Skip navigation

Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Anthropology


Museum of Anthropology

American Material Culture

Dain Priday: From Rest to Play a Family History

Big Idea: My family heirloom reflects my family's history but as well it tells a history of wood working.

 wooden chest

As long as I can remember this box has been a part of my life. I used to keep my toy which were mostly Legos, in the box. It is a beautiful box that is a reddish tan and has been smoothed down by a nice sand. It was finished by my grandfather, who as well had owned and operated a funeral home. My grandfather Sanded, stained, and attached extra amenities the box as well. The original purpose of the box was to transport infant caskets. The box originally was rough cherry wood, which my grandpa received unfinished and in rough condition.

The box arrived at my grandfather's funeral home in the early sixties containing an infant casket in which my grandfather would use in his occupation. My Grandfather had just had two more children. Being overwhelmed with the new occupants at his house; one of which was my mom, needed a wood working project to help him relieve stress. My grandfather's love of wood working began when he was at the age of 18 when he had married his current wife Judy Jackson.

open wooden chest

In the 50's it was not that uncommon to marry your high school sweet heart, and start working right after high school. The median age of being married in the 1950's was 22.8 which is much higher than the 28.1 of today era. So that is what my Grandpa did, he bought funeral home and started working for his family. Although my grandpa had hobbies such as wood working, his hobby was mostly a productive skill. Although it may have been relaxing to repurpose this piece of wood, it served a purpose which was to help his family.

This was one of my grandfather first projects practicing refinishing old furniture. He put hinges on as well as legs on the box, he attached the legs by using a tenoned cutter to fasten the legs to the rough box. After finishing it my grandfather gave it to my mom and her other three siblings to use.

My mother grew up and then got married to my father, when that happened she had I child. I was the first grandchild, my mom loved the old toy chest so when she had the first grandchild she asked for it, and my grandfather gave it to us it is now a family heirloom. This box although morbid tells a story about my family, where we have come from, and the way that my family has grown over the years. It is priceless and will stay in my family for many years to come.