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Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Antiques Article… The Boys in the Boat

January 18, 2015

I wrote this article as a part of the series that I write for our local newspaper, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletion.  The series focuses on antiques as seen through the focus of our Shady Lawn Antiques business.  This article was published in the late Fall of 2014.

The interior of my George Pocock built cedar racing shell

The interior of my George Pocock built cedar racing shell

The Boys in the Boat – and the George Pocock Wooden Racing Shell

Antiques, fine woodworking, and rowing are three of my great passions and for the most part they are unrelated. However they have recently become intertwined…

The book, ‘The Boys in the Boat’, was recently named as number one on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. It was written by Daniel James Brown. The book tells the story of nine University of Washington rowers and their quest for the Gold Medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

A prominent figure in the book was George Pocock. He was a third generation racing shell (boat) builder. Brown describes that during the 1930’s, Pocock built shells in the UW boathouse and that he was an advisor to the coaches and to the oarsmen.

Pocock was a religious man but he also felt a strong spiritual connection to rowing. By the time that I began rowing in the 1970’s it was evident the rowing community also had a strong connection to Pocock. He was held in such high esteem that when any rower used the single name George, it was automatically assumed to be Pocock.

This summer people began coming into Shady Lawn Antiques to see the Pocock cedar racing shell that is hanging from the ceiling, in the back of the shop. I was a bit puzzled about the sudden interest because the shell had been hanging there for twenty years.

It turned out that there were at least two book clubs in Walla Walla that were reading ‘The Boys in the Boat’.   They were interesting in seeing a racing shell that George Pocock had built… so here is the story of my shell.

I ordered a single scull (one-man racing shell) from Pocock Racing Shells, Seattle in 1974. By that time George’s son, Stan, was in charge of the daily operation of the company. George continued to build the single sculls and he completed mine when he was 83 years old. My scull is one of the last three that George built.

It is made from a single plank of western red cedar that is over 26 ½ feet long. The completed single weighs approximately thirty-five pounds with the seat and riggers (to hold the sculls). The design of the Pocock racing singles was unchanged for over fifty years making my shell appear to be even older than it is.

By the 1980s racing shells were no longer made of varnished wood and an era had passed. In the Antiques World an item tends to be called an “antique” when the design, the method of manufacture, or the construction material changes. By that definition, my cedar single has become an antique and my passions are being woven more closely together.

The single is now forty years old and it has been rowed well over five thousand miles. Even so, the attention to detail and the quality of George’s craftsmanship are still clearly evident. George is/was an inspiration to me not only as a rower but also as a fine woodworker/craftsman.

“for him (Pocock) the craft of building a boat was like religion. It wasn’t enough to master the technical details of it. You had to give yourself up to it spiritually; you had to surrender yourself absolutely to it. When you were done and walked away from the boat, you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart.”
Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Please come into Shady Lawn Antiques and see my George Pocock built, varnished western red cedar, racing shell. It is truly a work of art!

Dave Emigh is the owner of Shady Lawn Antiques and is a fifth generation ‘Walla Wallan’. He writes about antiques and life in the ‘Valley of the Two Wallas’ on his blog:

Notice the humble Pocock Racing Shells decal and sliding wooden seat

Notice the humble Pocock Racing Shells decal and sliding wooden seat

Stan Pocock was 91 years old when he died December 15, 2014.  Less than a month earlier a relative of his came into Shady Lawn to look at antiques and commented on the racing shell.  He told me that his cousin was married to Stan.  He then called his cousin and when Stan was on his cell phone, he handed it to me.  I was fortunate to be able to tell him how impressed the readers of the book are with George, the Pocock family, and their outstanding racing shells.  I told him about the (this) article that I had written.  Stan said that the workers in his shop always called his father Mr. George, out of respect.  He also mentioned that the book was so well written that the race descriptions gave him a tingle of excitement even though he knew the results.

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have had one last conversation with a truly humble and distinguished legend of rowing.


the Colors of Fall in Walla Walla…

November 11, 2014

In the past I have posted an number of photographs from my walks to and from our  store, Shady Lawn Antiques, here in Walla Walla.  This Fall I have been walking around our neighborhood a lot.IMG_4067

The Fall colors in WW are always outstanding but they don’t often last as long as they have this year.  We just had our first frost last night which is a full month later than the average first frost.IMG_4090

The houses in our neighborhood are all well over 100 years old and so are many of the trees.  Mixed in are a number of newer trees that have been planted as future replacements for the stately old trees.  The newer trees are smaller and that makes it easier to get some nice close-up pictures of the leaves.IMG_4126

I hope that you enjoy these pictures.IMG_4174

the Buzz of Bees in Walla Walla in Spring….

