Antiques that are gone but not forgotten

February 24, 2019

How many of us remember the ‘computer table,’ ‘the smoking stand,’ or ‘the sewing machine table?’ These were pieces of furniture that served a purpose in their day and now most are either re-purposed or in a second-hand store. Their original reason for their being is no longer part of today’s culture.

Lots of these ‘white elephants’ are around and sometimes they are fun to check out and remember when. When as a kid, you sat at your computer with the boxy screen and computer tower or when you watched a grandmother actually sit at a special table fashioning a piece of clothing on a machine. These are memories most of us share however there are other household items from the past that have outlived their usefulness but are interesting to know about.

Before cell phones most households and many still do had a land line with bulky phone that needed a place to be. Some older homes have a nook carved into the wall especially for the telephone of the day. Still others resorted to a ‘gossip bench’ that had a seat with an attached table with enough storage for not only the telephone but the bulky telephone book that listed ‘everyone’s’ telephone number.

Another piece of furniture many will find amusing was the foot stool known as a ‘parlor pig.’ Many folks back in the day suffered from gout causing pain in their heels so it was painful to prop their feet up on a regular foot stool. The parlor pig was designed so one could prop their legs up without putting pressure on the sore foot. They resembled a small barrel with four legs hence its name. These stools were not that attractive so most have long passed out of existence.

Back in the 17th and 18th Centuries lady’s make-up was primarily wax based so when they were in room that was overly warm it tended to melt. A solution was found in the form of a fire screen that could be placed between the ladies and a roaring fire. Make-up has evolved and there is no longer a need for a tapestry fire screen to shield the ladies. Even so it can still be a decorative piece even though it has long outlived its usefulness.

Victorian commodes, primitive washstands, dry sinks, wardrobes and more are no longer used for their intended purposes however many live on in different capacities decorating our spaces.

Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.