Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Chester Drawers

I say chester drawers. Do you say chest of drawers?

Over the weekend my cousin said she had a word for me-chester drawers. She said her husband told her he was in his 20s before he knew there wasn’t any such thing as a chester drawers.

As soon as she told me the story, I said “well I know it isn’t the correct name-but that’s exactly what I say chester drawers.”

I happen to love my chester drawers. The one in the photo-came from the first bedroom set Granny and Pap ever had-now it’s mine.

I googled chester drawers just to see what came up. Seems it’s one of the 100 most mis-pronounced words. So the use of the word is probably very common beyond the Southern Appalachian Mountains too.

So is it chester drawers for you?


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Chip D.
    August 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Always said chester drawers. The dresser was the thing with the mirror. Love reading your posts! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 16, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Yep! I’ve always called it that.

  • Reply
    Kent Lockman
    August 13, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I have heard “chester drawers” but never used it myself. However when we were young kids, grandmother, to keep us out of her flower beds, would tell us to go play ball in the “bacon lot across the road”. It was empty except for grass so it was a bacon lot. Keep the great articles coming. Thanks. Kent Lockman

  • Reply
    August 11, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Growing up, it was “chester drawers”. I guess the grandparents said it and most of the parents. Seems to have faded away, thanks for reminding me!

  • Reply
    August 10, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    I grew up saying chester drawers too but now I say dresser.
    When I was in college I made a huge effort to change how I talked – my grammar & WV slang. I still have my accent well over 20 yrs after leaving the state. I often have people ask me where I’m from or say ‘You aren’t from around here are you?’ Even though I’ve lived here over 20 yrs. :o)
    I was dating my husband & he laughed at my accent when I said roof. He really laughed when I said spigot. I couldn’t think of the word faucet to explain what I meant & he had never heard spigot before.
    Now I can’t remember many of the words I tried so hard to stop saying & I’m sad that my son has never heard most of them.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Chester drawers for me. Drawers is what we called underwear! haha! My husband makes fun of me for saying “Fly swatter” instead of fly swat. (the comment about waspers reminded me!)We also said chiferobe.

  • Reply
    August 9, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Oh, this is a great word!I guess I saw it written out after I was reading, to know that it was “chest of” instead of “chester”, or “chest-a”. Now, I just say “chest”, usually, since it seems like a lot of words, anyway. A dresser was the one, shorter,often wider, with or without a mirror, which should match your “chester drawers”. I learned “bureau” much later.
    My grandmother (orig. Alabama) used “chiffarobe” for a free-standing wardrobe; but she never owned one in my lifetime.This is also used in the book and film, “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Alabama).

  • Reply
    Barbara Johnson
    August 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Chester Drawers in Michigan …oh wait maybe since my folks both have Kentucky roots I can’t speak for Michigan!!!

  • Reply
    August 9, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Yep, it’s Chester drawers here in southwestern PA.

  • Reply
    August 9, 2011 at 6:53 am

    Ethel-I have heard the word-and if you read the comments-a lot of other folks have too : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Brenda S 'Okie in Colorado'
    August 9, 2011 at 4:40 am

    I grew up saying chester drawers because that is what I heard from my grandparents. It wasn’t until I grew up and moved away, that I found out the correct name.
    Among other words: warsh-wash; my Mom pronounced sausage as sarsage. My Granny called a large cooking pot a stewer.
    Always love your posts.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    I grew up hearing chester drawers – we are just across the Ohio river from West Virginia – but it seems to be falling out of usage now. I call it a dresser myself. We also called wardrobes shift robes, though I can’t for the life of me imagine why. Have you ever heard that one?

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Nope, I say “bureau.” ;o)
    But I know what you mean. One of our grandmas said “chester drawers;” the other just said “drawers.”
    Ever know anyone who called a refrigerator a “Frigidaire” or “ice box”?
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    August 8, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Yep! We have chester drawers too. (I grew up in Meadows of Dan VA.)
    We had a dresser, which always included drawers with a mirror attached. The chester drawers did not have a mirror.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    August 8, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Oh my! I should have “googled it” first. It is a chiferobe. (smile)

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    August 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Most definitely chester drawers. I do recall my grand-ma saying dresser sometimes. Also have you heard of a (my spelling is not close) shift a robe ? It was tall and had two doors with drawers on one side and a place to hang clothes on the other.??

