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FLASHBACK: It's Father's Day - time to recline - Odessa American: Celinda Hawkins

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FLASHBACK: It's Father's Day - time to recline

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Posted: Sunday, June 15, 2014 3:00 am

Editors note: This is a reprint of the column that originally ran June, 16, 2013. 

Today, dads across the country will retire to their recliners, grab the remote, a favorite beverage and relax. It is your day, but it just wouldn’t be the same without a recliner now would it? This is a dad’s favorite piece of furniture — it is his haven — because it has everything and it is his chair and nobody else’s, right?

My dad, like so many other fathers across the country, loved his recliner. It was known far and wide.

But where did they come from?

About 85 years ago, a couple of guys got the idea of a recliner after seeing how often American males tend to put their boots up on railings or tables. As one Princeton researcher Edward Tenner put it, “They just love to tilt back in their seats.”

So in 1928, cousins Edward Knabusch and Edwin Shoemaker fashioned a new kind of chair that automatically reclined if you leaned back. Now mind you, the first incarnation was made of wooden slats and looked like an Adirondack chair but it was indeed the first recliner. The fellas decided to revamp their design by putting upholstery and padding in the chair and — voila — in 1931 the men were given a patent for the “automatic adjustable chair,” which after a company contest was held would come to be known as the La-Z-Boy. Later, in 1947 the Barcalounger would add the foot rest.

Around 1970, my father got his first recliner — a black Naugahyde overstuffed, oversized chair with a foot rest. That was about the time of our first color TV and “clicker” (a remote for all you young-uns). My mother absolutely loathed that chair. It was black and it did not go with the orange, olive green and harvest gold décor of the den, but it wasn’t going anywhere.

She wasn’t alone. I think women everywhere thought of the chair as an embarrassment, but they were overruled and every den in the nation had one, because it was indeed “dad’s chair,” and quite possibly (in most families) the only piece of furniture Dad got to pick out.  

My father’s love for his chair was legendary. He even compared it to the intelligence of the boys who came calling on me. When one boy, who he described as having “hair all over nine counties,” came to pick me up for a date, Dad declared, “You’re not going anywhere with that guy. He isn’t as smart as my recliner, except my recliner can recline.” And that guy pretty much scurried away. Date over.

Then there was the great recliner debacle of 1980, when his beloved chair mysteriously disappeared one day while he was at work. In reality, my mother had the yard man move it out to the alley by the dumpster, while she went to pick out a new and more stylish recliner for Dad. She knew that he would be upset when he saw an empty spot where his recliner, now 10 years old, with rips and tears, mended with black tape, sat.

“Where’s my recliner?” he shouted as my mom winced knowing full well he would blow a gasket when he noticed. But brave as usual, she declared, “It’s ugly and we’re getting a new chair.”

Finally, after a much heated discussion, the remnants of which still loom in a cloud over Maple Street, she had to reveal that his beloved chair was in fact in the alley. He hurried to retrieve the recliner as if it were a living breathing human, almost apologizing to the chair as he drug it in from the alley covered in caliche dust.

But as a concession, he said, “I know, it’s ripped and I’ll fix it.”

So, he actually went out to Cloth World over on Maple, and purchased a yard or two of black vinyl, something similar to black Naugahyde, along with an upholster’s needle and some thread and commenced to recovering his chair himself. Ever the perfectionist, he actually did quite a good job and the chair moved back to its usual spot, much to my mom’s chagrin. It was there for another two years or so until once again it disappeared when my mom redecorated the room. We never knew what happened to the black chair.

In its spot suddenly appeared a stylish number, with pretty blue upholstery. But there was no pleasing Dad when the black recliner went away.

“I feel like I’m sitting in a dentist chair,” he would complain because he did not get to be in on the selection.

A few years later, he did get to pick the chair, but not the color, and a peach, wingback recliner would replace the dentist chair.

“This is pink,” he would gripe incessantly, but secretly. He loved that chair because it was comfortable.

If he could’ve had his black Naugahyde chair back, he would have it in a heartbeat.

So today, to all dads everywhere — get your favorite beverage, get the remote, have your kids bring you a big Po’ Boy sandwich and ready, set, “recline.”

Happy Fathers Day!

And Dad, I hope your black recliner was waiting for you in Heaven, ding ding…

Odessa, TX

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