May 27, 2014

Earlier this Spring I was taking pictures of the blossoms on our apple tree and a bee flew into the picture frame.  Since then I have noticed a number of bees on my walks to and from Shady Lawn Antiques.

One day I went on a ‘bee hunting safari’ at the Community Garden across the street from SL.  Now I don’t want to get all biological because I’ll just embarrass myself but I noticed that the bees approached each flower differently.  268

They seemed to dart around the small yellow and white flowers and lumber around the purple ones.  That made taking bee pictures different at each plant.  Sometimes I would try to find a bee and follow it as it landed on a flower.  Others times I would focus on the flower and wait for a bee.049

I am especially happy when I can get both a bee in flight and a flower in focus in the same picture.210

It seems logical but I found that the more bees that there were around a plant, the better chance I had to get a good picture.  So I started looking for plants that were attracting a lot of bees.

I never really thought about bee-havior before I went on my ‘bee hunting safari’ .  So a major observation, for me, was that the bees will hone in on any one type of plant for maybe just one or two days.  Then the concentration of bees will buzz off to another plant.274

Well that is more than I knew about bees a couple of weeks ago… I hope that you enjoy the pictures!

Photographing Scenic Walla Walla Valley Vineyards…

May 20, 2014

When I am out in the country or on a farm my camera automatically points at rusty equipment and weathered wood.  This Spring I seem to noticing blooms, blossoms, and scenery more than ever.

Today I had a mid-afternoon appointment to look at some antiques for our store, Shady Lawn Antiques.  After my appointment I grabbed my camera and headed east of Walla Walla toward the foothills.  As you can tell I was able to get some great shots.

This first vineyard is just off of Cottonwood Road.  This is actually the first picture (out of 125) that I took this afternoon.East of WW (23)

We haven’t had significant rain in a week or two so the fields and hills are still green.  Today I noticed green peas, alfalfa, wheat and other grains, and of course grapes.  Soon the natural grasses will begin to turn to yellow.  As for now the foothills of the Blue Mountains almost look like water-color paintings.East of WW (67)

This final picture is just off of Russell Creek Road.  I think that I’ve heard that the American Flag is in a Leonetti Cellars Vineyard.East of WW (14)


Building Furniture with Reclaimed Wood – Aldrich Barn

May 20, 2014

In the fall of 2012, I was asked to write a column/some articles about antiques for our local newspaper, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. I intend to post each column after it is published in the paper, along with some photos that may or may not appear in the paper. 

Here is my latest column on reclaimed wood creations.  Longtime readers may notice that I have addressed this topic and some of the ideas in previous posts.



Building Furniture with Reclaimed Wood – Aldrich Barn


My Harvest Tables are built out of reclaimed wood, which in this case means barn wood.  Throughout the years I have acquired wood from at least six barns.  Most of this wood was from barns that were deconstructed and no longer exist.

2011 Photograph of the Restored Aldrich Barn

My favorite wood came from a barn that was restored by my friend Doug Saturno.  The barn was built in 1864 by the Aldrich brothers near the present town of Dixie in what was then the Washington Territory.  The Aldriches lived in small cabin that was no bigger than a living room.  Their barn was huge by comparison.

During the barn restoration, Doug could not use the barn roof sheathing boards because they were full of nails (as the roof was shingled two or three times).  The sheathing boards were a full one inch thick, 12 to 18 inches wide and they were up to 22 feet long.  It goes without saying, but you can’t get wood that size any more.

One of the great things is that I was able to acquire this wood. The second great thing is that Doug also restored the barn in a historically sensitive manner.  I realize that not everyone is able to restore these old barns.  It is sad to see them crumble to the ground or be torn down.

The Aldrich Barn was built out of old growth Red Fir.  One day I counted the growth rings on the end of one of the extremely wide boards. It appears that the fir trees were growing at the time of the Revolutionary War.

Curved circular saw marks are clearly visible on the surface of the boards.  I measured these marks with a yard stick and determined that they were cut by a six foot diameter saw blade.  While steam powered saws may have been available in the east in 1864, it seems certain that these boards were cut with a water-driven saw mill.  Further adding to this assumption is the fact that Dry Creek flows not 100 yards from the barn’s location.

