The Three R’s
Resuscitation, Rustoration and Restoration
Many years ago a young boy walking past an old shed noticed some old beds inside the door. He asked the owner, the local publican, what was happening to them. He was told that the shed was about to be demolished and he could have the beds if he removed them all by the next day. So the boy went home, to return with his only mode of transport – his pushbike – to set about the task of removing the beds, pedalling between the shed and his home. As you can imagine, it was quite a sight in a small country town. This was the beginning of a life-long passion. An old shed, as any young boy or antique lover knows, is a treasure chest waiting to be explored and, luckily for some, they find more than dust and cobwebs. Old furniture, including beds, has emerged from dark corners, some of it in better condition than others.
1Whilst many have been restored or are awaiting restoration, others have found new roles in life; most of these new functions occurred from the 1940s on as timber furniture became a more popular bed option (plus they didn’t rattle like the old iron beds or require polishing) and still, unfortunately, to this day people are finding new ways to use them. Our customers often have interesting bed tales to tell; old beds in the country seem to have as many uses as no. 8 fencing wire. As any farmer knows, the good old no. 8 can be used to fix anything from the farm ute or tractor to holding up his trousers after his belt broke. Brass and iron beds have been used as pens for animals of all sizes including chickens, pigs, sheep and the rest; old iron posts were a good fence substitute when things were tough. We even had one family tell us that the old family cot had made a wonderful cockatoo cage. Then there was the double brass and porcelain bow-fronted bed used as a sweet pea trellis in the farmer’s wife’s garden: ‘Looked good,’ she said, ‘Even when they weren’t in bloom.’ Luckily we rescued that one.
Now, we are not saying that our country folk were more creative. Oh no, city people were equally creative: iron ends used as garden gates, porcelains as candleholders, stage props and dog gates. One particularly creative fellow in the 1970s (an electrician) wired up his bed and placed four coloured globes to replace the usual bed knobs. He now has a bed and breakfast and had the beds restored by us. To his embarrassment, it washes wife who delighted in telling us that story of his youth. Then there are the others: old beds have been found in local cemeteries used to fence the graves of loved ones, or the bed springs used to sift sand for concreting (after using the bed as reinforcing). Another sight we have seen is a bed that was allowed to grow up a tree. The original owner had taken us to the back of his property and said, ‘I learnt it against this tree years ago. ‘We looked up and there it was two metres above the ground: a pair of matching iron ends. The angle irons were nearby embedded in the soil and grass. Amazingly, the only casualties were the wooden wheels, which had rotted away; these beds were certainly built to last the test of time.
Just when we thought we had seen and heard them all, we were challenged with yet another novel use for an old iron bed while one trip to Roma. When there in 2002 we were introduced to a local gentleman who talked about his bedbicycle. We had a great talk and he said he had a photo and would be happy to give us a copy. We were unable to visit in2003, but during our 2004 trip he came to sees again, saying he had heard we were backend true to his word, brought us the image of his bed-bicycle. This must be the most unique instance of bed re-cycling we have encountered. It was shown at the Brisbane Warana Festival in the late 1950s and received a lot of attention although he warned us that it was not made for comfortable riding; the seat was placed on top of a bedpost. The unique bedcycle came complete with steering; unfortunately, the tram tracks of the day proved too challenging for the narrow wheels and ultimately his undoing. With the wheel becoming trapped and no supports to hold on to, he fell into the crowd. He particularly remembers one of the crowd, lady and her umbrella. The lady was ok but the same could not be said for the umbrella. He told us, ‘Once I was up and riding, it was great; it was the stopping that was the challenge. ‘We told him the story of how Mark became involved with brass bed restoration as a young boy with a pushbike. It is unfortunate he could not remember the fate of the bicycles he then told us that he would have given it to us to display at our shop. Imagination is a wonderful thing yet we continually refer to our old reference book of the time, the mail order catalogue, in order to retain the originality and character in our restoration work. We would appreciate any assistance from our readers, if you can help us source original mail order catalogues, we would be delighted and would love to hear your stories or see photos of other examples of bed-recycling