If there’s a piece of furniture that means Americana, it could be the rocking chair.
Place a rocker on a porch and that means summer.
“I usually get up six o’clock in the morning — as soon as day breaks — and rock a bit and drink coffee and listen to the birds, watch the squirrels and pet my dog,’’ said Gerald Medved, of Springhill Township. “Then at night, I come back and rock and think about what I did all day, and what I didn’t get done.’’
“When you think of rockers, it’s sitting in them after a long, hard day, although women were always knitting and mending, and men were whittling,’’ said Christine Buckelew, Fayette County Historical Society president. “The ones who don’t like rockers are cats because of their tails.’’
Some credit Benjamin Franklin with its invention, but the rocking chair is believed to have been created in North America in early 18th century when Franklin was a child.
Nevertheless, it’s part of the American heritage from a simple rocker in a nursery used to comfort a child to President John F. Kennedy, who used rockers to alleviate his chronic back pain at the White House.
“Everywhere we’ve traveled in Europe, I don’t ever remember seeing a rocker,’’ said Buckelew, noting the historical society’s Abel Colley Tavern in Menallen Township has a child’s rocker from the former Michael’s children’s store, “part of Uniontown’s heritage.’’
Buckelew and her husband, Tom, also operate Beeson Hill Antiques in Uniontown, which has rockers dating back to the late 1700s and early 1800s.
“Sometimes, it was just a chair turned into a rocker and sometimes it was built into a rocker,’’ said Buckelew. “Sometimes, it’s hard to tell.’’
For many, rockers are a link to childhood.
“I love rocking chairs. They remind me of my grandma’s front porch,’’ said Stefanie McCulloch, owner of Broad Avenue Treasures in Belle Vernon. “My grandmother had a rocking chair on her front porch and back porch and in her living room. The one in her living room was a caned rocker and so pretty. We were not allowed to sit in it.’’
McCulloch, who also sells rocking chairs at her antiques store, said customers appreciate their ability to soothe.
“It’s a calming effect. It brings you back to your childhood or when you were holding a baby,’’ she said.
Place that rocker outside and the feeling is enhanced by the freshness of a day or the coolness of the night.
That’s apparent in places like the Historic Summit Inn in Farmington where rocking chairs decorate the veranda.
“They’re definitely the first seats to go,’’ said manager Amanda Voithofer. “People sit for hours in rocking chairs, reading, drinking a glass or wine or having a cup of coffee, and taking in the view.’’
If there’s a cousin to the rocker, it’s the glider, which has the capacity to seat more than one person.
Stacey Robinson, of Springhill Township, restored an antique rocker/glider found by her husband, Brent. It sits on their back porch and allows the family to sit together and take in an amazing view of the mountains.
“We sit there with no devices and talk,’’ said Robinson. “That’s why I like to rock — it’s not about electronic stuff. It’s time to chill out.’’
Decorated with comfy cushions, it’s also a favorite napping place for the family.
McCulloch, who has a glider, noted they can be decorated with beautiful quilts. Quilts can also offer some warmth in cooler weather or protection on a rainy day.
Around patriotic holidays, it’s nice to remember the role rocking chairs play in American culture.
If nothing else, being in a rocker makes a person feel good.
McCulloch remarked, “Doesn’t it, though?’’