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Furniture revival of a golden oldie, golden oak, proves hit in salesroom

Six years ago, just as the 1976 Bicentennial celebration was getting under way, the Pulaski Furniture Corporation of Pulaski, Va., introduced a nostalgic group of golden oak furniture called ''Keepsakes.''

It looked remarkably like those pieces of furnishings that, for many years, people had been judging old fashioned and out of date and systematically tossing out of their attics and basements.

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But designer Leonard Eisen had simply decided, with company president Bernard C. Wampler, that it was time to revamp and recycle many of those golden oldies that our grandparents and great grandparents had chosen with delight from their Larkin, Sears, and Montgomery Ward stores.

The ongoing success of the Keepsakes group is being demonstrated by the fact that this month Pulaski's producer will ship the millionth piece of this furniture which saw its heydey at the turn of the century. This, Pulaski reckons , will set an industry record for those companies that produce wooden case goods for all rooms of the house. No such manufacturer has ever yet sold 1 million units of a single collection.

Over $300 million worth of Keepsakes furniture has been sold at retail, or enough to fill 10,000 40-foot railroad freight cars that would stretch from New York to Philadelphia, or from Chicago to Milwaukee.

Mr. Wampler concedes that even his optimistic appraisal of the group when it was introduced in the spring of 1976 hardly envisioned consumer acceptance that would establish an industry milestone. He says the collction has appealed to people in all economic walks of life, including Pittsburgh Steelers star quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who bought a house full of it, and a former governor of Texas, Dolph Briscoe, who furnished his ranch house with it.

The executive says the Keepsakes type of furniture was first thought of a century ago by architect-designer-author Charles Eastlake, whose widely read book, ''Hints on Household Taste,'' set the stage for America's initial love for golden oak furniture.

Does the popularity of Keepsakes pieces represent a desire on the part of many customers to turn back the clock and live in the past? ''Probably,'' the Pulaski president says. ''They certainly evoke associations and memories of a more simple era, when the stresses of a complicated society were unheard of as we know them today.''

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