Furniture Page 2 Great Canadian Furniture
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Great Canadian Furniture - Games Boards & Tables - 1900-1970

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure A fabulous set of nested English oak "coffin stools," which originally dated back to the 17th century.

Called "coffin stools" because they were supposedly used for holding up coffins so the viewing of the body, or a wake could take place.

This set of antique tables is special...

They were bought as antique furniture in 1918, just after he was married, by Joseph Barfoot in Toronto. The stools were in bad shape; he restored them.

In the late 1920s and 30s he and his young son Joseph Colclough (Coal-klee) often played checkers and chess on top of the big one of the three.

Their laughter and merry banter would echo around these ancient stools..

Young Joe's public school attendance card, school writing project notes, photos of young Joe and the living room in the house where he lived, and his Bible, sit on the surface where he and his Dad spent many hours over the years enjoying each other's company and trying to outwit each other, at checkers or chess.

Then came World War II...

Joe signed up, as a civilian, to be a navigator, aboard a Canso flying boat patrolling the Pacific Ocean.

In front sits one of the letters he wrote to his Dad.

The little tables waited patiently for their jovial laughter to resume, and for young Joe to come home...

But he never did...

Like 44,000 other Canadians, young Joe did not survive the war, but was killed, along with eight mates, as their Canso came in for a landing at Ucluelet, British Columbia in 1944.

His family was left to cherish mementoes of his childhood, and the stools on which he used to play with his Dad...

Go to Short & Sweet: A War Time Love Affair

Coffin Stools, Joseph Barfoot Coll, 19th c
Orig. oak - Size - 23 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Inscribed Presentation Bible, Father Joe to Joe Colclough Jr. - May 8th, 1933
Orig. bible - Size - 15 x 20 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Young Joe and his sister Eileen, about 1924, on their grandpa's farm, when the world must have held great promise for the young married couple, and a bright future for their children.

When he was 15, young Joe got the Bible above from his Dad complete with the loving inscription.

A father's fervent wish for his only son would end in tragedy, with an early death for his boy, who was typical of thousands of civilians who volunteered for service in World War II.

Above father Joe with his dad, Samuel, and young Colclough (Coal-klee), a few years before he got this bible from his dad.

They were already playing chess on the coffin stools, with these very chessmen... below



Go to Lest We Forget Young Joe
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure A 1962 photo of the Barfoot living room where, in the 1930s, young Joe used to sit and play on the coffin stools, on the spot where the card table stands.

Sitting behind it, in his customary place when he played with his young son, so long before, is young Joe's dad, and standing beside him his mother, Lala.

At the far left is young Joe's widow, who remarried after the war.

On the far right is young Joe's only child, his daughter Joan, the year she started at the University of Toronto, with her tuition, room and board, paid for by the Department of Veteran's Affairs.

Joan would go on to become a leading Canadian educational film and TV documentary producer, winning over 130 international medals for Canada-specific programs, a record that remains unbeaten.

Barfoot Family Living Room - Sept. 1962
Orig. photo - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Two of her more recent international awards for Canada-specific documentaries she produced, wrote, filmed, and crafted, with her husband:

Go to Joan's Multiple International Golds for the Boer War
Go to Joan's International Platinum for Ipperwash

Three years after the picture in the living room was taken, Joan married, exchanging vows with her husband as they both stood on the same spot where the card table stands, as some 25 friends and family watched.

The photo of the couple was taken outside the Tudor window of the living room just after the ceremony.

Two days later they were back, hitting the books, at the University of Toronto.

Below time off, in their courting days.


Their wedding was a big break with tradition, at a time when the vast majority of Canadians had big weddings in fancy gowns in churches, and wouldn't think of doing otherwise.

But to the young couple, the room where young Joe had grown up, among people he loved, was more of a special place than any church.

During the 1960s, Joan's new husband would play chess and checkers with young Joe's dad, on the same coffin stool, in the same spot, as young Joe had some 20 years before.

The laughter and good times returned, and reverberated through the room, as they once had before the war...

It was almost as if young Joe had returned...

(Note how, with so much company in the room, the card table is set up for playing Scrabble.)

Sadly, in the 1970s, this house full of memories was razed, along with all the others nearby, to put up a giant apartment building...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure The games table had been a main fixture in the parlours and living rooms of the better home in the 19th century. They were often inlaid with elaborate woodwork and often contained a checkerboard in the design. They were beautiful pieces of furniture that stayed in a prominent place when games where the only entertainment that was to be had. No one minded them occupying a dominant place, when everyone played games.

Then as radio, movies, TV, and transportation by car, tram, and railway, came along, people had reasons and facility for leaving the house. The bulky games table was too intrusive and seldom used anymore; many were junked.

In the 1930s and 40s, games tables were replaced by collapsible card tables, whenever more than two people wanted to play games.

So the coffin stools were pushed into the corner, the card table slid out from the closet, the folding legs opened up, and it was set up in the middle of the living room floor.

In the Barfoot home in the 50s and 60s many happy hours were spent as people sat in close quarters, around this card table, laughing and talking, as they played hearts, or euchre, Scrabble, or crokinole.

Then after an hour or two, there would be a break, while Lala would go to the kitchen to make tea.

After some more games, it was time to call it a night. The table was folded and put back in the closet.

Olive Colclough Barfoot - 1893 -1978.
Joe Barfoot - 1894 -1991.

Barfoot Family Card Table - c 1950s
Orig. table - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure A fabulous checker or chess board dating from a time when it was the centre of family gaming in the 19th century.

All the different coloured pieces of wood are individually cut and inlaid.

This is actually a heavy table top and may originally have been the top for a free-standing table.

Later the legs may have been removed and a hanger attached to the back.

To free up space in the living room or parlour, many crokinole and checker board tables were converted to wall hangings and taken down and put on coffin stools or tables when needed.

By the 1930s these were being placed in attics.

Joe Barfoot and his son used to play on a fold-out cardboard checker board, which could be slid in a drawer and didn't need to be hung on a wall and use up space needed for pictures or mirrors. (The games board and pieces were kept in the curly maple sideboard, at the right in the photo above.)

Below left the white wire on the back by which it was hung on the wall.

Checker Board - Canadian c 1880s
Orig. table top - Size - 23 cm
Found - Jarvis, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure Another ancient game board where all the squares are separately laid in and then hand painted.

The back on this is unique.

What to do with the checker pieces when you didn't want them? Many were misplaced and couldn't be found when the board was lifted off the wall.

The craftsman who made this 19th century board built a sliding box on to the rear of the board, on to which the hook was screwed.

So the checker pieces for this board were never misplaced since they stayed with the board.

Checker Board - Canadian, c 1890
Orig. board - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - Milton, ON
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