Family Heirlooms

Safety Award

I come from a family of immigrants.  We do not have family heirlooms that have been passed on from generation to generation.  I have a few old things that have belonged to my family, such as my maternal great grandfather’s 1927 safety award medallion from the Commonwealth Steel Company, where he was employed in Granite City, Illinois.  I have a book my paternal grandmother gave to me that had belonged to my dad.  My dad was 10 when he came to the United States in early 1930.  This must have been a book he read in his early teens.  He was the oldest of 8 children.  When I opened the book, my dad has his name and address in his hand, and then his youngest brother who is 13 years younger, took possession of the book later and wrote in his name and address.  I suppose since my dad was the first owner, Grandma decided the book goes to me rather than my cousins.

My dad’s book with my grandmother’s note.

We have no jewelry, furniture, artwork or anything of that kind that have been handed down through the years—that is until I realized that I have a piece of furniture that is at least 70 years old that has been owned by several members of my family.

In my house is a beautiful Windsor rocking chair manufactured by Nichols & Stone of Boston, Massachusetts.  My mom had this chair in her bedroom, and when I had my babies, I borrowed it from her to rock them asleep.  I returned the chair to her.  She was not the original purchaser of this chair.  This chair originally belonged to my Uncle Gus and Aunt Ann.  Gus was my mother’s brother.  His real name is Kosta (named after the grandfather who had the safety award).  As a child I was impressed by Aunt Ann’s sense of fashion and design.  Her house was decorated in all colonial furniture.  In other words, there were a lot of spindle chairs and tables.  In the 50’s and 60’s, this was so fashionable.  

As far as I know, Aunt Ann was the original owner.  It sat in her living room.  In the late 50’s Uncle Gus, Aunt Ann, and their four children, Joan, Patti, Mark, and Jill, moved from St. Louis to Phoenix, Arizona.  I have no idea if they moved all their furniture there, but I do know my mom bought the rocking chair from Aunt Ann when they moved.  I had all my children in the 70’s and the chair was used to rock those babies to sleep.  Then it went back to my mom.

My mom passed away in 1995, and my dad moved from St. Louis to Phoenix a year later.  His closest brother, Joe, had passed away, and my mom was gone.  Joe was married to my mom’s sister, Mary, and she wintered every year in Phoenix.  Gus and Ann lived there, as did two other of my dad’s brothers and wives, Mike and Jewel, and Matt and Florence.  He didn’t have any family from his generation left in St. Louis, he didn’t like St. Louis winters, and he was ready for a new adventure, so he moved to Phoenix.

The chair moved with him to Phoenix, but he sold it to Mary.  It would have been nice had he given it to Mary, but that was not in his vocabulary!  That Windsor rocking chair sat in her condo in Phoenix until she passed away in 2013.  Shortly after her death, one of her daughters called me and asked if I wanted any of my mom’s things that Aunt Mary had gotten, and I asked if it was possible to get the rocking chair that I had used to rock my babies.  A few months later, as one of her sons was bringing her car and some possessions from Phoenix to St. Louis, he loaded the chair in the back of the car and delivered it to me.

That chair sat in my house in St. Charles, Missouri, and when I married Dennis in August of that same year, I brought that chair to Fulton, Missouri.  It sat in living room, in several different locations depending of where I moved the furniture that week!

In November of 2017, I received an email from my cousin Mark, the son of Gus and Ann.  Gus and Ann were now both deceased, and Mark had taken his dad’s old 8mm movies and digitized them and uploaded them to a website.  He stated that website allowed us to download these movies for the next 30 days.  Not knowing who all was in these movies, and who I might know, I downloaded all of them.  The first movie I opened was titled, “Christmas 1956.”  There it was.  The Christmas tree!  No, that was not what got me excited.  It was what was sitting next to the Christmas tree.  It was the rocking chair that was sitting in my living room.  Then the movie moved on, and my grandfather was sitting in the rocker next to my grandmother, and the next few clips was my cousins’ other grandfather was sitting in the rocker next to his wife.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This is the beautiful rocker that was, at the moment while I was watching these movies, sitting just across the room from me.

I felt like I had a piece of history.  Ann and Gus owned the rocker, and they and their four children all sat in it.  My grandparents and the other set of grandparents sat in this rocker.  Then my mom had the rocker and all our family, my sisters and our families sat in that rocker.  Now I owned it and my children, my daughters-in-law, and my grandchildren have all sat in this rocker.  It made me love the rocker even more than I had already loved it.

In January, Dennis and I moved to San Tan Valley, Arizona (just outside of Phoenix), and we will be living there in our new beautiful home every winter, until eventually we will make it our permanent home.  We bought all new furniture for the home, except for one piece—the rocking chair.  It just seemed right for me to bring it to Phoenix, where the original owner’s family had settled.  The chair has come full circle.

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