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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Treasure Hunting

This beautiful old chair turned up at the right moment

Detail of early 20th Century pressed oak chair. (Cheryl-Anne Millsap / photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
Detail of early 20th Century pressed oak chair. (Cheryl-Anne Millsap / photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

    For those of us who love beautiful old things, it’s a familiar feeling. Our best “finds” actually seem to find us. We have something in mind and then one day, when we least expect it, we look around and there is the thing we desire just waiting to be discovered.


    I was found by a chair the other day. 


    Just as I carried a box of clothes and household items to donate through the front door of the thrift store, I saw an oak chair being brought in through the back door.

I handed off the box ,took my tax receipt and walked straight back to the man holding the chair. He put it down and walked away and I picked it up.


    It was a pressed-back oak chair. Mass-produced in great quantities around the turn of the last century, pressed oak pieces are not hard to find. But when I looked at the chair closely I realized it was a “youth” chair, meant to be used when a child is too big for a high chair but not quite big enough to use a chair designed for an adult. That’s not quite as common.


    The thing is, just the night before I’d had my daughter’s family, including the 2-year-old toddler, over for dinner. The toddler wasn’t happy about sitting in a high chair and insisted on sitting at the table with us. The dining room chair was too big for her, of course, so we were all up and down throughout the meal, making sure forks and spoons and anything else within reach didn’t fall to the floor. I told my daughter we needed a youth chair to make baby more comfortable and allow her to sit at the table with the rest of us. And, as sometimes happens, the very next morning a youth chair found me.


    The ornamental designed pressed into the back of the chair, an elaborately carved portrait of a man’s face, was obviously designed to attract a child’s eye. He looks like a fairytale King or some mythical figure.


    The sturdy chair has a few nicks and dings, but it’s in pretty good shape. And at  $20 it was a great deal. I put it in the back of my car, where just a few minutes before I’d had a box of giveaways, and brought it home.


    The toddler loves it and it’s her seat of honor now when she’s at the table. She likes to run her finger over the impression, tracing the face of the figure on the back, and we don’t have to hover while she eats.


    And I like the idea that occasionally we just have to be in the right place at the right time to be rewarded with the next great find.



Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at


Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes about antiques and collectibles and the love of all things vintage. Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement and she is The Spokesman-Review's female automobile reviewer. She is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. Cheryl-Anne is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."