The Orange Couch

August 17, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Fancy Shmancy, Life 

Michele, of A Small Victory, has posted an article on retro fashions coming around again – particularly ponchos. That leads me to believe that it’s time for the story of my Orange Couch.
(It helps that I’m listening to the 80’s channel off the net.)

The Orange Couch

In the very early 90’s, I had just graduated from college where I lived in the dorms. I was living in an apartment that was the converted 2nd floor of a Cape Cod in Fairlawn, NJ. The owners had installed locking doors between the hallway and their two first-floor front rooms, and a locking door at the top of the stairs for the upstairs apartment. There was a full bath upstairs, a little kitchen, and two big rooms with window air conditioners. The old husband downstairs was a nice guy and good landlord – unfortunately he died three weeks after I moved in and his wife was a real pain in the neck.

Since I was just out of school, I had no furniture. My bed was a twin from my parents – the same one I’d had since I was 5 years old (I have it again in my guest room now). My dresser was bought from a neighbor for $10. My desk was also from Dad – the one he had at college.

I needed some living room furniture. Luckily, my boss had a couch and loveseat set that he wanted to get rid of. I said I’d go to his house to look at it and take it if it was acceptable.

So, one Saturday afternoon, my father and I took the 1974 Gran Torino Station Wagon (the wagon version of Starsky & Hutch’s ride – I’ll do a story on that car sometime – the picture is correct except that it’s a 1973 and ours was brown) up to his house in Nanuet, NY.

We entered the room where the couch was kept, and discovered that they were ORANGE. Bright, flaming orange velvet. The upholstery was a little worn, but otherwise they were in great shape. Rather than look a gift horse in the mouth, we took them.

The Gran Torino wagon was a trooper – we fit the couch inside with the back window rolled down, and tied the loveseat on top. We drove it to my apartment.

We got the loveseat up the narrow stairs, around the tight corner into the tiny hallway, and into the living room. Then, we started on the couch. We got to the top of the stairs and found that the couch was long enough that it didn’t fit through the doorway upright. It didn’t even fit on a diagonal – the ceiling was very low. The hall was so tight that we couldn’t even go in horizontally. The couch was a loss.

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It was another week or so before we were ready to do the dis-/re-assembly. We carefully pulled out the upholstery staples and peeled it back from one end of the couch. We found that the end was attached to the frame by three supports – one at the top of the back and two at the front and back of the bottom. If we cut through them, we’d be fine. So, we peeled even more upholstery back from the end to expose the side of those pieces of wood and then we were ready.

I can’t remember now whether we used a power tool or a saw, but we cut through the supports carefully. Once all three were cut, we then reassembled the end and drilled holes. We installed 5-inch lag bolts into the holes and tightened them down. My father did a really good job – he even countersunk the bolt heads so that we didn’t have them sticking out.

Once this was complete, we took it apart again and loaded up the wagon again. Off to the apartment, and up the stairs. In two pieces, the couch made it into the living room. We then re-bolted and stapled the upholstery down again. The couch was once again complete.

At the end of the lease, I’d had enough of my crazy landlady. I moved to a “garden” apartment in a worse neighborhood on the Bergenfield/Teaneck border – near the Teaneck National Guard armory. This was a borderline bad neighborhood – at one point I had to call the police for domestic abuse in the apartment next door. There was no parking, either – to get your reserved parking place you had to be home by 7 or 8pm.

We took the couch apart carefully, moved it to the new apartment, and re-assembled it. That was the last move I ever made with the Gran Torino wagon – it was mercifully donated to the Jewish Heritage Federation for the Blind the next year as a tax writeoff after a total brake failure on Route 17 – at the grand age of 18 and over 130,000 miles. The couch was put back together again for good – the new apartment didn’t require it to be in pieces for moving.

The couch and loveseat stayed with me for a while longer. I moved them to my one-bedroom Hamilton, NJ apartment where it remained for 16 months. Then, it moved to my house (which I’ve now owned for almost 9 years). It stayed in the family room for about 6 months until we got 2 new couches. It was then left out at the curb and the loveseat kept in the living room of our 4 bedroom house until we finally got around to getting better furniture for that room.

The couch wasn’t dead yet. Our house was bought brand-new – and the neighborhood was still being completed. The site manager’s office was the garage of the house across the street and we discovered that the couch hadn’t been picked up by the township – the builders had grabbed it to use in their office.

My boss and I were able to trace the couch’s lineage – I was the 5th known owner. It had been passed around from formerly-single person now-married to a new single person since it’s creation (presumably in the 70’s). It was a really comfortable couch for snoozing! My new couches were chosen to match the shape and feel of this ancient wonder.

I wonder where it is now …..