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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Badger History: not just any little black box

Today our family had a very interesting lunch.  A family heirloom was brought out that, while the monetary value is very little, the item couldn't have been a more interesting & valuable treasure to Badger Paddles and the great-granddaughter of Sidney Badger, Fiona.

This family heirloom was a little black box filled with memories.

It was a wonderful afternoon spent listening to Sidney's daughter (and Fiona's grandmother) Glady, reminisce about her childhood remembering how her father, Sidney Badger, would carry his little black box to the streetcar stop in travel to downtown Toronto, where he worked as a touch-up artist for RCA Victor Radios and Yollie's Furniture.  

"Imagine," Glady said, "he made his whole living for his family from that little black box.  He fed and clothed and housed us 4 children, even during the Great Depression."

She even fondly recalled the "little coloured sticks" that looked like plastic.  These shellac sticks when put under heat, would instantly melt - basically acting as a dent filler which would instantly harden when cooled.  A lost art, the shellac sticks are less available today due to the skills required to use this method and the expense of a burning knife and oven.  Today it is much more popular to use "wood filler".

Interestingly enough,  the box was used by all 3 generations of the men of Badger & Son.    Sidney, his son Don Badger and later his grandson, Mike, all carried on the tradition of bringing the little black box into customer's homes to provide "touch-up" work on their fine furniture and antiques.  This service was used for customer pieces that had a small amount of damage to their furniture's finish and did not need to be fully refinished.

A fine art, touching up the finish on furniture is a very difficult job.  Finishes had to be mixed to be exact thereby ensuring the damaged area was invisible to the eye.  It takes a fine eye for colour and a steady hand to ensure a professional touchup job. Colours and lacquers were mixed on the spot until the artist was satisfied with the match.  Sometimes faux grain had to be "painted" in as well if the damaged finish area was a littler larger then usual.

When Don Badger left the family business in the 80's to his nephew Mike, the only thing he took from the business upon his departure was "Grampa's little black box".

The box was not seen again until recently and upon the passing of Uncle Don where it was located in a garden shed by the family.

"There is was..." Mike recalled over a meal of fish & chips, "under a bench on the floor and hidden by a roll of carpet and tarpaper.  But as soon as I saw it  I recognized it.... I knew it was Grampa's little black box.".

Mike (a.k.a. Poppa Badger) quickly saved the box to ensure it was not overlooked or thrown away.  Thankfully, Mike is a great collector of local history, and was happy to give the box a protected home so that the memories of Grandpa Badger's little black box could be shared with future generations and you, our valued customer.  This box was not only filled with articles from the past, but also with family stories, which are the greatest heirloom of all.
For more history on Sidney (see black and white picture) or Badger & Son, please visit the Badger & Son website's History page.

BADGER UPDATE:  December 12/09
Just this week Fiona received an unexpected phone call from Poppa Badger where he generously and respectfully offered to pass Great Grampa's little black box to her.  Overwhelmed and overjoyed... Fiona accepted the gift that her father was so graciously willing to share with her.  Thank you Poppa Badger!!!  The little black box has been given another loving home and it will be cherished there, always.

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