In the Good Ol' Summertime...Outdoor seating



In summer in my childhood, we seldom visited indoors.  Oh no!  Visits took place outdoors, usually under the shade of a big old tree.  It wasn't at all uncommon, nor is it to this day in the South, to see a grouping of chairs or table and chairs under a big shady tree someplace in a yard.  Perhaps they are the sort who like to see and be seen, so they set up their seating in the front yard.  Perhaps they are more private people but don't have fences and you catch a glimpse, as you drive past, of the seating in the back yard.  

And just possibly, you might see someone with a sitting area arranged under an open carport or on a deeply shaded front porch, but mostly, most assuredly, company was entertained in the yard in summer months, where shade was plentiful, breezes were all about and the views expanded across flower beds and fields and you were serenaded by drowsy buzzing bees and birds.


The first memory I have of being entertained out of doors was at Grandmama Stewart's home.  She was my great grandmother.  Near the road, just steps from her well, she had a big tall tree and under the tree was a split log bench.
 Her road was just a single lane winding sort of road and not a lot of traffic happened to go by.  Usually if someone did go by, she knew them right well!  I remember sitting with my cousins on that bench as they spoke of a song by Herman's Hermits...I'm dating myself...I recall asking one of them what a hermit was and then pointed to some seed pod that had fallen near by.  "Is that a hermit?" I asked.  I remember their laughter.

When Mama and Daddy were still quite young and they had three children with a very tight budget, they rented an old farm house with a shed and a couple of outdoor houses meant for the folks who worked on the place.  The old woman who owned the farm used the outdoor houses as storage for her unwanted items.  She allowed Mama and Daddy to use some old wooden deck chairs that she had stored.



It turned out the fabric was quite old and had not weathered well, so their first guests who sat down went right on through to the ground.  Mama, being a woman who sewed as naturally as she breathed, soon had made new covers for those chairs and they used them until the budget allowed the purchase of the next chairs I'll mention...

My next memory of outdoor seating was the aluminum and webbing sort of chairs.  Not exactly the most sturdy chair known to man but certainly they were lightweight and inexpensive and they were easily folded and put away.  I recall various patterns of webbing, mostly in greens though I do seem to recall a yellow one as well.  These chairs were not only in our own yard at home, they were in my grandparents yards as well.

Later Granny upgraded her outdoor seating, and I must say it was rather nice.  She had a couple of big water oak trees and the branches spread and met over the middle of the back yard area.  My brother and cousin built Granny a brick patio, sanded in, with a plant ring in the middle that was rather nice, though they were just 11 and 9 at the time.  

Granny's metal glider and chairs were green with white panels.  Three of us could sit happily on that glider and the polite question was always "Would you like to glide, or no?"  One simply didn't glide because you felt like it!  No, you had to be polite and all agree that gliding was what was wanted. Gliders of this ilk can still be found, in vintage condition.   Most just need a bit of sprucing up with a fresh paint job.

Those chairs, by the way, felt rather dangerous.  The more you weighed the deeper they dipped in the back and the older the chair got the more it bowed down.  It could be rather startling to find yourself with your feet in the air and your bottom on the ground!  

The chairs had two saving graces.  First, they were very sturdy.  I think Granny's were going on 20 years old when one finally broke.  Given that she often had family gathering at her place and had 7 grandchildren who were normal rough sort of kids, I think it's remarkable they held up so well.  The other grace of the chairs?  Because they had no back legs, you could slowly bounce the chair in a sort of rocking motion.  Many a baby was rocked to sleep in one of those chairs while the adults sat about talking.  

I remember one very hot summer day, Granny took her visitors to her garden.  We kids decided that it was so hot we should make a big picture of Koolaid to refresh them when they returned.  I've rarely seen adults so pleased to see a tinkling iced drink even if it was strawberry flavored Koolaid.

