The Family History of One Oak Table




I first noticed the little square oak table when visiting my parents at Roundup, Montana, in 1992. The family history of this particular piece of furniture confused me slightly. Was this the table Dad had used as his home office work space on the ranch west of Drummond for 27 years?

No. It couldn’t be. I was pretty sure I’d come to know the ranch table every bit as well as the old man did.

So where had it come from? Mom and Dad had never kept anything in storage; they must have acquired it since shifting from the beef operation to the smaller acreage in 1973.

All of that pondering would come later. For the moment, I’d simply noticed the table. It was sitting next to the wall just outside of the kitchen proper, right next to the wide opening that led into the living room. I’ve never been a real furniture fanatic, but for whatever reason, this particular item caught my fancy. Had it come up in an auction I was attending, I’d have most certainly bid on it–which may well have been the way Dad acquired it.

“That,” I observed, “is one cute little table.”

I wasn’t fishing. One of my sisters was a bit of an ace when it came to talking the folks into parting with furniture she liked while they were still alive. That way, she didn’t have to worry about either of her two siblings trying to get our hooks in it when it came time to divvy up the estate. That’s not me; I’d just found a way I could sincerely praise something of Dad’s (which wasn’t always that easy), and I took it without thinking.

His response was 100% unexpected. “You like it?”


Now, here’s the thing. For many years, my father and I had issues. There’s no need to go into details in this post, but I knew the bottom line.

If he’s offering you something, don’t you dare show anything but enthusiasm. If you do, he’ll get all crushed inside and undo the last 30 years of repair work you’ve done in the relationship.

Nodding, I said, “I do.”

Wait. That sounds like we were getting married.

Well…you know what I mean.

Without further ado, Dad began sweeping the clutter from the top of the table. Then he grabbed a crescent wrench, flipped the table on its side, and began removing the legs.

When I headed back to South Dakota a couple of hours later, the table rode in the Mazda Navajo with me. This was important, being the first–and as it turned out, the last–bit of anything material the old man gave to me, face to face, during the entire time we were both living adults.

Whether or not the family history of this table began with Dad, it definitely continued with me. Though I was married to Faye at the time, it would later be Pam (current wife, #7, hooked at the hip since 1996) who would become even more attached to “Dad’s table” than I was (and am).

They don’t make them like that any more–whether we’re talking about the furniture or the man.

"Dad's table" in December, 2013, none the worse for wear since my father literally handed it to me in 1992.

“Dad’s table” in December, 2013, none the worse for wear since my father literally handed it to me in 1992.

The better I got to know the oak table, the better I liked it. It wasn’t always square; there was a leaf that enlarged the upper surface enough to make it serviceable as a dinner for a family of four. It was heavy; no wimps allowed when moving time rolled around. It was also tough, durable, and simplicity itself to break down for transport. Each leg is attached to the top by a single bolt that locks things together as tight as you please.

Those leg attachment bolts, or rather the nuts, are probably the best available clue to the age of the unit. They’re square nuts, not hex. Square bolts and/or nuts are still available for those determined to have them, but they’re not cheap–and I can’t recall seeing a piece of furniture made in recent decades that uses them.

Frankly, I like them a whole lot better than hex nuts. They fit my trusty crescent wrench just fine and are pretty much impossible to “round off”.

Square nuts and square head bolts were in common use for a long time, though.

There’s some printing on the table tops underside: 5115 Wheat, which sounds like a model designator (number and color), and below that what looks like 6-47, which might just indicate the year and date of manufacture (June, 1947). The 6 is surprisingly faded though; it might be a G.

Oops! Looks like I need a new set of eyeballs. Becky commented, stating that the first number is 5415 (not 5115) and that the second indicator is definitely G-47. Staring mightily after she said that, I have to agree.

Each leg on the oak table is held firmly in place by a bolt secured with a square head nut.

Each leg on the oak table is held firmly in place by a bolt secured with a square head nut.

Below the model number (5115) and color (wheat), that 6-47 might designate the month and year  of manufacture---or, could be G-47, in which case, no clue.

Below the model number (5115) and color (wheat), that 6-47 might designate the month and year of manufacture—or, wait…it could be G-47, in which case, no clue.