Over time, this wood has taken on a wonderful amber orange red hue.  The shingle nails rusted and a black ring formed around each nail hole.  When I finish this wood, I sand it smooth but endeavor to leave as many saw marks and as much character as is possible.  I do not use any stain. I just varnish the wood, which enhances the qualities that the wood has taken on over time.

My son, Nick, varnishing a table top...

My son, Nick, varnishing a table top…

I can’t even begin to imagine what life was like when the Aldrich barn was built in 1864, 150 years ago, in the western United States.  Walla Walla was officially established in 1862; it was the largest city in the Washington Territory; bigger than Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane; and the American Civil War would rage on another year.  Telegraph communication with Portland, Oregon would not be established until 1870.  I think that it is safe to say that it was difficult time and place to care for and raise a family!

I feel honored to be able to give a second life to this Aldrich Barn wood.   The Aldriches originally cut this wood to cover the roof of their barn so that they would have something to attach their shingles to.  I’m sure that they could never imagine that one day these boards would be made into tables and benches.

Using this wood for furniture conserves the energy that “Mother Nature” expended in “growing” it and that the Aldriches expended harvesting it and cutting it for their use.  How Green!!!

Dave Emigh is the owner of Shady Lawn Antiques and is a fifth generation ‘Walla Wallan’. He writes about antiques and life in the ‘Valley of the Two Wallas’ on his blog:

Walla Walla in the Spring…

May 14, 2014

The Walla Walla Valley has had the most incredible blooms and blossoms this Spring!  The weather has also cooperated to allow them to linger for a while.

I have been slowly walking to and from Shady Lawn Antiques and taking pictures along the way.  These three photos from the end of April.

Pink Dogwoods may be my favorite blooming tree...

Pink Dogwoods may be my favorite blooming tree…

This Victorian house has a wrap-around porch that anyone would love.

Walla Walla Victorian house

Walla Walla Victorian house

This nice Arts and Crafts Bungalow house that is just up the street.

Craftsman Bungalow house

Craftsman Bungalow house

Walla Walla is still in bloom and is a riot of color!  Please visit us and see for yourself.

Walla Walla Union Bulletin Column on Reclaimed Wood Creations…

March 25, 2014

In the fall of 2012, I was asked to write a column/some articles about antiques for our local newspaper, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. I intend to post each column after it is published in the paper, along with some photos that may or may not appear in the paper. 

Here is my latest column on reclaimed wood creations.  Longtime readers may notice that I have addressed this topic and some of the ideas in previous posts.


Reclaimed Wood Creations – the Walla Walla Harvest Table


I have often been asked how I got started building furniture (and especially harvest tables) out of reclaimed wood. Well I actually began building benches and then progressed from there.

The rough farm bench has historically been the single most requested piece of primitive furniture at Shady Lawn Antiques.  These benches are not easy for me to find.  When I do find them they are dirty, rough, splintery, loose, and are stained by paint and/or oil.

I did so much repair work on each bench that it was essentially the same as building one.  When I couldn’t find enough old benches, I began building them out of reclaimed wood.

Fifteen years ago I sold these benches (and a whole line of other items) at the Walla Walla Farmer’s Market.  A couple admired my benches and asked me if I could build a table to go with them.  I agreed to build them one and told them that if they didn’t like it they didn’t have to buy it.

They loved the table and that was the beginning of a line of tables and benches that I build out of reclaimed wood.  The majority of my pieces are made from historic barn-wood.

The long relatively narrow Harvest Table is an iconic piece of Walla Walla County farm furniture.  These tables were knocked together from whatever old wood was available and handy at the time.  They were used to feed harvest crews that worked the fields back in the 1800′s and 1900′s.  There was nothing special about their construction and after harvest they were knocked apart as quickly as they were knocked together in the first place.  Therefore there are none of these harvest tables around.

The Shady Lawn harvest tables are similar in construction and style to the tables found on local farms. I even use the old style slot-headed screws that are aged to look old. The table tops are sanded just enough to be flat without removing all of the old saw marks and character. A smooth satin varnish finish is then applied to the tables.

Over the past several years I have begun to repurpose old metal carts and tables acquired from farms and factories. The metal bases are cleaned and are then clear coated to prevent rust or old paint from flaking off. Cart or table tops are fashioned from reclaimed wood and are finished like the harvest table tops.

started with an old green painted metal stand...

started with an old green painted metal stand…

A future column will be devoted to a description of the barn wood used in my creations.


Dave Emigh is the owner of Shady Lawn Antiques and is a fifth generation ‘Walla Wallan’. He writes about antiques and life in the ‘Valley of the Two Wallas’ on his blog: