We have lots of chairs at the Hormel Historic Home. Some are antique, some are more comfortable than others, and some aren’t really that comfortable at all. In September of 1942, the YWCA felt they had a very special chair worthy of remembering in poetry.
The well-known Austinite Gertrude Ellis Skinner penned the following poem entitled To the YW Chair and shared it during an Art and Travel Club meeting. At that time the Hormel Historic Home was the site of meetings for a variety of women’s clubs from the city and the county. The Austin Daily Herald reported that the groups all had the “same sentimental feeling toward the big rust-colored chair which stands beside the fireplace in the spacious living room.”
“If I were a gifted poet
With talents rich and rare,
I’d write an epic tribute
To this old Y.W. chair.
It has given so much protection.
So much of the courage we seek,
That just to stand behind it
Has given us power to speak.
It has been our desk and pulpit,
Our precious barricade,
It has been our stay in trouble,
Our fortress, our Ladies’ Aid.
If our shoes perchance are shabby
Or our slip is showing its nose,
If the hem of our skirt is uneven,
Or perhaps, there’s a run in our hose,
Don’t give these things a worry,
An anxious thought or a care,
Just take a bold position
Behind this kind old chair.
No critic’s eye can reach you,
To question your style or taste,
You are safe from observation
At least below your waist.
If your hand begins to tremble,
Or your manuscript to shake,
If your knees begin to buckle,
Or your voice begins to quake.
Just lean against this bulwark
And feel its sustaining grace,
Just swallow your heart a moment
And look your club in the face.
I know it will soon restore you
To confidence, poise and cheer,
When you see these friendly faces
And know you’ve naught to fear.
So we begin making changes
In this room we all revere,
Take away the couch and picture
Tho we hold these things quite dear.
Take away the clock and mirror
The piano if you dare,
Bur leave for our consolation
This kindly, staunch old chair.”
I don’t know the fate of that chair, but we do have a green one that might be worthy of prose.
Hormel Historic Home
208 4th Ave. NW
Austin, MN 55912