I remember the nights
On the porch
With my Sweetheart
Warm summer breezes
Crisp autumn chills
While we sat
I’d transformed to a level of refinement
Not intended for the winter
Too pristine for the cold…snow…ice
But my Sweetheart remained rugged
He endured, I hibernated
He watched, I slept
He stayed on the porch, for years, hanging with the generic, the dull, the riffraff…
I hobnobbed in luxury with elitists, the bright, the shiny, the privileged…
But on the day for sweethearts, I remember my Sweetheart,
And the distance, though not far, is laid out with seemingly impenetrable walls
For, though identical beneath the surface, and in style,
Experience has separated us…and class and attitude and mantras…
Shallow labels that keep Sweethearts in their place
And not side-by-side, lingering in the night, on the porch
There’s a rumor floating around the metal lawn chair community that this chair was once called “Sweetheart Chair” in an advertisement. The evidence, however, is currently lost in the deep, dark, depths of the Internet. Or maybe in a yellowing magazine in the cobwebby archives of a library. But I like the name. Not simply because it’s February—the month for sweethearts—or because this chair of mine is finished. And pink. No, it’s because this particular chair has a sweetheart.
I found this metal lawn chair in a flea market, all alone. This market was the same place I found most of my chairs in the early days, and at reasonable prices. However, this chair was double the price of anything I’d ever seen there. Problem was, I was pretty green in those days and had never seen anything like it. Unique. Lovely. Feminine. She spoke to me. “Save, me,” she said. With all the makings of a damsel in distress, she sat outside in the chilly spring air, amongst the junk, next to a busy road, at the filthy flea market. So, I slayed the dragon (coughed up the cash), threw her over my steed (squeezed her into my Taurus), and carried her away to my castle (my quaint Cape Cod).
That same day, in her rusty and weathered condition, I decided to show her off. There were many suggestions regarding how to redress her, interpretations of her authentic style, and a few admirers already asking for a spot on her dance card. Yes, a photograph friend wanted to buy her “as is” to be used as a prop. But this Eliza Doolittle was no prop… She was meant to be enjoyed and loved, not admired from afar.
The resonating comments claimed the scrolls on her seat back (filigree) resembled seahorses, and the waves along the top mirrored a clam shell. After considering these remarks, my community of metal lawn chair fans thought pink was the obvious color choice—like a pink sea shell. With my eccentric, mid-century brain flooded with images of “surf” and “pink,” it took a leap to this:
Yeah. A 1940s/50s pink and “Ming Green” bathroom.
The passionate chore of sanding away rust and smoothing layers of paint filled my summer afternoons and evenings. But I spent my mornings commuting to my accounting job. On one of those mornings, I spied a potential companion for my Sweetheart Chair. He sat on a driveway next to the garage door, just off the busy street I traveled twice a day. Surrounded by a handful of white, plastic chairs and decked in primer gray, this Sweetheart Chair didn’t fit his environment. Several times I considered stopping at the house, offering the owners up to $50 for the chair. But I was a little worried I’d make them angry—insult them somehow. And a little worried they’d think I was crazy—who does that sort of thing? So, I hesitated. Everyday the chair stared me down as I drove by, and everyday something about it just didn’t feel right.
August rolled around, and I found myself in Wisconsin, Milwaukee to be specific. Just walking down the street… Literally! Out of nowhere, I bumped into him, perched outside a storefront, out of place and out of time. A little worn, a little bent-out-of-shape, the chair remained young for his age. Most important, this Sweetheart was without a mate. Did he have any idea a future beauty resided in Kansas, dreaming of a partner? Maybe so, because he was priced to move—the least expensive metal lawn chair I’ve ever found. No dragon to slay this time, I tossed my coins on the counter, loaded him up, and proceeded to cart him across four state borders.
They sat side-by-side on the back porch for awhile, only separated when I took her into the grass to continue prepping and painting her. But winter came. And she was too pretty to leave exposed to the elements. I brought her inside so she could hang with the other pristine chairs in the warm, dry basement. He remained on the porch, with the pedestrian and unfinished chairs. And I forgot they were apart, until today. But uniting the two requires one of them to change. I don’t know how this story will end.
What does it feel like to yearn for your Sweetheart? I know the sadness well. It’s an old friend, who lingers on my porch, long into the night.
* * *
Name: Sweetheart Chair
Artistic Restoration: Summer 2016
Manufacturer: Sun Radiator Company or Bunting
Period: Pre WWII 1940s
A shout out to Don Storer at Midcenturymetalchairs.com for his continued research assistance.
Continue to follow The Metal Lawn Chair of the Month at AVintageChick.com
C R Kennedy