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A Simple Childhood Desk

December 12, 2020

Another Way for week of December 4, 2020

A Christmas Present for Your Kids or Grandkids?

My two first grader grandsons both have small and simple desks now at their homes.

I’m envious. I’m thrilled for them, NOT because of the corona virus which at this point means they’re learning by Zoom (and other forms of technology) instead of in classrooms, but because I know how much I would have loved to have a desk at home.

My father, a farmer, had a desk and I guess that is what made me wish I had one as a child. We loved playing school and sometimes would use his desk as a teacher’s desk (careful to clean it up afterwards of course!). I didn’t even mind helping him clean it out occasionally because there was just something neat and organized about his desk.

Eventually Daddy made a cupboard in the dining room for us to hang up our coats and hats, with drawers at the bottom. We four kids each had a personal drawer for desky type of stuff: crayons, pencils, scissors, glue, school papers. And then we studied either at the dining room or kitchen table, or sometimes in the living room or our bedrooms. But none of us had desks.

Then before my senior year of high school, we moved to north Florida. I was excited, not only to be a “new girl in school,” but to have a room of my own for which I got to choose new bedroom furniture. My two older sisters had shared a bedroom, and then my middle sister and I shared it. But the bedroom suite was deemed too old and rickety to move to Florida. Soon after moving we went to a furniture store in a nearby city and I got to pick out my bed, dresser, and chest of drawers.

But I still wanted a desk. I think Mom and Dad said if I paid for it myself, I could have a desk. I worked some at babysitting and housecleaning, so it was not unreasonable for them to say I would need to pay for it myself.

I’m not sure if I picked out the cheapest desk I could find in the store, or in a catalog: it had only one drawer and it was triangular in shape to fit in the empty corner I had in my moderately sized bedroom.

My corner desk in my bedroom in Florida–the only photo I have of it!

Whatever, I was ecstatic to set up my own desk, with a lamp and stuff in the single drawer. I’m sure it cost less than $80 (1969).

A local teacher, Laura-Paige Keller poses with desks made by her father-in-law.

So I especially appreciated an article in our local paper, the Daily News Record, about a teacher who noticed her students mostly did not have desks to use for their class work at home via Zoom. Megan Williams, a reporter for our newspaper quoted Laura Paige Keller saying her students were often “laying on their beds during Zoom lessons, or on the floor. They clearly lacked a proper desk with which to learn.”

Laura mentioned this lack to her father-in-law who came up with a simple design where he could build desks out of plywood quite rapidly. The top of the desk is a simple box with an open side, and four legs, well-sanded. The school sent out a survey to families to find out who might need or want one. Forty-three families responded and Mr. Keller contacted a Lowes store to see if they might give him a deal on plywood (which was $48 a sheet at that time). In a couple weeks Lowes came through donating nine sheets of plywood for the project. Later Keller also built and offered small stools for the children.

Daily News Record photo showing desks and stools up close.

“It was so sweet to see their smiles,” said teacher Laura. “The parents were also overjoyed and grateful.”

Which brings me to suggest that even if you don’t have building skills, someone you know might be able to build a simple desk (I’ll share a photo on my blog of the desks). Or purchase an inexpensive one? What a great Christmas present for some child!

A writer’s haven at home.


Did you have a desk as a child, or other favorite place you could do homework?

How about now: Do you have a desk or would you rather curl up in a chair or on the couch?

How are your children or grandchildren coping with their classes and school work? I’d love to hear!

Comment here or write to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. The desk you had as a school-girl pictured here reminds me of the desk I studied on during my high school years. It was actually an end-table, small with no drawers. I believe I wrote about it in my memoir – or perhaps in a blog post. When the dining room got too noisy or crowded with stuff during the week, I retreated upstairs to my shared bedroom and an improvised desk.

    I love the desk I have now with multiple drawers, one section a filing cabinet and also a pull-out panel that anchors projects I’m working on now. Best of all, it overlooks a window with a view of oaks and pines, green space.

    For a while this year, all four grands were at home at the computer, learning virtually. Now they are all back in school, at this point with no adverse effects. They attend classes masked and with plexiglass partitions. Fingers-crossed! 🙂

  2. Oh, thanks for sharing about your grandchildren’s school situation–Do they each have a plexiglass partition? Do they stay in the same classroom all day or move around? I’m curious.

    I’m glad my old desk (boy I had to scrounge for that single picture) brought back some clear memories, but glad that both you and I have better desks now. The one I’m now using in my ‘office’ was given to me (on loan) from my daughter. It is quite adequate and I love having a room where I can really focus on what I’m writing –and like you I enjoy the scenery:- over a field (often with deer and birds) and our woods, and the green hills beyond. (But I envy your Florida views–and the smells of pines!)

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