Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hard Lessons

Kids and food and . . . the Table
In 1979, to facilitate my Husby completing his Master's degree, we moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
We brought everything we owned in one of my Dad's cattle trailers.
He cleaned it first.
Sort of.
Moving on . . .
But there were one or two things that we didn't bring.
One of them was a decent kitchen table and chairs.
We had to dip into our savings and buy something.
I should point out here that Kijiji didn't exist in 1979.
Or personal home computers.
At least in our home.
So we were stuck with the local paper and the classifieds.
But the tables we found listed were worse than the one we had left behind.
We finally decided we needed to go to a furniture store . . .
We had done this once before.
Gone to a furniture store, I mean.
It was fun.
And expensive.
But exciting.
We pulled up outside in our little wheezy van and sauntered inside where we were met by a young man with a big grin.
A really big grin.
Looking back, we should have suspected something.
We didn't.
We told him what we were looking for and he led us to the 'kitchen' section of the store.
Okay, we weren't expecting that much of a selection.
We divided our options into two categories. 'Those we could afford'. And 'those which were really nice'.
The choices suddenly became easy.
We were down to two.
The one we finally decided on was a faux-wood topped, tubular-chrome-legged marvel.
With four chairs of genuine fake-leather.
We had hit the big time.
The only problem was that we were already a family of four.
And family member number five was definitely on the way.
More chairs were indicated.
No problem, the young man said. The company who made the chairs was right here in Winnipeg. They could easily be ordered and at a very special price.
We handed him our savings and he filled out the paperwork, promising to send in the order for our four extra chairs as soon as we left the store.
Then he helped us tote our new table and existing chairs out to our little van.
We were kings!
Happily, we set up our new acquisitions (good word) in our little kitchen.
Then we waited for our four extra chairs.
And waited.
Finally, we tried to phone.
Huh. Line out of service. Strange.
We drove over to the store.
And found it closed.
Weird. For a Tuesday.
A large piece of yellow paper, fastened to the front door, fluttered in the slight breeze. We got out of the van and moved closer.
It was a notice from the police.
Something about signing the paper if we were owed anything by the young men who had absconded (Great word, eh?) with all available cash and left the country.
We stared at the paper.
Then at each other.
Did this mean what we thought it meant?
Had we just been ripped off?
I suddenly wanted my chairs!
We had paid for them!
Grant signed the paper and we were duly contacted by the police and able to place our claim.
The problem was that we were owed a mere $200.00 and that put us far down the list of claimants. The likelihood of recouping (I'm just full of neat words today) our losses was slim to nil.
I should mention here that the people at the top of the list were a newlywed couple, furnishing a new apartment. They had paid for their furniture, but were having it delivered.
I guess $10,000.00 (a boatload of money in 1979) was just too much for the store owners to resist. They had taken the money and anything else not fastened down and left the city.
The young couple's furniture had not left the store.
They were furniture-less and out their $10,000.00.
Suddenly our little $200.00 seemed very paltry.
But I still needed my chairs.
We went to the furniture manufacturer and explained the situation. They were very nice and gave us our chairs at their cost.
So, when we worked it out, taking into account the money we had paid Crooked Smiler Guy and what the manufacturer charged, we had actually gotten the chairs for the normal retail price.
We really hadn't lost anything.
And we finally had our chairs.
Oh, they were a slightly different colour from the first four, but why quibble over details?

That table and chairs lasted us through six children and twenty five years.
As it was nearing the end of its life, my husband decided to realize a dream and build a new one.
He did it.
A large, round, solid oak table, capable of seating 12 comfortably and 14 if you want to be really friendly.
He finished it just in time.
I tried to set a casserole on our old table and the poor thing collapsed, casserole and all.
And no, that isn't a statement on my cooking . . .
It was given an undignified farewell at the city dump.
And Grant moved in his great oak wonder.With twelve chairs that matched.
And that we didn't have to chase down and beg for.
Lessons learned.
More people. More food. And . . . the replacement.


  1. Gorgeous new table! Your guy's a handy guy!

    P.S. Did you ever get your money back? Do you know what happened to the crooked owner? Was he ever caught?

    1. We never saw a penny! And I'm not sure that young couple did, either. The owners disappeared and we moved back to Alberta without any sign of either them or our money. Sigh.

  2. Those chrome tables are so retro! Ha. For those of us who had them, so gone is better.
    The little girl in red looks a lot like you.

    1. We definitely worn't sad to see it go. The little girl in red is my granddaughter. And she looks so much like my younger pictures that we often get them confused!

  3. Hey - we had that chrome set with the faux leather chairs, too, except one step below yours - the table had a black textured top instead of your fancy woodgrain look!

    What a beautiful table - not a speck of faux in sight! Your husband did such a nice job.

    1. Yes. We were definitely fancy - with our woodgrain-like finish! :)
      And thank you. He worked hard on it. It really is a work of love!

  4. When I spent that year in Fort McMurray I bought a kitchen set from a family who was just moving away. It was virtually new and I got it for $100.00. Brought it back to Milk River and eventually to Taber. I bought a genuine wood table and chair set and lent the metal one to my niece who was just embarking on the marital journey at the time. Three years later I got the set back, minus chairs and leaf, and one floor protector. Today my mother in law has the table which she uses for storing stuff in her garage. I guess it's held up pretty well...

  5. I LOVE the new oak table and chairs!! so beautiful.

    I started out with the laminate and chrome table too, mine was a faux white marble laminate and it came with six chairs covered in orange vinyl. It was the early 70s, orange was "in". We had orange curtains too, and other orange stuff.

  6. Beautiful beautiful table and chairs. What a wonderful family heirloom.


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