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The Dark Ages: Back when wood was wood & you actually used phones to talk with others
This Drexel sideboard buffet wasn’t made of pressboard and didn’t break under the strain of a stack of paper plates.

Remember the Dark Ages?

That’s when furniture came preassembled.

There were no Allen wrenches or screws to deal with.

They were made out of a quaint product referred to as “solid wood.”

I admit I don’t have a lot of furniture.

That wasn’t always the case.

And most of the times I was smart about it, I saved up to buy solid furniture.

The times I wasn’t, it ended up being unceremoniously pushed out of the back of a U-Haul truck into the concrete pit at the Lovelace Transfer station within two years or so.

The worst was a kitchen table with four chairs bought from an up and coming home goods store chain in the late 1990s with a location in Stockton next to the Costco on Hammer Lane. It ended up having a shorter shelf life than a gallon of ice cream placed in front of a dozen starving 10 year olds on the Fourth of July.

I’ve forgotten the store’s name, but I’ll never forget the table.

It was the first “furniture” I’d ever bought that came in a box with the three words I’ve learned to loathe when they are strung together — “some assembly required.”

The table surface itself wasn’t “butcher block” as advertised but pseudo butcher block light.

The real wood was perhaps a half inch thick while the rest was compressed fiberboard.

It was made in Thailand. The instructions — which were incomplete and confusion — had a notation on the bottom “published in Vietnam.”

Any person with common sense would have stopped at that point, put everything back in the boxes, and returned it to the store.

Assembling the so-called metal chairs required screws. And while three went together fine, the fourth didn’t. I found out after a couple hours of trying to figure out what went wrong, that a measurement had the hole on one “leg” an eighth inch lower than on the other matching pieces.

The vinyl-style back and seat cushions were secured with wooden screws that went through pre-drilled holes in the metal frame and into the pressed fiberboard seat bottoms.

The table ended up being wobbly after a week or so.

The fiberboard the screws weresunk into had started deteriorating.

We decided to take it back the following week.

Imagine how unshocked we were to find the store had gone out of business.

So we tossed the table and chairs into a pile in the backyard for a future dump run and retrieved the  1950s Formica top rectangle kitchen table supported by chrome legs we had stored in the garage.

It had four chairs that back in 1998 when they were pressed into service again, were already 38 years old.

Save for a standing desk from Staples, it was the last piece of furniture I’ve bought since then that came unassembled except for, of course, a bed’s headboard, footboard, and side rails.

And I waited to buy furniture until I have enough money saved or could do so interest free for a year to manage monthly payments within my budget. To be honest, with a 980 square-foot house and living by myself, I don’t have a lot of furniture.

And what I did have, I’ve given much of it away to make room for exercise equipment, weights and a workout area.

Among the items I gave away was a couch and loveseat I bought in 2008 from Hafer’s.

The person I gave them to had them for a few years before getting what they wanted. They then gave the couch and love seat to someone else who got rid of a newer set that didn’t wear well.

I mention the couch and love seat because earlier this year during a run to the transfer station, I ran into someone I knew who was lamenting about having to throw out a living room set they had bought from Wayfair when they started online sales in 2011.

Granted, he could have had kids who were “hell on furniture”, but it further cemented my belief that I need to sit on and see how furniture is made before I plunk down any cash.

The oldest piece of furniture I have is a large roll top desk I got from a friend in 1992 that he had bought a decade before. The desk surface deserves to be refinished, but other than an issue with the roll top lock latch, it’s just fine.

My bedroom furniture bought in 2005 employs dovetail joints. The oak wood is of good quality.

Even though it puts Ikea and most online furniture to shame, it is nothing compared to the armoire I scored from Cynthia when she moved into a smaller home.

The armoire  was part of a solid cherry bedroom set bought from Hafer’s 25 years ago. While it doesn’t exactly match my oak desk, it is in my office area at home.

It isn’t easy to move. That’s a clue that it will likely still be functioning strong when my fourth great-grandkid due to arrive in November reaches my current age of 67.

At any rate, it won’t be joining anytime soon the 10 million tons of furniture that the Environmental Protection Agency estimates gets buried in landfills every year.

The Washington Post recently ran an article detailing why the quality of furniture has declined.

A lot of it has to do with most furniture consisting of Chinese-made press board and plywood and having to be shipped overseas meaning every ounce and inch of space taken up adds cost. And for the most part, pieces marketed as "solid wood" are actually rubber wood with glued-on veneer.

Imagine running the words “rubber wood” back in the 1950s in a furniture ad and keeping a  straight face.

There was only twice in my mom’s life that she had new furniture.

The first was bedroom and dining room furniture that was a belated wedding gift from dad in 1950 some five years after they were married.

He saved up for it that long.

The formal dining room set by Drexel was made of dark mahogany wood and included a sideboard buffet, a table with eight chairs and a China closet.

The Drexel version made with solid mahogany was the proverbial whale of sideboard buffets thanks its 6 inch base.

It wasn’t hollow. It wasn’t made of particle board. It was unadulterated large piece of heavy wood.

The buffet overall was 5 ½ feet wide, 21 inches deep and 35 inches tall

It required four people to move it.

You can find online furniture brokers that want as much as  $2,100 for them.

I almost forget.

Ther are those who may think food comes from an Uber delivery driver that may not know what I’m talking about.

Sideboard buffets were where you stored China settings, real silverware, and other such items that would grace a dining room table.

Dining rooms — that have gone the way of landline phones in most new homes — were places where everyone sat down at a table and actually ate while  engaged in civil conversation without watching TV or, in today’s world, have their noses stuck in a smartphone.

It was a time when not only was a phone a phone, but you rented it from the phone company and replaced it every decade or so when  new technology came out. That’s opposed to trading it in every year for a new $1,000 phone that is used for just about everything else imaginable besides actually talking to someone who isn’t trying to get you to sell your home.

And like the sideboard buffet, phones were made to stand the test of time.

Speaking of time, just like the smartphone you could use it as a “watch.”

All you had to do was dial POPCORN and would hear a reassuring monotone female voice telling you, “the time is now 12, 0, 5 and 15 seconds  — exactly.”


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at