Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 300/365 Knoxville Table and Chair Company

This last weekend's estate sales yielded this mystery desk. My daughter and I saw it at the same time, and she fell in love with it, so it joined the household.

The company label inside the drawer is clear and intact: Knoxville Table and Chair Company, Knoxville, Tenn.

It's proving to be somewhat of a mystery though so I thought I'd ask my gentle readers if they are familiar with this company. The desk itself is heavy and solid, comes with a bookshelf on each end and a center foot rest . There's a single drawer, with heavy Mission style drop pulls.

The base finish is the usual heavy black shellac over mahogany.

The top surface is uncharacteristically left natural.

The only information I've been able to find about the Knoxville Table Company is that it operated in downtown Knoxville Tennessee from 1900-1935. One vintage Michigan Artisan catalog from September 1905 mentions that Mr. F.L. Hood, traveling sales representative of the Knoxville Table Company, spent the month of September in Chicago due to the yellow fever quarantine prevailing in a large part of his territory. Two other furniture companies are quoted as saying business was down in both Mississippi and Louisiana because of the yellow fever quarantines.

That's it. That all the power of the internet can find on this company. Usually there are the elusive vintage ads, or if I'm lucky, the vintage furniture catalog. This time, nada.

Once I solve this mystery, I'll start on what those two keys unlock.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 299/365 Miss Joyce

Although both sides of my family are Southern, and Virginian, they are not specifically from this particular Virginia county. When we moved here, just shy of 15 years ago, it became quickly apparent that we were forever doomed to be outsiders as far as the local populace was concerned.

It didn't help that we were not interested in accepting any one of a dozen invitations to join a church, that we were yellow-dog Democrats, and, most importantly to my daughter, that she wore overalls and Buzz Light Year shoes (because as the local kids told her Buzz shoes were boys shoes. Only boys could go "to infinity and beyond").

So in an effort to fit in, and find some sort of niche for our family, I went to the one place I understood: the local library. Specifically, the children's story hour where I was hoping my daughter would feel comfortable.

It worked.

This wonderful, wonderful woman named Miss Joyce was the children's librarian. She was all the things a librarian should be, namely, absolutely devoted to the incredible experience of reading, and determined to share a love of books with every single child she met. She loved books more than anyone else I've ever met, including myself. And I am a fanatical lover of literature.

During the first story hour we attended, my 6 year old daughter was recognized as being "new" and Miss Joyce made a point of being particularily warm and welcoming to her. It made all the difference in the world to a little girl in a strange place that appeared to be beyond infinity.

Miss Joyce never had children of her own, but instead regarded every one of the thousands of children that came to story hour as her own. Amazingly, she remembered every one of them by name (I have seen this tested by various children), including my daughter. In the years since, we have collected odd household items for Miss Joyce to use for the summer children's crafts program (moms you know the list: popsicle sticks, toilet paper rolls, sequins, pom poms, glitter ....there's no such thing as too much glitter).

Our paths crossed again when a huge grey cat started spending the day at our house. We later found out that Miss Joyce had moved in three doors down, and the big gray cat belonged to her. Boswell (Boss for short) commandeered the neighborhood in short order, and several weeks ago actually ran off a groundhog that had taken up residence in my neighbor's crawl space.

Boss did not tell us at that time that he was dealing with his own loss: Miss Joyce had passed away suddenly. We had wondered why we hadn't seen her at the library for a couple weeks, but hadn't thought to ask. It never occurred to us that we may have lost her.

From one lover of reading to another, Miss Joyce you will be sorely missed in this community. You touched thousands of children over the last 31 years, not the least of which was my little girl in her Buzz shoes and overalls.

Every one of those children will keep your memory alive for years.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 298/365 A Place For Everything....

I've been going to estate sales since I was 14 years old. Over the years, the sales themselves tend to exhibit generational tendencies. When I was 14, the sales were from people who came of age in the 1920s and 1930s -my grandparents generation. The lifelong accumulation of "stuff" tended to fit into economic groups - you could tell who had been hit hard by the Depression, and who had managed to survive or, occasionally, done really well.

Present day sales are at the end of the World War II generation. I can tell their homes a mile away - the little houses, bought by returning GI's who served at Normandy, or in the South Pacific. They survived the war, came home, married the girl they left behind, and all they wanted was a safe haven - a little home to call their own, where they could have 2.5 kids and a good home cooked meal at night. These homes invariably have some sort of workshop in the basement (because this is the generation that grew up in the Depression and fixes before they throw away).

This week's sale fit this description perfectly. The workshop filled approximately a 10 x 15' corner of the basement, with the usual wall of neatly hung saws and extension cords.

After that, this basement workshop entered the realm of fantasy and legend. Hundreds of bungee cords, arranged by length.

Several wooden bins built and carefully labeled, in excruciating detail (not just tool handles, but "small" asst sizes, in wood,plastic and steel)

Excruciating detail (curved pieces of metal and steel)

A bin for every kind and size of nail you can imagine, and some I've never heard of.

Walls of neatly labeled tins (I'm thinking these were lard tins originally-the wife must have cooked a lot of fried chicken). All of these bins were full.

And stacks of bins with little plastic drawers - all labeled and clearly separated.

More bins stuck up next to the ceiling (right next to the wood scraps, stacked and labeled on the ends with their length)

Another wall of bins...

And more bins (not just labeled, but the categorization even extends to the color coding).

And the piece de resistance....first each metal bin is labeled, within their individual metal drawer...

Then the exterior of each metal drawer is labeled....

And then each row of metal drawers (approximately 200 total in this unit) was labeled. This complete unit was priced at $200, included all contents, but the buyer had to disassemble
it from the brick chimney and ceiling joist, then remove it themselves. The liquidators couldn't figure out quite how to do it.

They don't make guys like this anymore. And these guys were the reason we won the war.