Seeing the Timelessness of Gustav’s Vision Updated 1-19-2007

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Blog entry by Mark A. DeCou posted 01-16-2007 04:31 PM 1220 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

“Girls and Typing,” and “The Wee Little Craftsman Style Kid’s Desk”; Seeing the Timelessness of Gustav’s Vision.
(M.D. DeCou copywrite 1-16-2007)

I got worried about using someone’s name without asking permission. So from now on, I will try to use “fake” names to represent the innocent, and in this story, the 50% guilty. The actual names are not essential to enjoying my old antics and consequences.

Girls & Typing:
Well, yesterday I got sort of carried away with the keyboard and ended up writing an eight page Blog. Sorry for that, just because I write, doesn’t mean you have to read it all. This one is three pages, so be warned.

This keyboard and I have a strange relationship anyway, as I never imagined while taking “Typing” in Mrs. “SMITH’s” class in High School that I would ever need the skill of hitting the keys. I was going to be an architect, or engineer in those days, and I sure didn’t plan to be anyone’s secretary. I learned during my first job out of college with Exxon that I was expected to be able to type. It was in my little 3rd floor corner office at Exxon that I tried to teach myself to type for the first time.

You see, I took “Typing” in High School for all the wrong reasons. First, I thought I would get an “Easy A”, but more importantly, the class always had a lot of girls in it. I guess I could say that I “majored” in Shop Class and Drafting while suffering through the other State required electives. Most girls didn’t take shop classes, so in my last year of High School, I dreamed of a class full of girls. So, I enrolled in Typing.

The Typing class did have a lot of girls, and I found myself sitting beside “SUE” for the full nine weeks of the 3rd quarter. Then it was apparent why I had suffered through an entire 1st semester of typing instructions, and I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity.

“SUE” was a lot of fun and very cute, and so I quickly started to scheme how to make a positive impact on her. Now, some guys would offer to do bits of service, like carry her books, or do her homework, or something selfless, and service oriented. I decided to mess up her typing grade, and started to randomly poke my finger over on her key board during timed typing tests. She thought it was funny, and returned the favor.

So, we both made a practice of messing with each other’s keyboards during “timed tests.” I would reach over and poke a key on her computer messing up her correct word count, and she would reach over and do the same to me. It was fun, she would laugh, and I didn’t care about the mistakes on my test in those days. I didn’t need to learn typing anyway so, I couldn’t have cared less about the timed test. “SUE” was the cutest girl in my school and I wanted to take advantage of my position being assigned to the typewriter next to her, a cheerleader. Woah!

Now, most girls would just scream out and “tell on” me for such antics, but “SUE” was different. She enjoyed the mischief, and so this key “stabbing” would go back and forth over the full 9 week quarter. Then, (dramatic pause), one morning she reached over and poked more than one key on my electric typewriter (remember those?) and the little letter arms all came up together and jammed, making a loud grinding noise and sounding like a monkey wrench had been thrown into a flywheel. Soon, smoke was rising from the inside of the machine and I quickly turned off the power button.

Now, Mrs. “SMITH” only played the role of not being able to see or hear anything in class (probably a coping mechanism she learned as she closed in on retirement). But, let me assure you that when “that” racket came from the typewriter, she was on top of the situation like stink on skat. None of us kids in the room realized that she could move so fast. At that moment, “SUE” and I realized that Ole’ Mrs. “SMITH” had been watching us play this “key-poke” game for 9 weeks trying to ignore it until we graduated and she retired. But, that day she had finally reached her limit to “let it go.”

This poor little old woman came down off of her tall stool in the corner, grabbed me by the ear, pulling me skyward, and pointing to the door for both “SUE” and I to head out. I wasn’t really scared, I was graduating in a few months, and besides, I’d walk to the gallows if I could walk with “SUE”. So, we walked together down to the Vice Principal’s office with Mrs. “SMITH” following close behind.

Vice Principal “JONES” listened to poor Mrs. “SMITH” tell about our mischief and the costly result. He was a huge man, the largest I ever knew in person, and I was quite worried about him. The rumors of his merciless whippings of delinquents had become common knowledge among all school kids, even the ones in lower grades in other schools. He was a fearsome looking man, and had a reputation to match. He looked very serious, and stern, and I started to fear his wrath, and I felt the room start to spin (something I have learned that happens to me whenever I am caught in a high stress situation).

He sat back and listened to Mrs. “SMITH”, then nodded, assuring her that he would handle the situation. After Mrs. “SMITH left his office, he pointed for me to wait outside while he talked with “SUE”. Now, I knew she would be fine, who could whip that cute girl anyway? I even daydreamed a little about how I would rush in and wrestle the paddle from Mr. “JONES” and save her, winning her heart for all time. I was a bit more of a daydreamer than a man of action, so I hoped it really didn’t come down to that.