Grandmama Crowley kept her webbed aluminum chairs for years upon years.  She always took great care of her things so even if the chairs were inexpensive, she was more likely going to redo the webbing and keep hers going for years on end.  However, at some point she did purchase some cast iron patio chairs.  Her chairs were similar to these about this table:


When she died, I acquired the two chairs still in her possession.  I have them on my front porch:

A few years ago I was rather pleased to come across a patio table and four chairs of the same sort of metal.  I kept an umbrella over the table but after going through four rather quickly, I decided it was a waste of my funds.  The table and chairs still sit on the patio and it's a very pleasant place to sit in the afternoon in summer, after the sun has pushed past the front of the house.  I've been looking for some deep shade where I might put it but so far, I've come up blank.  Though just now it occurs to me that placing it between the Faith Tree and the front porch might be rather nice.  But then I'd have no seating on the patio at all and I do like to sit and soak up the sun in winter there.  

Of course, I could use one of these sorts of benches which is incredibly sturdy and far more comfortable than you'd expect:



Concrete blocks and 4x4 posts is all this requires.  We sat on one of these down in St. Augustine and agreed it was a rather good idea for inexpensive outdoor seating.

My favorite seating in a yard was my set of old bent willow or cypress furniture.


 How I did love my set!  I had two chairs and a loveseat and a swing.  It was a bit rough for seating unless you had a nice cushion, either your own natural cushion or a proper pillow.  I'm afraid my cushion was never in the proper place, so I usually resorted to folded quilts since pillows weren't in the budget.  I would love to have another set of this furniture, sigh, for all that I have perfectly nice furniture in the outdoor spaces.

That's my full share of chair memories.  Have you any summer memories of outdoor seating?

10 comments:

Lana said...

We had a glider when I was a young child that had belonged to my grandparents. It was so heavy that we could hardly move the thing. I longed to just glide away on it easily but it never happened since we moved to Florida from Iowa and it was left behind and I was only 9 and never had a chance to get it going with longer legs. I often think of it in the summer.

The thing we love about the county where our lake house is located is that people are still on their porches and in their yards. As we drive past they wave. Such friendly folks. Here in our home town we often sit outside in the evening on our deck and no one else in the neighborhood is out. What a shame to miss the cool of the evening and the fireflies in the woods in favor of TV and computer screens.

Anne said...

We bought a very old wooden house that needed tons of work when I married my second husband. It was on an acre and a half, a lot in the city, and my boys enjoyed the large yard. We had a swing that screwed into the ceiling of the front porch and two large wicker chairs with fan backs that I got at a garage sale for $10 each. We repaired, painted and used them for a couple of decades until I finally let them go. They were very comfortable.

Incidentally, after living in that house for twelve years, and pouring our money and time into it, it STILL needed lots of work. Ah, you live and you learn.

Kathy said...

Love the memories!
I actually have my grandmother's metal glider and two chairs on my front porch. They are painted green with white panels. :D
When I was little, we had a wooden picnic table for many years. Lots of cookouts and ice cream making there. We took those aluminum and webbing chairs camping with us for many years too. My husband made me a wooden octagon table for the deck a few years ago although we don't eat out there as much as I hoped since it is so hot.
Thanks for the memories.

Debby in KS said...

My grandparents had a glider with a canopy. I remember sitting on it and napping on it while G'ma did her gardening.

We sat outside a lot in SoCal. The temp always dipped in the evening where we were and it was wonderful in the morning before the sun came up high enough to cover the patio. I'd often sit out there and drink my coffee while my dog did her morning business. When we moved here, we had planned the same thing since our yard here is much more beautiful (it's larger) with bird baths, feeders, etc. Right away we bought some wrought iron cushioned chairs and an umbrella table in hopes of weekly grilling. However, summer is soupy and there's no peace from the bugs. I so need a screened-in mini retreat with a fan! I love sitting outside.

We mostly sat outside by the pool and we'd always eat our lunch out there. Regular picnic tables. The sun didn't seem to bother us!

