It was exactly one week after my big win–the opportunity to get a set of vintage oak table and chairs from our local library–and almost two years after having learned that they were going to open a new, larger library and update/discard all of the midcentury furniture.
When I picked up the table and chairs originally, the table I found was disassembled in a basement boiler room. It was among piles of broken and disassembled shelves, beside stray table legs tangled like Pick-Up Sticks. In a hurry (as if they’d change their mind… and also because they discovered a homeless man living and pooping in the basement of the library, a story to share over beers) I grabbed legs that weren’t the same sizes. Turns out that the library also once had child-height tables of the same design, and of the 4 legs I took, 3 were shorties.
The town worked with me to help me get back into the library for new legs, and it turned out that they were able to make it happen just in time. The day we coordinated was the same day that town workers were on-site removing items that were flagged for auction, and discarding of things deemed insignificant. Clearing house.
At this point, my emotions were pretty invested in the library contents, and in the history of the place. As one in my state of mind would, I peeked into the dumpster, and wouldn’t you believe that there were 3 large oak tabletops tossed in there?! I just about slammed my head into the wall. After two years of trying to make a case for getting a single set for my family, they were just going to chuck other pieces of furniture? Girl, please. No. No.
It was raining and cold, which only paints a better picture, but I went into full-fledged Nicole Curtis-mode and decided to salvage as much of the “trash” as I could. And for whatever it’s worth in case I get in trouble, the town workers there said no one would care (points finger) but they definitely side-eyed me like I was a crazy person as I shouted and wielded a soggy Atlas and metal bookend over my head to get their attention while I stood inside the dumpster. There are no photos of this day, which in this day in age means it basically never happened.
I called in reinforcements (Pete and the Jeep) and together we hauled two of the three oak tables into the back of the vehicle. The third was buried under too much stuff, and the most damaged as far as we could tell. The two we salvaged had some damage by way of years of people carving initials into it, and gouges thanks to the workers who launched it into a dumpster, but I swear, help us all if I was going to let those tables head to the dump after two years of me pleading and networking for just one. And friends, that’s why I have two bonus tables propped in the garage.
I’m still not sure what we’ll do with them. They’re mad heavy, but I know that the surfaces could be easily refinished and sold or given to someone who wants to put their own legs on it. Pete’s friend owns a manufacturing business, and has also offered to make us custom legs that will match the specs of the hardware we need. The opportunities are there, the tables have been saved for their next life, and I’ll keep you posted on what we decide to do with them.
So, what else was in the dumpster that day? Because obviously we took a ton of stuff, not just 250 pounds of oak tabletops. There were no bags of garbage, for the record, so it wasn’t dirty, it was just rained-wet stuff, like old AV equipment, office chairs, old upholstered furniture, thousands of CD jewel cases, and thousands of metal bookends:
We took a whole bunch. And still feel really bad that we couldn’t take them all to a new life. I might paint them someday, but they’re all in great shape and original finish is still perfect.
We took several basic tall plastic garbage cans (some still had $20 price tag stickers on them and seemed unused), empty plastic storage containers, a broom and dustpan (new barn broom, what’s up!) and a unopened box of 12 4-foot wooden shelves, like the kind you might use when building shelves, or assembling slatwall shelving.
That soggy Atlas I referenced wasn’t in the best shape, but a surprising thing to find discarded in any case. Published in 1965, it features 86 pages of maps and history relating to New York State.
This Atlas isn’t just highway paths and railways, it documents a lot of history in the area too. A few of my favorite pages map the literary history of New York, paths taken during colonial wars, political party allegiance, streamflows, and the mean length of the growing season. Undeniably interesting stuff, and it’s big – the cover measures 18″ x 24″. It was the only book we could find in the dumpster, for what it’s worth, they weren’t tossing lots of books carelessly.
We gathered a bunch of metal magazine racks too. The finish on most of them is in great condition, and even since I’ve taken these photos they’ve come in handy helping to sort our kids’ magazine collections and construction paper supplies.
Here’s to wishing that card catalogs still existed in libraries – we did not find one, but we did find a few wooden sleeves that are reminiscent. In my own childhood library, think I remember these holding the slips used for checking out books? Maybe you can remind me how your librarians used them. We grabbed the three that we found.
I think I’m remembering everything that we pulled from that dumpster that has a new life in our home.