most households across America.

Sunday picnics, family reunions, graduation parties, birthdays – if it is outside, there is a folding chair involved.
Lucille Davis and Sullivan sisters  https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Leota Sullivan Racy, Grandma Lucille Rucker Davis,
Pearl Sullivan Strole, Floral Sullivan Merica, and Elta Sullivan Farrar


In the mid-1960s, the Sullivan cousins came to town and gathered for a cook-out at the home of their sister Elta Farrar. Such an occasion called for LOTS of folding chairs.

About that same time, our family hosted SOMETHING in the backyard but I do not know what. We must have expected a crowd because my dad brought over the more substantial porch furniture from my grandmother’s house next door.

What a nice collection of classic aluminum chairs
with green and white webbing!
Our backyard on Gillis Rd, Portsmouth, VA
There's my grandmother and my sister.
Momma has her back to us. 

Wendy and Jordan Sep 1981 Lamaze reunion https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Me in my Dorothy Hamill haircut
and Jordan just growing hers


September 1981 found members of my Lamaze class enjoying each other’s babies at a little reunion. We put those folding chairs through their paces reuniting for several years: our babies’ first birthday, second birthday, until well, those chairs were folded up for good as Lamaze reunions began to feel rather silly and everyone went their separate ways.


Sep 1981 Lamaze reunion https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Folding chairs with traditional webbing and with the longer-lasting
wood slats. Low chairs were perfect for the beach.
Bottom right is a peek at the then-NEW lounge chair with vinyl straps.
We thought they were great but boy were they heavy and did they rust!


The folding chair may not be as charming as the wicker chair

Julia Walsh, Helen Killeen, Mae Holland and John Holland  https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Grandaunt Helen Killeen holding her nephew John Holland
Left and right: my grandmother Julia Walsh and
Mae Killeen Holland


or as comfortable as the Adirondack,

Steve and Catherine Walsh Barany https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Steve and Cat Barany
at their home in Washington DC


but folding chairs have demonstrated their staying power when it comes to outdoor living.
 
Wendy and Barry at Smith Mountain Lake https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Wendy and Barry on the dock
Smith Mountain Lake

Thank-you, Fredric Arnold!

Grab a chair and enjoy more fun reads at Sepia Saturday.

Wendy
© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

27 comments:

  1. The folding chair in the second photo -- we used those when I was a child and I still have them! I love the wood and canvas and the fact that they fold front to back (unlike true director's chair which fold side to side). We also had some aluminum ones but we all fought to get the wood and canvas ones. They were much more comfortable.

    I love your ingenuity in matching family history photos to Sepia Saturday themes, Wendy. Well done!

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    1. Yes, the wood and canvas chair is comfortable. We had 2 that I rescued from a yard sale. We tightened the screws and had new canvas seats and backs made. Eventually the frame got loose and wobbly and we put them on the street for someone else to love.

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  2. We don't have outside folding chairs, just the regular lawn type furniture and additional plastic chairs for more company if they are over, but we do have folding chairs for inside. Used them with a folding table for close to 2 years before we finally bought a dining room table with "real chairs". I do remember those aluminum chairs with fabric, a blast from the past! Friends of ours have Adirondack rocking chairs. I'm afraid to get any for the backyard. I may never get out of them, excessive heat and all!

    betty

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    1. I have my grandaunt Helen's old card table and matching folding chairs that I use when we have a crowd. I hear ya on the Adirondacks - they are the best for comfort.

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  3. I grew up sitting on big low wooden chairs that my grandfather built and didn't know until I was an adult they were officially known as Adirondacks. They were just 'PopPop's backyard chairs'.

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  4. Folding chairs of all sorts and descriptions and sizes, I've sat in comfortable and uncomfortable ones. Deckchairs are a nightmare!

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    1. My brother-in-law did some work for a hotel that was getting new pool furniture so he was allowed to take what he wanted of the old. He gave me one chair. Steel frame and vinyl webbing. It had a nice bounce, so I really liked it. But HEAVY. Oh my. HEAVY to the nth power.

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  5. I never thought of the chairs when I chose the picture, but such is the inventiveness of Sepians. You have stirred quite few memories for me of picnics and garden gatherings with folding chairs. Of course the best picture is the last one - Cheers!

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  6. I now have the "stadium chairs" I think these canvas ones may be called, which fold entirely into a tube carrying device if you want. They are great for taking to outdoor events and store easier in the trunk of my car. Yes, having back support when sitting outdoors is something I look forward to these days. Excellent take on the promt!

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    1. Yes, we have a fair number of stadium chairs too.

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  7. Folding chairs never occurred to me as a prompt, so congratulations on your inventiveness. I could have come up with several images if I had thought!

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    1. I'm sure the opportunity will swing back by again and you can use those old pix.

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  8. Very clever! Though heavy and bulky, those old chairs were durable and easily repaired if the canvas or wood broke. Cheap aluminum chairs can fail with dramatic effect, as can plastic. The newer origami type fold up camping chairs are the best seating innovation.

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    1. We have an old aluminum chair that has macrame seating and it's very comfortable. I bought it in the 1980s. The curve of the frame JUST failed this summer but we found a guy that actually welds aluminum. Fixed.

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  9. Great idea. I slammed my fingers in similar chairs often, trying to get them put away in a hurry.
    I love your Dorothy Hamil haircut and always get a thrill out of seeing my name on your grandaunt. Coincidentally, I'm off today to see my own grand and great grand nephews and nieces.

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    1. Oh slammed fingers - forgot about that little feature!

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  10. What a great take on the prompt! I never would have thought of folding chairs and yet over the years we've had a slew of all different styles. Presently we like the aluminum framed akin to director's chairs with a little snack 'table' that lifts up on one side. Good show with the folding chairs featuring some nice shots of family sitting in them! :)

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    1. I've seen those chair-table combos. Great invention. A glass of wine does not stand up well in the cup-holder pockets of today's folding chairs.

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  11. The aluminum chairs with webbing are a real classic, but they don't seem to be sold much nowadays.

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    1. No, not as much as the "origami" chair, as Mister Mike put it.

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  12. What a great collection of folding chair photographs! One photo in my post includes one too.

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  13. Great timing. We had a family get together last night with some extra friends which necessitated the need for MORE CHAIRS! Of course since we have grandkids involved in sports, everyone has a chairs like the red one you are sitting in for sporting events. They sure came in handy last night.

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    1. I know! The strap on the sleeve makes it easy to sling that chair over your shoulder and keep moving.

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  14. We just bought some "camp chairs" much like the one you and hubby are sitting on at the end of your post. I felt a little like Goldilocks as I tried out first one chair and then the other to determine which one was the most comfortable. ha ha. When did we get so picky?

    I will say that my parents kept those chairs with webbing around for a long long time and when they wore out, they bought new webbing and re-webbed them. Today's chairs don't offer any such option.

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