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The Old Ubiquitous Sofa Bed

3 mins read

By Lee Scott

When I was a child and we would have company over at our house, my mother would pull out a set of sheets, a blanket, and two pillows and prepare the sofa bed where our guests could sleep. I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine told me she had been visiting relatives and had to sleep on a sofa bed. She said that the bed was as uncomfortable as I might remember. 

It has been years since I have thought about sofa beds. Were they even made anymore? The one we had when I was little was a brown couch with two long cushions. It seemed such a miracle to watch my mother transform the couch into a bed. If you recall, the mattresses had to be smaller than the average mattress to allow for the bed to be stuffed into the couch. That meant that the sheets never quite fit the mattress. Often in the morning, we would find a guest wrapped up like a mummy as the sheets and blanket came unraveled.  

A disadvantage for us kids was we had to keep quiet until our guests woke up. But fortunately, they did not sleep long because most people would feel the springs in the bed coming through the three-inch mattress and wake up with aches and pains. 

Through the years, the sofa beds have gotten a little better and the last one I had in my house was somewhat comfortable. The only problem was that for the sofa bed to become more comfortable, the manufacturer had to use heavier wood and stronger springs along with a thicker mattress. Consequently, it took four strong men to move the couch. We opted to let our sofa bed go with our last house when we sold it. The real estate listing read: Sofa bed included with house. 

Nowadays we use air mattresses when company arrives. The beds inflate automatically with electric pumps and there is no need to use a bicycle pump. The new air mattresses are marketed using descriptions like “comfort plush” and “luxury raised.” They are large, comfortable and easy to store and a far cry from the sleeping option my parents used. Now, our visitors enjoy staying longer. 

Which brings me back to an old saying credited to Ben Franklin, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Maybe those old sofa beds had a real purpose after all. Like my friend said, after a few days on that sofa bed, she could not wait to get back home to her own bed. Could that be the whole idea? Maybe it is time for us to go couch shopping again.  

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