Those of you who lived in the 1930’s and 1940’s, as I did, may remember your parents’ furniture. I don’t know about the chairs your family sat on, but ours were so uncomfortable we didn’t sit on them very much. Perhaps in those days, more affluent families had more comfortable furniture, but, in the style of the era, we did not.
My parents had a matching set of living room chairs, consisting of one large rocking chair, one large straight chair with arm rests, one smaller straight chair with no arm rests, and two small end tables. The chairs each had a thin, built-in seat cushion, thinner than a pot holder. The two straight chairs were so straight that nobody’s back could possibly remain that straight for longer than 15 seconds!
The only piece of sitting furniture straighter than these chairs was my grandmother’s all-wood love seat. Each of two people using this piece of furniture would have to sit at perfect right degree angles with the plank seat having nothing carved out to fit the shape of their bodies. It’s no wonder my grandmother kept it hidden in the guest bedroom.
My mother did not like rocking chairs, or straight chairs, so the only time she sat in the living room was to listen to the radio which was a console. Most families had one radio, and it was in the living room. Portable radios were not practical, because the static was bad even when you were connected to an antenna.
My mother’s favorite place to sit was on the porch swing on the front porch, where a nice breeze always seemed to be blowing, and the swing was designed with more curves than our chairs. The swing was hung by a chain from the ceiling, and was large enough and sturdy enough to hold two medium-size people, and in great demand. The only one it was off limits to was my Uncle Alton whom we called “Uncle Pooch.” He would have brought it crashing down. The assorted homemade boxes also used for seating on the porch would have been crushed by his derrière, so he had to avoid those, too. If I remember correctly, he had to sit on the steps of the porch.
When I left home to be on my own, seating opportunities improved a little, but not much. The living room furniture of my first bachelor apartment consisted of one folding lawn chair and one folding beach chaise lounge. At least your back was not required to be straight.
From then on until I got married, I rented furnished apartments with no say about the furniture, some really bad, some not so bad.
When I married, furniture choices involved choices that would suit both him and her. Being taller than she was the main problem in acquiring comfortable chairs, and, later, inheriting our parents’ old furniture. Our breakfast room table and chairs were bought by my parents when they married, and yes, they are as hard and straight as my parents’ living room chairs; unfortunately my wife won’t let me throw them out! The elegant Victorian living room chairs we inherited from my wife’s parents/grandparents were so incredibly straight-backed we had to put them in storage! Old chairs are not comfortable chairs no matter how much nostalgia is associated with them.
So far in my lifetime, I have not yet found a living room chair that feels right to me. Yesterday, Amazon delivered one more possibly perfect chair for me, a recliner (I won’t mention the previous chair acquired last year). Now if we can put this chair together, we will see if my search for a good chair is finally over.
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher, a retired LCMS pastor and author of three books, It Must Be the Noodles, Open Prairies, and Tanka Schoen.