We haven’t always set up the oak table at each new place of residence. Moving as often as I have (no matter which wife was tagging along with me at the time), not every new domicile had a suitable spot for this oaken treasure to do its thing.

To date, the chronology goes like this (wife-of-the-moment’s name indicated in parentheses):

1. Custer, South Dakota, 1992. (Faye) The table was set up in the living room of our house, used primarily as extra office work space.

2. East Wenatchee, Washington, 1995. (Faye) Oak table is set up in office, used to hold stacks of sales flyers and such.

3. Tonopah, Nevada, 1996. (Divorce) Table left disassembled in storage pile.

4. Reno, Nevada, 1997. (Pam) Table left in storage.

5. Sturgis, South Dakota, 1997. (Pam) Table set up in living room, used mostly for playing games.

6. New Underwood, South Dakota, 1997. (Pam) Table left in storage.

7. Craig, Montana, 1999. (Pam) Table left in storage.

8. Anaconda, Montana, 2002. (Pam) Table set up in office, used to hold copier for CLUCKERS Anti Drug Comics.

9. Ordway, Colorado, 2006. (Pam) Table left in storage.

10. Parachute, Colorado, 2007. (Pam) Table left in storage in garage.

11. Hereford, Arizona, 2009. (Pam) Table left ins storage until May of 2010, when it is set up in my bedroom; microwave oven is placed on table. On December 14, 2013, table is moved to living room to begin its odyssey as our family dinner table.

That’s probably TMI, Too Much Information for a mere table, but there’s a point to all this: Despite the significant number of moves over the years, the good, stout oak is showing very few signs of damage. There’s a tiny scratch or two, a couple of small stains, and one mild cigarette burn, but that’s it. That’s our family’s history with “Dad’s table”, a relatively simple piece of furniture built so strongly that it could be standing strong for a thousand years or more.

Well…that’s it except for one crossbar support stick beneath the table top (in the support framing). That crossbar is split-cracking in a major way.

It still seems strong, though, so “no harm, no foul” is the order of the day. If it works, don’t fix it.

"Dad's table", a gift from my father in 1992 (five years before his death in 1997).  We just have to find a set of complementary chairs and top that dirt-showing rubber flooring with Allure vinyl tiles in order to finish upgrading the kitchen.

“Dad’s table”, a gift from my father in 1992 (five years before his death in 1997). The leaf is in place. Now we just have to find a set of complementary chairs and top that dirt-showing rubber flooring with Allure vinyl tiles in order to finally finish upgrading the kitchen.

We’ve been living in the Border Fort since May of 2010. Only now is the kitchen approaching completion, as we charge on toward 2014, full steam ahead. For some time, we’d thought to purchase a big, fancy dining room table and chair set, but tonight it dawned on us: Why? It seems highly unlikely that our household will ever exceed four humans (plus two cats and one leopard gecko); the sturdy little oak table can seat that many just fine.

Locating a set of chairs that will (a) seat Pam’s touchy spine comfortably and (b) visually complement the table…that could be a challenge. But we’ve got the vinyl floor tiling on hand already.

Hm. Seems like I’m forgetting something…oh! Yeah!

It wouldn’t hurt to wire the room for electric lights and maybe an outlet or two. You know, just in case we want to join the spoiled, high tech crowd who think firelight, starlight, moonlight, sunlight, and flashlight aren’t enough.

After all, we’ll want to be able to show off the table at a moment’s notice.

5 thoughts on “The Family History of One Oak Table

  1. I like your little oak table. I need one about that size to use as a dining table. I am going to give you a little bit of a hint on that table. It looks like a small dining table, circa 20’s or 30’s. The underside of my grandmother’s dropleaf breakfast table is almost exactly the same, and that is it’s era. It had to be stripped of about 10 layers of different colored paint though, so no writing on mine. It is also a little low and with the legs so close together at the ends, it is not comfortable to seat more than two. I need to work on the leaves and reposition the hinges, as the screws are working loose, allowing the leaves to wobble when any weight is placed on it.

  2. Thanks for the vintage hint. It certainly could be from the 20’s or 30’s.

    Well, I’ll be doggoned. Thanks again; that really is 5415. I had to know it (from your comment) before I could see it, though. Good eye.

  3. By golly, you’re right again. I’m too far behind the eight ball to worry about correcting the text tonight, though. 🙂

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