The Wonda-Chair and the Heirloom

Did you as a baby sit in one of these?

Did you buy one for your child?

Image: eBay
Image: eBay

Produced by Babyhood Industries of Shrewsbury, MA, the Wonda Chair was “a do-it-all, all-in-one, convertible wonder. As the seller mentions, the multi-piece furniture/stroller kit mixes and matches to create the following: Hi-chair, youth chair, chair and table, dressing table, desk set, rocking chair, stroller, baby carriage, basinette, and cradle.”

As expectant parents, we fell prey to this marvel and sunk hundreds of dollars into this magnificent wonder, the Wonda Chair. We used it mostly as a high chair and stroller for our children. Later, Crista and Joel pushed each other around on the sidewalk with the stroller base. Here they are improvising their own version of a horse and buggy with a dog and Wonda Chair carriage wheels.

WondaChairCristaJoel

Recently, we have been going through Mother’s things in her attic and came upon this 19th century marvel—a high chair that converts into a baby carriage—hand-made and still serviceable.

MomChairLow

MmChairUp2

Mother was the first daughter in the family after four brothers, so she is the fifth in her family to use the chair. It is vintage, however, and probably handed down to the family from the previous generation, frugal Mennonites who valued quality and heritage.

Mother in high chair, 1918
Mother in the Metzler high chair, 1918

Two wonderful chairs – the Wonda Chair and the heirloom . . .

*  *  *

Your turn: Take your pick – The Wonda Chair or the Vintage chair?

Or tell your tale of special pieces handed down in your family.

 

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29 thoughts on “The Wonda-Chair and the Heirloom

  1. Good morning, Marian! I’ve never heard of the Wonda Chair. The handmade vintage chair is beautiful–what a treasure. It probably would not meet safety standards for today, but it is still beautiful. I like to think of someone making it with joyful thoughts of the baby who would use it.

    We don’t have anything as unique as those pieces. We do have the breakfront that was my mom’s. It wouldn’t fit in her new apartment, and she was happy that someone in the family could take it. And we have the baby grand piano that I grew up using–with the chipped ivory keys. Apparently I did the chipping when I was a child, although I certainly do not remember doing it!

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    1. A breakfront and a baby grand, two substantial pieces. Whether you use the breakfront in your library or dining room, this along with the piano are two heirlooms that nurture the soul. Thanks for starting the conversation today, Merril.

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  2. Oh you touch my heart with this. No, we do not have a wonda chair nor have I heard of one, but I don’t doubt they were probably very popular. My mother has a high chair that served all of us + grandchildren. It’s old, distressed and sits at her Ethan Allen breakfast table. No it’s not going any where nor is she considering painting it as we only remember it in its natural wood state.

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  3. I agree – painting would lessen its value as an antique but also erase the natural wood that you associate with childhood. And it’s situated at her breakfast table, not the attic, a visible reminder of your connection to your past. Thanks, Georgette.

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  4. The wooden piece looks like it is in great shape to have gone through four brothers! What a find? Did you know it was up there? I have never heard of the Wonda chair either and wonder whether people will look back on the mega souped up SUV strollers of today and oogle them with wonder. 🙂 Thanks for these finds. I’ll take the wooden chair, thank you!

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    1. Yes, a total of 6 children in the Metzler family used it and I suspect several in the previous generation though I don’t know the provenance completely. Yes, we knew the chair was up in the attic but didn’t expect to find it recently in such great shape. It has survived decades of PA summers and winters in the attic intact. It doesn’t even squeak!

      Yes, I agree all the gear needed to take small fry places these days is mind-boggling. I remember just slinging a little diaper bag over my shoulder! Well, then there was the Wonda stroller.

      I got your vote, Melodie.

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    1. So far the votes go to the heirloom. I have seen the photo in our piano bench collection many times over the years. Now I’m happy to put the pictures and the chair together. Thanks for the comment – and the tweet, also a nice combination, Laurie.

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  5. These are so cool. I can’t recall the name of it, but a company tried to entice my husband and I to buy a similar contemporary version of this for our kids. We were too poor to consider but took the free steak dinner that we received for attending. I always wished I had a spacious attic for story these fascinating relics.

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    1. We actually couldn’t pay cash either but were wowed by the sales pitch. I think (gasp!) we must have used a payment plan and paid $$ in interest. What suckers we were then. Frugality obviously suffered a lapse that day! Thanks for your point of view as always, Susan.

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  6. My eye lingers on the handmade wooden chair, and, even from my vantage point in California, I can feel the energy that envelops the work of tree and hand.

    At my house, our soundscape includes two ancestral clocks, lovingly restored by my husband. One is from his mother’s family, and it is wound once a week (the Beck clock). The other is wound once a day, a cuckoo clock from his grandfathers’ household (the Siegenthaler clock).

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    1. Your description of the wood-working behind the chair is lovely: “tree and hand” – nature and craft!

      Judging from his name, I’m guessing that your husband is of German-Swiss ancestry, famous for skill in clock making. Obviously, time runs smoothly at your house to the tunes of Beck and Siegenthaler clocks. I have a school-house clock in my kitchen that rings the hour, part of my soundscape. I enjoy your descriptive comments, Dolores.

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      1. How lovely. We purchased a beautiful stand alone bar quite a few years ago from St. Jacobs. 🙂 My husband comes from Mennonite country near St. Jacobs. (About an hour and fifteen minutes northwest of Toronto. 🙂

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  7. What a fun post, Marian! I didn’t have a Wonda Chair, but my mother did inherit a very similar heirloom chair from a great aunt, and it was still in amazing shape. Since we were in high school when Mom inherited it, the chair was used as a plant holder in the garden room, and it was quite a conversation piece.
    But the picture I loved best was of the children improvising the Wonda Chair and having such a good time! Leave it to kids and dogs to recreate stories.

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    1. A plant-holder in the garden room – I can just picture this. Certainly in such an environment, the wood would be properly humidified it would seem.

      When I posted the photo of the my children and dog, it occurred to me that so many kids nowadays have their noses in little Kindles and game-boys that the world of improvising just passes them by. I appreciate your observation, Marylin. Thank you!

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  8. And you got along fine without the Wonda-Chair and the expense of investing in one. The child sitting in the heirloom chair is my mother. My cousin thinks that it may be a gift from her Grandma and Grandpa Landis because she was the first girl after 4 boys. She says it doesn’t look beat up enough to have gone through that many boys. I believe she has a point. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Anita.

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  9. The high chair/baby carriage is so beautiful, Marian. I’ll take it over modern versions any day. You come up with the most interesting things! Thank you for sharing your creativity.

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    1. Thank you for the kind word, Elaine. As I sift through photos, I get interesting ideas Of course, this one came as we started going through Mother’s things in the attic. I had no idea the heirloom chair was so well preserved after so many seasons subjected to hot and cold weather. But it always stayed dry, thank goodness.

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