The Highchair by
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For my first baby, I wanted a safe, sturdy, and attractive wooden highchair. Instead, I was gifted an unsafe, flimsy, and frankly ugly aluminum one purchased with green stamps. Granted, safety standards were lax in 1971. But even I, a young, newbie mother, recognized that a thin plastic seatbelt would not keep my squirmy, skinny baby from sliding out of that chair. If he succeeded, he would easily choke himself on the tray table or seat belt.

I was gifted an unsafe, flimsy, and frankly ugly aluminum highchair purchased with green stamps.

I cried when that chair was gifted to me because I knew I was stuck with it. My mother-in-law was frugal by necessity and collected green stamps. Having redeemed a few of those books myself for small items, I knew the chair that ostensibly came from my sister-in-law was an un-returnable green stamp special. I also knew I was stuck with it, both because she would notice if I didn’t use it and because we could not afford to buy another one.

My inelegant solution was to crochet a crotch strap with a pouch for the seat belt and attach it to the bottom of the chair. At least my little guy was secure in the chair until he grew old enough to rock it back and forth. At that point, I bought him a booster seat. Who knows how safe that was, but at least I got to choose what I wanted.

I don’t remember what highchair we purchased when the next baby arrived. At least we could afford something safe as we had an income. Back in 1971, we were living off of my teacher’s pension fund and my husband’s summer job as a doctor at Marshall Fields department store. I do understand how green stamps helped people with limited means acquire things they needed. Still, every time I used that highchair, I felt sad and disappointed. Happily, my son survived and thrived despite that flimsy green stamp highchair.

Along with crocheting that safety strap, I made him this sweater

 

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Laurie, this story is both sad and up-lifting. Despite the necessity of taking the flimsy high chair that wasn’t safe, nor what you wanted, you made do and improvised a way of keeping your baby safe with a clever crocheted “crotch guard”. I think a whole generation of women licked those S&H Green Stamps, some out of necessity, some because they enjoyed the bonus gifts they could claim from them.

    And I just love that sweater you made for your son. You are very talented!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      That sweater was the end of my knitting career. I did understand that they redeemed those stamps for things they couldn’t afford, but I was still sad that I was “gifted” an unreturnable chair, especially for my first baby.

  2. Suzy says:

    Sorry you ended up with a highchair you hated that came from Green Stamps. Sounds like you made it work though, with a crocheted safety strap that kept your son from sliding out. I’m surprised that the seatbelt that came with the chair didn’t have a crotch strap, even way back then (although that wouldn’t solve the problem of “ugly”). And thanks for adding the pic of him in that fabulous “J” sweater, you are really talented!

  3. Wow, clever solution Laurie, and that highchair does look flimsy! But love the sweater!

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    Of course you wouldn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings Laurie,, and would come up with a creative way to make the chair safer and better. I have felt ungrateful for presents and that guilty feeling is at least as painful as any distress from the gift itself. Wonderful pictures!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks for understanding, Khati. I almost never return gifts, even things I don’t really want or need. Strong guilt genes. Still, that was my first baby and I’m sure I cried after they left but pretended to like it when they were there.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    A reminder that most of the “rewards” from those trading stamps were pretty cheap in every sense. It was one reason why my mother — who had great taste and was also a snob — was never interested in them. Indeed, I believe that most of their merchandise was excess that the manufacturers couldn’t sell. And, in fact, that practice is not over yet. Even a good deal of the “rerwards” that American Express offers these days from its points program (especially electronics), though clearly more upscale than the trading stamps companies’ stuff, are for models that the manufacturers are discontinuing. I assume AmEx gets them all at an incredible discount.

    All that said, as others have noted, your story is both sad in terms of soci-economic conditions and uplifting in terms of your solution. And it’s amazing that you still have a picture of that high chair.

    Two final points. First, may I assume that that adorable sweater was based on the Chicago Bears’ original jersey? And second, I never thought I’d read the term “crochet a crotch strap.” Masterful!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      LOL, John! I don’t remember if my son’s sweater was based on the Bears, but it’s possible. Our socio-economic condition was temporary, the result of poor planning of my pregnancy and my husband’s low-paying summer job before he started his residency (for which he was paid a decent salary). Within a few years, he was a physician and we had no more money woes. But I do have great empathy for people who are not so fortunate and have to rely on bonus programs like Green Stamps to get poorly made items.

  6. i think we found that same chair in the “Swap Shop” (that our town maintains) a few years ago and used it when one of our grandkids was very young. I hope the parents didn’t feel he was unsafe and were afraid to say so! You have reminded me that, whatever we bought with Green stamps, we soon realized were more satisfying in the contemplation than in actually receiving and using the product.

    Related to high chairs: I was very impressed in about 1994 when I was working with Head Start (as an independent trainer and producer/director of a training film; i never actually was employed by them). I learned from the staff that they no longer believed in (or even allowed the use of) high chairs–not the one depicted and not the better ones either. They believed only in LOW CHAIRS. This wasn’t a matter of safety: as you indicate, one can design and. manufacture a safe high chair. But the low chair promotes the toddler’s sense of autonomy, which becomes even more important in a group setting where a child may not get instant attention as needed from an adult. They can get into the low chair or leave it on their own, without fear of an accident. It changes the attitude about eating as well, making it less regimented and more of an individual’s decision (e.g, to take a few spoonfuls, then go toddling around, come back and eat a bit more). I say this not so much for your benefit but for the thousands of Retrospect readers who haven’t worked in early childhood education, and who are no doubt assiduously following our discussions.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Dale, that’s very interesting. I never knew about low chairs because the children at my preschool were old enough to use those small blue plastic chairs that matched the height of the kid-sized tables we used. Maybe we are talking about the same thing? I became a firm believer in safe booster chairs after my son fell off a pile of phone books at my in-law’s house when he was two and broke his collar bone. It’s amazing how much safety has improved since then.

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