“SUE” was told to go back to class and not talk to me on the way out of the administration office. She didn’t get spanked, she wasn’t crying, and she even smiled a little as she walked by. Since I grew up with a younger sister, I was used to seeing girls with at least 50% culpability walk by smiling as I waited for my punishment. I knew from experience that her smiling had no bearing on my own punishment, and so I waited.

Mr. “JONES” called me into his office and asked me to sit down. I had been under his authority for four years causing all kinds of mischief and havoc, and had never been caught in it before. I was one of those sly pranksters, the kind that never do anything real destructive, but I was never sitting quietly without thinking through some new prank to draw some attention and notoriety.

Here I was, finally caught, and I started to feel his awesome power. He looked at me for a long time, and then leaned forward in his seat putting his elbows on his knees.

He sort of whispered to me, “she’s pretty cute, huh?”
I nodded.
“You’ve been trying to get her attention haven’t you?”
I nodded.
“Your antics broke school property you know?”
I nodded.

Now, I learned with my dad young in life not to deny responsibility when it was obvious. It always went easier for me, and I continued that tactic with Mr. “JONES”.

He leaned back and put his hands behind his head, “you graduate in a few months you know?”
I nodded.
He paused a long time, “I’m going to bill you and “SUE $12.00 for the repair cost of the typewriter, and you’ll need to work it out between the two of you who pays.”
I nodded.
“Now, get back to class and try to control yourself.”
I nodded.

I rose from my seat and keeping my loose mouth shut for once, and walked out.

Back in class “SUE” said she would pay her half, and so for $6.00 I got the chance to walk the hall to the office with “SUE”. Pretty good deal the way I figured it. Sadly though, that “hard C” from Mrs. “SMITH” kept me from graduating with honors from High School. It wasn’t my only “C”, but coupled with my poor Accounting class with old Mr. “BROWN”, it was enough to destroy an otherwise stellar grade, and some scholarship money. Live and learn, move on. It was worth it. Mr. “JONES” died in a terrible car crash just a few years ago, and I still think of him kindly over these years for offering mercy to me.

Now, why did I tell you that story? No reason really.

Here is the real reason I blogged this morning:

Seeing the Timelessness of Gustav’s Vision:
I make quite a few walking canes, and I have been gaining a local reputation for them. There is a store called Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hatworks down in the big city of Wichita. Jack is a cool guy and he likes my canes enough to take them on consignment.

About a month ago a woman was in his store, saw my canes, took my card, and called me. My wife answered, and the woman told her that her father had passed away and left a nice cane that she wanted to go to a good home. Since she had seen my canes at the store in Wichita, she felt that I would make a good home for her dad’s cane. All I needed to do was come and get it. A little less than a week later, I was in Wichita doing some sales consulting work, and so I called the woman and made an appointment to pickup the cane.

I entered her beautiful, large home and immediately was confronted and surprised to see it full of “stuff.” She quickly explained that her father had been very successful having a 10,000 sqft home full of nice furnishings. Her father had died, and now all of the belongings were delivered to her house for sorting. She walked me through her large house and the amount of “stuff” was overwhelming to both of us. She said that the cane was in the basement, if I would follow her down there she would get it.

Now, normally, I don’t follow people I don’t know to the basement, especially women who’s husbands are at work (I’ve seen too many movies). But, I decided to trust her and followed to the basement. As we walked through the “stuff” she showed me her parent’s large collection of furniture, all French Provincial style, and the many boxes of stuff that had to be sorted. Down in the basement were more boxes, including a whole room of her college son’s stuff that she was storing for him, and more of her parent’s things.

As we walked through all of the stuff she asked if there was anything I saw that I could use. She explained that she just had to start getting rid of the things and get her life back in order. I looked through all of it, and since I am not akin to French Provincial style, and already have a small house full of stuff, I declined to take everything we saw.

We came back up from the basement safely, and on the back porch in the corner, behind a tall pile of boxes, I found something interesting. Sitting quietly in the corner was a small child’s desk made from quartersawn white oak, in the Craftsman style. The side of the desk had a 4” wide highly “flaked” panel with a little Craftsman style motif cutout in the panel. It was adorable.

This poor little desk had three or four boxes piled on it, and with the boxes in the room, I couldn’t make my way over to it. As we continued to walk by piles of stuff declining everything I saw, I said, “Um, I would take that little desk over there in the corner.” She stopped, turned around and looked at it. She paused then said, “No, I’m sorry, that is an item that my husband and I are keeping.”

I was almost choked up with laughter. Here, with an entire two homes worth of furniture piled into her house that she was trying to get rid of, the only thing I wanted other than the cane, was not available.

