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Come on in and take a seat

By Staff | May 28, 2010

Recently at an auction held by Minot State University, one might have thought that the university was filled with royalty.

That would have been your impression if we were in the first half of the 16th century in England. During this time period, chairs were scarce and only used by the master and the mistress of households. Less illustrious folks had to perch on stools or benches.

One look around the Minot State auction and you would have realized that many folks could go home as kings and queens as there were chairs for all. Studio commitments did not allow me to attend this very interesting auction. I was most delighted to share an in-depth visit recently with Dr. Elaine Larson from Minot State University who was present at the auction. My first question was “What chairs were sold?” She, with a master’s touch, recalled them in great detail. Oh, the art of mingling with souls who can recall chairs with detail and where they were on campus! I knew this conversation was going to be ‘top rail’ with ‘much dovetailing.’

Please step back in time with me as we discuss the chairs of the Student Union on Minot State Campus. Formal, and complete with grand piano, was Centennial Room-the most luxurious banquet room on campus. One look at the red and gold striped wallpaper, in combination with the red velvet draperies of this room, and you knew you were going on a magical excursion. Tall-backed richly upholstered red velvet chairs with Mediterranean stain formed a mighty chorus in this room. They sang many, many verses for banquets, community luncheons and student award banquets-always in tune, and right at home with a robust performance of Stout-Hearted Men or great compositions by Chopin or Schumann. I wonder how many times they silently applauded for the recipient of the Ove Jorgenson Scholarship at the annual business awards banquet.

Next door was the Frontier Room. Even though the room sounded rustic, its furnishings were that of colonial influence. The walls dressed in grass-like wallpaper-warm and inviting- the perfect setting for low, early American chairs. I attended many a Minot Camera Club Banquet in this room. Late into the night we viewed color slides while our bodies were comforted with the sturdy spirit of these chairs.

Large, and on the north end of the Student Union, was the Ballroom-now currently the Beaver Dam. Taking residence in this room were chairs one could say from perhaps a Hepplewhite influence. Though their backs were void for the usual Hepplewhite ornamental designs, their size and shape let one know they were cousins. These compact, blonde chairs were upholstered in deep green vinyl-some with brass tacks. Often they lined the outside of the ballroom, and they seated many a guest at the huge ballroom banquets. These chairs can tell you much about the cheerful attitude of Helen Pettit, Ella Hass, Lorraine Klein, and Edythe Larson- just a few of the personnel who worked behind the kitchen door of this ballroom.

Now Thomas Jefferson did not visit the Student Union. However, copies of the chair style he sat in while writing the Declaration of Independence were everywhere. Early American chairs of various styles were present in the snack bar. If you looked very closely at the ones that were extra tall, you were sure to see the ghost of Nathaniel Hawthorne. These chairs for many allowed a point of relaxation. It was at these chairs that some of the administrative secretaries shared that the secret to keep a perfect house was to do the vacuuming early in the morning. You can also bet that some of the divisional secretaries shared the opinion that cowl neck sweaters are real charmers.

It was in these chairs that the students and staff gathered for breakfast and were greeted by the voice of Pearl Hanson. It was here that the members of the Sigma Tau Gamma, Mu Sigma Tau, and Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternities and Beta Theta, Tri-Sigmas, Delta Epsilon Phi and Delta Zeta sororities opened their pre-Facebook message board cabinets which lined the halls to the snack bar. Oh, the excitement when the list of possible dream man candidates’ was listed for the Sigma Sorority. Even these chairs could hardly contain themselves as the details of this annual formal were shared.

Elaine and I had a wonderful visit about all of these chairs which were recently sold at the MSU auction. We could not end our conversation without paying tribute to the many host and hostesses of the student union. We shared memories of Jim Froeber, Director of the Student Union; his well-dressed secretary, Dorothy Rostad; and Caroline Loeffelbein and the wonderful staff of food service personnel. These are the folks who made you want to come and sit in these chairs. They did more than open the doors to the various banquets rooms and provide great food. They made certain that everyone had a good time.

The above chairs certainly have reflected the social, political, and cultural environment of the Minot State Campus. Even though these chairs of history have been sold, new ones take their place. It can be said that the history of civilization is echoed in the history of furniture. Today as we stroll about the Minot State Campus, we see this metamorphosis in the simple chair. It is a sleeker, modern, yet very engaged chair. When you have the time, check out the seating in the Beaver Dam. It certainly reflects the technological advancements of the students while keeping comfort close at hand.

Repnow is a Rugby


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