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History of Grandma Talbert's Old Rocker

From 25 cent Auction Item to $200 Restoration


The seat of the old rocking chair was worn and torn and its peeling paint showed that it had seen better days.

It first came into my possession in the early sixties when my parents felt it was no longer worth having. It hung in the rafters of the Missouri Street house and cobwebs wove their way through the rounds that held the rockers in place. It was in such bad shape that I wasn’t even sure that I wanted it.

Grandma Talbert had purchased the rocker at the La Morrie family’s auction. She paid a quarter for the chair and another quarter for the sewing cabinet. She placed the chair in front of her bedroom window when she came to live with us when I was six.

She sat in it each afternoon doing mending and embroidery work. I can see her gnarled hands now, slipping a round wooden darning knob into a pair of old socks, restoring a toe hole to like-new again, her middle finger capped with a silver thimble.

She taught me to weave holes in socks using a burned out lightbulb ... it was the same shape as the wooden darning tool, and stood me well. My weaving adventures were child-like and never quite measured up to Grandma’s neat mending job, but I tried to learn because I knew it would be something worthwhile for when I grew up.

Just like embroidered luncheon clothes and dish towels. She taught me to make French Knots to bunch up in the center of daisy like flowers to make them look real. I learned to crochet pink shells along the edge of pillow cases and linen guest towels.

She liked her position at the window looking out at the front side walk. She called it her window to the world. She knew everyone who passed by and if the weather was warm and the sash was up, she would call out to them, "How do, Mrs. Davis" or "How do, Mr. Turley".

Dick and I asked for custody of it after my divorce in 1965. After we bought our first house in Clairemont, I was hopeful that it could be restored and brought back into usefulness. "Good luck" my ex-husband said, "you’re going to need it."

I sanded it for weeks, down to the bare wood, but because of multiple coats of white paint I couldn’t redeem it to its former natural wood glory. I became discouraged and decided to antique it. I repainted it with flat white and then used antique stain of a dull avocado green shade. I rubbed it down streaking it with antique stain to make it look old again. Dick bought some naugahyde and made a better cushioned seat for it and we were in business as we furnished our new home with hand-me-downs from both our former marriages. The rocking chair sat gracefully by the corner fireplace and was set off by another matching piece, the sewing cabinet where I kept crochet and knitting needles.

In the Seventies I gave the chair to Kathee to rock her first baby, Christen. When she moved to Arizona and had three more babies in rather quick succession she gave it back to me. There wasn’t much time to rock Clinton after the twins, Kelly and Kathy were born.

When we brought it to Summit House, it took it’s position in the rafters of the garage one more time, relegated to cobwebs and dust.

We always get a "together" for "us" gift on our anniversary and when our twentyieth came along I thought it might be nice to restore the old rocker, but my own arthritic hands weren’t up to all the sanding and rubbing this time.

"Could we have my Grandma’s rocker restored professionally?" I asked Richie one day.

"Do you think it’s worth it?" he asked.

"Well, I do, but that’s because it was my Grandma’s ... not because it has antique worth ... it probably doesn’t. I just always liked it."

He took it down to Solana Beach and had it professionally stripped and then to our painter friend, Timmy Bennett and asked him if he could refinish it to match the woodwork of the entertainment wall in our family room.

Voila! When Grandma’s rocker came back home to us, it exactly matched the oak cabinets, and Richie replaced the seat of it one more time with an authentic antique reproduction from The Woodworker’s Store. It looked great! It looked brand new ‘old’ again!

Now I can sit in my Grandma’s old rocker looking out our front window at the joggers passing by. I can catch a morning sunrise as I drink my first cup of coffee. I can crochet and knit with all my hooks and needles close at hand. I love my Grandma’s old twenty-five cent rocker that now cost over $200.00 to restore! And worth every penny, I might add.

Most of all, I can look at it and just remember my Grandma sitting in the gloaming, remembering Kentucky and telling about the days of her youth. Rocking back and forth gently as though the movement comforted her tired old body. Gently rocking, back and forth ... back and forth.

Like her, when I need comforting, I rock in her old rocking chair. It is a splendid thing to do in the gloaming and reflect on the day as I watch the sun set into the Pacific. It gives me a good deal of joy.

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