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The end of an American (and Carolina) tradition

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One of my two Carolina Porch Rockers, on my back deck

The North Carolina company that made the famous Kennedy Rockers is going out of business. Last month, the P&P Chair Co. of Asheboro, North Carolina, said that it’s closing after 82 years. Partly it was the recession, and partly it was the death of Bill Page Jr., son of one of the founders of the company.

John F. Kennedy bought some of P&P’s rocking chairs in 1955 after Kennedy’s doctor recommended the chairs for Kennedy’s back. The doctor’s belief, the story goes, was that the rocking chair helped relax the back muscles because it kept the muscles in motion. The chairs became famous when Kennedy became president and took one of the chairs to the Oval Office in the White House. The chair has often been called the most famous chair in America. My grandmother had one of these chairs.

There were two basic models — the indoor chair with a woven seat and back, and the porch rocker. The chairs are identical except for the seat and back.

About 10 years ago, I wanted to buy rocking chairs as a gift to my mother, for her porch. When I told my older sister that I was looking for heirloom-quality rockers and asked her what I should buy, she responded immediately that I should get the Carolina Porch Rocker from P&P. She knew, though I did not, that the Carolina Porch Rocker was the same chair as the Kennedy rocker. Before I started construction on my new house, my mother let me know that she was giving the chairs back to me for the new house.

The chairs really are made to last a lifetime or longer. My chairs have a bit of patina from sitting on a porch, but they’re just as tight and sturdy as when they were new. All these chairs have the P&P label stamped underneath the chair’s arm. The chairs were never cheap, and though they’re not rare, I imagine that their value just went up considerably because of P&P’s closing. I’m even thinking of permanently bringing one of my chairs indoors to sit near the fireplace.

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The P&P stamp on one of my chairs

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John F. Kennedy in a Kennedy Rocker

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William Page Jr., who died in November (AP)

I’m lucky to have two of these chairs. They are symbols of a different era, and trophies from North Carolina’s lost golden age of manufacturing.

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