The irony of it was humorous to me. Her parent’s furniture was probably the finest French Provincial style factory made, store bought, furniture money could buy in the 1940-1950 time frame. Today, nobody wanted it.

However, a humble little quartersawn white oak Craftsman style kid’s desk, always can find a home. Way to go Gustav! You were not only a marketing genius and a man of vision, but designed some timeless beauties that are still treasured today, even from across the room under a pile of boxes.

Thanks for listening,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

11 comments so far

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4300 days

#1 posted 01-16-2007 04:49 PM

Mark, I can almost picture you with tears in your eyes when she refused to give up that desk.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4315 days

#2 posted 01-16-2007 05:22 PM

I enjoyed your story Mark.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4161 days

#3 posted 01-16-2007 05:48 PM

i enjoyed the story as well. Took me not only along your memory lane but back to mine as well.
And the desk continues on, gathering more and more memories.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Karson's profile


35121 posts in 4401 days

#4 posted 01-17-2007 03:14 AM

As it used to be said, “Now for the rest of the story!” What ever happened to Tona?

I bought a house in house in St Louis in the 1970’s it was a faculity home for a local Seminary, that was getting out of the business of providing housing for faculity.

When they disassembled the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair the builder who build our house got construction material from the pavilions to make the homes. A couple of homes on our street had a beam in the basement that was engraved 1904 St Louis Worlds Fair. It turns out that the homes were Arts and Crafts homes. Our home had all of the woodworked painted but the house next door had the original woodwork. White Oak with dark stain. Our side of the street has 3 stories and a basement. The live in maid (not ours, but the original owner’s) lived on the third floor, Her bathroom was in the basement. The stairs from the second floor had a landing half way down with stairs to the kitchen and to the living room. The maid was only allowed to use the stairs to the kitchen. She could clean in the living room but that was not her travel path.

The north side of the street had only 2 stories because they had “Street Car Maids”. They would come to work each day and a sleeping room was not provided.

It was not until I had sold the home and moved to New Jersey that I found out about Arts and Craft or Craftsman styles. I sure would have appreciated the home more if I had known what I had.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4238 days

#5 posted 01-17-2007 06:20 AM

Well if you keep up writing these long blogs not only will you not get anything done … neither will we. And what DID happen to Tona? O.K. sure, i’m sorry you didn’t get the desk, but I’m a hopeless romantic and I love a great Love Story with adventure and risk taking. I can see it now “THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MARK DECOU. FURNITURE MAKER, TROUBLE MAKER, POET” Coming SOON to a Theatre near you

View Shawn's profile


225 posts in 4154 days

#6 posted 01-17-2007 08:08 AM

I love your writing Mark, keep it up

-- Cheers

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4177 days

#7 posted 01-17-2007 11:36 AM

Reminds me of Sharon. ‘nuff said!

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4406 days

#8 posted 01-17-2007 04:13 PM

Ok, ok, I thought if I left some “mystery,” it would make for a more interesting story. Tona and I were never a “thing,” she was just a sweet girl that endured my teasing, treated me fairly, and was nice to me, something that didn’t always happen before, or after my year of typing. Mrs. Lundstead thought it was best to separate the two of us, and I was paired up with somebody, and for the life of me I can’t remember who it was.

We finished up the last quarter of typing without incident. I had a close call with the “authority” again the last day of school, but alas that is a separate story, and as Obi has noticed, I need to get some work done. After graduation, all of us kids headed our separate ways. I ran into Tona a few times in College, but she was in a different circle than me, and so I didn’t see her often.

My wife and I ran into Tona and her young son at a church one time about 8-9 years ago, and my wife suggested that we invite them over for a meal and catch up. For some reason, Tona had to cancel. A short while after that Shelli and I became missionaries for World Impact and moved away from Wichita, and so we haven’t seen, or heard of Tona since.

That’s the rest of the story.

P.S. Obi, I am afraid that my life wouldn’t make much of a movie, it would be worse than “Napolean Dynamite.”

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View rookster's profile


67 posts in 4151 days

#9 posted 01-17-2007 07:26 PM

Great commentary on the vision and contribution of Gustav Stickley. I wonder if the desk was hers when she was a child?

-- Rookster, (

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4406 days

#10 posted 01-20-2007 10:53 PM

I don’t know the origin of the desk, or any of it’s history. After she said “no” I didn’t want to press any further.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Shawn's profile


225 posts in 4154 days

#11 posted 01-21-2007 01:28 AM

Oh man, Mark you had to divulge the rest of the Tona story, here in my mind I romanticised it to the point that she was the woman you married…now I’m a little sad.

-- Cheers

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