COLUMN: Marina Gambin remembers the once ubiquitous daybed

Marina
Marina Gambin
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I do not know exactly why it was called a daybed. I guess it was the opposite of a regular bed which is mostly associated with nighttime.

Marina Gambin

In Branch in the 50s and 60s, many households owned a daybed. It was almost always set up in the kitchen. This unique piece of furniture was nothing more than a single bed with a head which could be raised or lowered for one’s comfort. Because the kitchen was the central room in the house, the daybed held a very important role in everyday life. It was as significant as the sofa is in today’s living room.

Our daybed was located close to the radio shelf. Since we had no TV during my childhood years, listening to the radio was a preferred pastime. There were times when six or seven bodies were seated snugly on the daybed listening to the strains of Kitty Wells and Johnny Cash reaching us all the way from Nashville via CJON.

My late father was well known by everyone for his penchant for sleeping. The daybed was one of his favourite haunts. Whenever he took up repose in the kitchen, we knew the daybed would not become available for a few hours. Daddy was not a light sleeper. I can still see him slumbering comfortably while the little ones climbed all over him. Years later, I recall seeing my father sleeping in that same kitchen. At that time, I felt he looked out of place resting on something called a davenport with not a chick nor a child to pester him.

No particular member of the family could claim exclusive rights to the daybed. The only time I can remember being allowed sole use of it was one time when I was really sick with the flu. At that time I was too ill to really enjoy the privilege. By the time my flu had improved, someone else was using it as their sick bed.

The daybed was a multi-purposed piece of furniture. I can still picture Mommy changing the baby’s diaper, propping him up with his bottle on a pillow and wrapping him cozily in warm flannelette. Someone would be ordered to sit close by to monitor the infant and truth be told, we did our job responsibly.

By the same token, this memory evokes one of a near tragedy. One cold fall night, my infant baby brother Reggie was sleeping soundly on the daybed while the Aladdin lamp blazed in its bracket above him. For some unknown reason, the lamp chimney broke and only by the grace of God was his life spared. To the day he died, he still bore scars where the hot, shattered glass landed on his arm.

On cold winter nights, we often drank mugs of cocoa as we sat on the daybed warmed by the hot liquid and the crackling wood stove. Although I am quite sure our sibling relationships were not always harmonious, this memory conjures a wonderful feeling of togetherness.

Last, but not least, the daybed was a necessary addition when we girls commenced dating. Many nights, the daybed was utilized as sleeping space by overnight boyfriends. It was also a handy annexation as a late night place for courting, but I dare not go into that aspect for fear that I may incriminate myself.

Today, I look around my home and that of my siblings and I admire all the convenient furnishings. Not one of us owns a daybed. However, I continue to keep my eyes open at yard sales and at second hand stores. Even if I happen across one, my kitchen is way too small to hold it. For sure, it would not look good in any other room.

— Marina Power Gambin was born and raised in her beloved Branch. She is a retired teacher who lives in Placentia where she taught for almost three decades. She can be reached at marinagambin@persona.ca

Geographic location: Nashville, Placentia

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