by Delbert Trew
favorite for sleeping, hiding
early day heroes slept in thin blankets, on the hard ground with their
heads resting on their saddles. Later, my J. Frank Dobie heroes slept
in canvas-covered bedrolls which had to be rolled each morning, tied
with a rope and tossed on the chuck wagon. Meanwhile, back at the
ranch, the cowboys slept in bunks with rope bottoms and covered with
ticks filled with hay, grass, corn shucks or cotton. Such stuffing
seemed to invite insects so bed legs were stood in small cans of coal
oil to keep the ants and other critters away.
When settlers were finally able to build conventional homes many contained
Murphy beds that folded up into the wall to provide more usable daytime
floor space. Some beds stood high off the floors above drafts and
at times contained drawers beneath in which small children slept.
Until after World War II, everyone I knew used iron bedsteads. Some
had ornate head and foot boards with posts topped with shiny brass
knobs. All springs were open and squeaked any time the sleeper moved.
My grandparents called all bed pads ticks while my parents said mattresses.
At some time in the late 1940s we bought new mattresses with coiled
springs inside which we called innersprings.
As prosperity came along, Mother purchased bedroom suites of hardwood
with matching dressers, mirrors and "chester drawers" as we called
them. All the iron bedsteads and old mattresses were moved out into
the bunkhouse for the harvest crews.
For economical reasons, furniture makers continually strived to combine
sitting and sleeping designs including a "duo-fold" divan/bed combination,
then a "hide-a-way" divan/bed that was easy to unfold and fold up.
It also contained storage spaces below for extra bedding and pillows.
Since these units had innersprings they were very comfortable for
No matter how many came to visit, Mother always managed to provide
sleeping arrangements and plenty of food. I can remember pallets on
the floor, children sleeping crossways on the beds, having to wait
for the second serving at meals and being constantly warned to be
patient and polite. Having new playmate cousins or friends made all
the waiting bearable.
Of all our many beds down through the years my favorite was the rollaway.
This design folded in the middle with head and foot meeting at the
top and fastened with strap iron. The bed had casters on all eight
legs, and could be pushed into a closet or behind a door for storage.
Mother made a nice cover to hide it from view.
If I remember correctly, the rollaway was a good place in which to
hide things from Mother and a pesky little brother. If the mattress
was thin, a skinny boy could squeeze inside during a game of hide
Best of all, the handy device provided rest and hospitality to those
who came to visit. I remember going to sleep on our rollaway many
a night listening to the fiddle music playing in the living room and
a 42 game being played on the kitchen table.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" >
August 15, 2006 Column