Lana said...

I was thinking about outdoor chairs as I read here and thought about buying two folding camp chairs for the beach when we went to the beach in south Florida for our 25th anniversary. Those chairs have been so many places in 14 years that I kind of wish I had kept a log. We keep them in the vehicle so that they are always with us and they have been everywhere from the beach to the mountains to the lake and so many outdoor concerts and even a Shakespeare play I can't even imagine the number. They are still just as good as new.

Sally said...

Love that glider set! Funny, I just mentioned to my husband a few days ago that I miss how folks in Georgia (where I grew up) used to sit out in the front yard and chat of an evening...people just showed up and visited until dark! At the time, my in-laws had a very nice deck on the back of their house, but it was NEVER used...all visiting happened in the front yard:) Thanks for the memories!

Anonymous said...

My one grandmother had the porch swing I mention in an earlier comment. the other had a huge homemade stone barbecue i=under a huge shade tree. I don't recall sitting round it as we waited for the corn to be ready but we did go up the hill a bit and sit and eat on top the cistern's big cement top. One cousin had that type of swing that you sit opposite each other on a wood stand and swing in unison back and forth. do you understand what I am describing?. They were one steers or two on each side. The other cousin had a long long long swing that we swing on that went off the side of the hill their house sat on and over a revene. It
was very scary! Also had a tire swing as did many others back then. Several neighbors on the street had the metal gliders on the front porch. Others had the folding chairs you showed with the strapping. The metal chairs that bounced instead of rocked were popular on many porches too. They were older. On our street the front yards were too short to sit on. We used the porch or sat in the porch or back yard...or sat on the porch steps. Our porches got lots of use. How many hours of jacks were played on their wooden surface? We played a lot of street games. Lots of kids on the block. Hide and seek was one of the most popular. WE used the pole with the street light for 'home'. One kid went home and made a peanut butter sandwich then went back to hiding! One side of our long steep street had only a few front steps but the other side had a long row or two of steps till the porch. Now that I remember back, we hung out on many different sets of steps through our childhood. Most were different styes of cement. I didn't realize till now how many memories I have of being outside doing things. Snow ball fights included! I know as soon as I sign out I will remember a chair I have forgotten! :-) My childhood was in the 50s and 60s. Thanks for the memories. Sarah

susie @ persimmon moon cottage said...

In the 1960's and 70's those nylon webbed chairs were a big thing, and in the 1960's it seems like a lot of people had the metal scallop shell shaped back chairs. I distinctly remember being 4 or 5 years old sitting with my friends in those metal chairs. Their mom brought out Kool Aid in those 1960's bright colored tall metal tumblers. I thought those metal tumblers were beautiful. She also brought out some raw carrot slices for us to snack on. I took a big bite of that raw carrot and chewed and chewed it, to me it was awful. I somehow had never had a raw carrot before. I kept chewing it and it seemed to taste worse the more I chewed. I remember not knowing what I would do with the ever expanding chewed up carrot in my mouth. I vividly remember getting up on my knees in the chair to where I was facing backwards, away from everyone, leaning over the back of the chair and spitting out the chewed up carrot onto the ground. I must have thought no one would know that I had spit the offending carrot out if I wasn't facing them.

Throughout my childhood, neighbors would come by and everyone would sit in my mom and dad's backyard. It was shady. There was a big arbor with grapevines full of bunches of sweet purple grapes. When they were ripe everyone would pick hand fulls and we all sat around eating them. I don't remember rinsing them off, but we must have.

Lana said...

My Dad used to pick up those folding webbed chairs from the curb when the webbing was worn and they were put out for the trash. He brought them home and re-webbed them. It cost him about $1 per chair. At one point I think there 25 or 30 chairs in our backyard storage shed. When people came over there were plenty of chairs for everyone and they were so easy to get out and put away.

Julie Baker said...

Nice memories. Love to sit outside, Michigan is having a nice summer this year.

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