October 24, 1995 in Features

Relax A While And Return To The 1940s

By The Spokesman-Review

The question kept coming up.

Is it OK to sit on an exhibit?

Answers varied Sunday afternoon at Cheney Cowles Museum as people arrived at the re-created 1940s living room that’s part of an exhibition focusing on the World War II home front. Some plopped right down in one of the three well-worn upholstered chairs. Others seemed reluctant to even set a sneaker on the faded rug.

One tall man who was probably a young adult 50 years ago picked up the Oct. 30, 1943 edition of The Saturday Evening Post (10 cents) from a small table and eased himself onto the sofa. A few minutes later, two little girls silently scoped out the living room. And the gray-haired guy reading the old magazine without glancing up looked as much like a permanent part of the exhibit as the family pictures, old-timey black telephone and plugged-in electric wall clock.

The wooden shell of a stand-up Atwater Kent radio housed a tape player or something that filled the small space with news broadcasts of the era, music such as “In the Mood,” Eisenhower reporting the Normandy landings, and Kitty Carlisle beating the drum for an aluminum drive.

Some people twirled the dials as if they expected to tune in a different echo of history on another frequency.

Atop the radio was a framed photo of a man in uniform.

“Where’s the TV?” asked a woman who was old enough that you knew she was joking even before you caught her smile.

A teenage boy in a puffy Dallas Cowboys parka and brilliantly white athletic shoes that would have fit Frankenstein looked like a member of a “Star Trek” away team as he stood in the center of the make-believe room.

“Is this how your living room looked?” a twentysomething woman asked a companion who didn’t seem much past 40.

Some of those who didn’t sit down looked longingly at the chairs. You know how museums take it out of your legs for some reason.

“Grandma Wilson has a chair like this,” a woman declared as she patted a piece of furniture.

Three other women stood next to the exhibit and, after a soak-it-in moment, started talking about their mothers. The scene looked a lot like something from a teary relationships movie.

“Feels just like they used to feel,” said one as she deposited herself in a chair. “C’mon, try it.”

, DataTimes MEMO: Being There is a weekly feature that visits gatherings in the Inland Northwest.

Being There is a weekly feature that visits gatherings in the Inland Northwest.

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