antique desk window with tulip detail and key in lock

Welcome to Day 8 of my countdown towards my online course Capturing Family History in a Book of My Things! (begins on January 16, 2022). Each day I am sharing a story about a family object, including tidbits of my process of putting it together. I hope this gives you some ideas and inspires you to come up with your own stories. And of course I’d love it if you joined the course😉

Today’s heirloom: Opa’s Desk

We call this old desk “Opa’s Schreibtisch” (Opa = grandfather in German) because it used to be my father-in-law’s at his store in Munich, Germany. My husband worked in that store (textile retail and wholesale) until we left for the U.S. He spent a lot of time at that desk, which ordinarily was littered with papers.

Note on process: My photo archive is clearly in dire need of organization! I know I have a photo of my husband as a young man, sitting at that desk in that store. A few days ago I searched through two big boxes of photos from the 1980s but alas, I could not find it. Instead I found this nice portrait of my father-in-law, see below, which does need to get framed.

However, my main goal right now is to get out of the gate with these stories about my (and our) things. So, if I don’t have all the material I’d like to have, I still put together the story. I can always update it later!

My father-in-law Chaim Gendler, 1990

When my father-in-law passed away in 2002, my mother-in-law set about closing the business. Right away, my husband announced that he wanted to keep the desk.

We had the desk shipped to Chicago and restored by a friend.

Thus it’s in good shape although it’s basically a cheap post-WWII desk. My father-in-law got it from someone when he set up his business in Munich in the 1950s. The desk is a bit too ornate for my taste, but it’s a sentimental object.

I do like the tulip detail in the cabinet doors.

The desk has a place of honor in our home now, serving as our TV console and storage for office supplies. Those are its functions these days because once we had it in our home, we realized how uncomfortable it was to sit at. We both don’t understand how my husband ever worked at it for days on end!

As I write this, many more things related to that desk pop into my head that I could write about.

We also have the rotary dial phone from that store and the assortment of stamps with which they used to mark business transactions. Look closely at the above photo of the desk, and you’ll spot them on the desk’s middle shelves.