Monday, March 19, 2007

Story Jar - The Chair in Room 318

The Story Jar - a biweekly column in the Patriot and Free Press, Cuba, New York

Published October 18, 2006 - Copyright Elaine Hardman 2006

I saw Bob Goodrich lugging it out with the trash at school in 1992 - I think. It bothered me because I am a fixer and this chair deserved to be fixed. It wasn’t a great chair, as in perfect. There were three legs on a chair that needed four. The flange under the seat was broken and two spindles were cracked. A hole was worn where the chair had rubbed for years against an unknown wall. But, it was an old, oak, office chair and I rescued it.

Bob said that he hated to throw it out but it had been in a pile in the basement for years and he never found a piece of oak thick enough to make a new leg. Besides, a new leg wouldn’t match the other three so the chair wasn’t worth keeping.

Undaunted, I dragged it home to Rick, a champion fixer and descendant of one of West Virginia’s professional tinkers. Because of the propensities of his family, Rick has been surrounded by objects in need of repair and restoration, and he has valiantly tinkered his way through a mountain of projects. It was worth a try.

The chair went from spending years in the school basement to spending years in our basement where it accumulated dust, spider webs and a few new scratches while waiting for a thick piece of oak. Over those years, Andover School acquired a new wing, the site of room 318. At first, room 318 was a study hall and then health classroom but eventually it became my language arts room and I moved in with all of my computers.

It was on the top shelf of the upper cupboard at the far end. I felt it before I saw it and had to climb on a chair to get a good grip. Three inches thick, golden oak, with a wheel on the bottom. I held up the missing chair leg and gave a shout.

That wing of the school wasn’t even a drawing when the chair was broken. How did the leg ever find its way into what became my cupboard? That lonely and lowly, disembodied chair leg had been rescued, more than once I’ll bet, for about eight years. I asked around the school but didn’t find anyone who remembered ever seeing it before. “Nope. I have no idea.”

Inspired by the find, my husband attached the leg, machined a new flange, glued the spindles and installed an engraved plate over the wood filler repairing the hole in the back. Now it really is a very nice, old, oak chair and I think that Bob would have been pleased.

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