It was one of those massive steel desks the telephone company bought by the hundreds back in the 1950s. It was painted beige, and somewhere along the line, someone added a wood-grain Formica top to it.

I came to own it years later when the phone company was dismantled and they sold off or gave away desks and other office furnishings. For years it sat in my garage as a workbench. Later, when I built a new bench, it wound up in the back yard sitting under a tarp. Finally I moved it into my office/studio where I loaded it with tools, art and office supplies and various odds and ends that I couldn’t find any other place for.

Overall it had weathered endless hard use and neglect. It had survived snow, rain, fog and that intense humid heat that only the Midwest can generate in the summer. Despite such abuse, it showed only minimal damage. A little surface rust and some chipped Formica. The drawers slid in and out easily, the legs were solid and the top remained firm. It was as close to indestructible as I have ever seen.

Yet, when I finally built that dandy gee-whiz new furniture I had always wanted for the studio, the old desk was dispossessed once again. At first, I thought about selling it, but after a few second thoughts, decided to stick it in the front lawn with a “FREE” sign on it. It had served me well. I figured it could do as much for someone else. I thought it would be gone in a day.

Two weeks later it was still there. A couple of people had stopped and taken a look, but ultimately walked away shaking their heads. Nobody wanted it. The truth was it was a dinosaur, a useless and cumbersome relic from a bygone age. Sort of like the manual typewriter that probably graced its top when it was new.

Or a Linotype machine, one of those pachyderm-size old hot-metal typesetting machines that newspapers used to use to set columns of type for the daily edition. I’ve often wondered if there is a Linotype graveyard somewhere where all those machines went at the end of their lives.

Finally, I realized the old desk was doomed. With as much reverence as I could muster for an outdated piece of furniture that tipped the scales at over 200 pounds, I began to dismantle it. After removing about five pounds of screws, it stood in pieces. The larger chunks I then cut up with a Sawzall and a metal-cutting blade.

In about an hour the whole shebang was reduced to a stack of odd metal pieces waiting at the curb to be hauled away to the landfill. Maybe some archeologist from the future will dig it up one day and marvel at how well it was constructed.

Before administering its last rites, I got on the Internet and checked out its history. Turns out it was called a Quad Leg Tanker Desk, and it was built by GF Office Furniture probably in the later 1940s or 50s. The company was originally known as General Fireproofing Company which got its start building steel filing cabinets.

I found a lot of Web sites offering the desks to anyone who would give them a good home. I wish them luck.





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