  • Reply
    Rose C.
    August 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Yes it is! Love the stories!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    August 8, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Chester drawers all my life. Granny had a I think two very tall, very dark colored items called chifferobes–they were so big & dark they gave me the creeps especially as they were in the bedroom with some great big old family photographs where everyone is so solemn.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    August 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Absolutely, I say chester drawers. Anything else sounds funny to me since that’s all I’ve ever heard it called.

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    August 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Our chester drawers are hand-made, primitive antiques… walnut and the other poplar.
    It’s what we have always said.

  • Reply
    Debora Kerr
    August 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I love these posts about alternate vocabulary. I have never heard “chester drawers” and no one in my clan ever said “chest of drawers” either. Any piece of furniture that held clothing was called a “dresser” regardless of whether it had a mirror or not.

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    August 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    This brings back many memories of chester drawers. I recall we used this expression when I grew up in the BLue Ridge Mountains.
    Your interview by Glenda Beall was great.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Yes, that is what my family called them. We also called the larger cabinets you hang cloths in a “chiff robe”. My mother had a cousin who called a refridgerator a “fridgidair” because that was the brand name of the first refridgerator he owned. Until someone at work told me there was no such thing as a wasper that is what I called a wasp. I bet I’m not the only one that says “wasper”

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Chuckle!! I love these words used by country people. We’re special!!

  • Reply
    Mel H.
    August 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    What about the “shif-robe”? Or the “thunder mug”?
    Mel H.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Chester Drawers has always been a part of our family along with Hope Chest. These days Chester – who was born in about 1880 – is filled with tablecloths and lace doilies while Hope is filled with the memories for my children.
    – Laurie

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 10:52 am

    We always say dresser, like someone above mentioned. But I have heard chest of drawers. chester drawers makes a lot of sense to me, too!

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I never realized that I was saying chester drawers, but I was. Too funny!

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I’ve heard folks call ’em Chester
    Drawers most of my life, but never
    thought much about it. I just think of it usually as a chest with a looking glass or maybe that
    would be called a dresser. I don’t
    know, its been so hot this summer
    I get dressed wherever the air
    conditioner blows best…Ken

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 9:43 am

    well, i learned something new about myself, i do say chester drawers and did not realize it until i read this. when i write it i would write chest of drawers and i know that is what it is but i do say chester

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Yes, this is very familiar to me. With eight children and two adults there was a need for several chester drawers in our home. That’s the only name I ever heard them called until I was an adult.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 9:17 am

    When I was growin’ up my Mom called it a “dresser”. I was about 11 yrs old when kids started making fun of how we said drawer. It was draw for drawer and tolet for toilet. I was determined to say it the way the other kids did, so as to not be made fun of.
    My mom is Portuguese and they tend to have a Boston like accent. The letter “R” is non existent unless it’s in the beginning of a word. Garlic is gawlic, car is caw. The letters “th” is another issue for her, thursday is tursday, then is den, that is dat and so on.
    She also puts the accent on a lot of words in the wrong place. I have yet to learn how to correct that. There are still a lot of words I say incorrectly due to that and my daughter laughs about it. I usually just laugh along and say, it could be worse… I could talk moa like my mada 😉

  • Reply
    Mary Jane Plemons
    August 8, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I well remember a big argument/discussion in the first grade about this. Our teacher spoke like a yankee, of all things, since she was from Maryland! She was also beautiful and younger than the other teachers, and I idolized her. I went home pronouncing some words like she did, and my Daddy straightened me right out! I still say “chestadrawers”.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Dresser for me too, though I know chester drawers. But I think I’ll start using chester drawers, sounds nicer!

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    August 8, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Thanks for this post. Reminds me of when I bought a chest of drawers at an auction once. On my receipt, the clerk had written “chester drawers”! First time I had seen it in print.

  • Reply
    Carol Isler
    August 8, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Dear Tipper, I was just thinking about the term chester drawers the other evening on the porch while I was reading a short story by Robert Morgan. He had written “chest of drawers” and I wondered why he didn’t write chester drawers, but figured it was because it wasn’t dialog, but rather narration. Momma says it, Daddy said it, Papa said it, Memaw said it, I say it, we all say it, but we know it’s “chest of drawers” spelled out.
    Now I think I must give one of my characters an opportunity to say chester drawers.
    Dear Miss Cindy, I love reading the local Craigslists for that very reason, especially the farm section.

  • Reply
    grandpa Ken
    August 8, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Tipper I grew up saying that and still do. I know what it is, doesn’t matter at my age if some folks use the [other] words notice I didn’t say correct. I grew up 350 miles south of you in the flatlands of Georgia.
    I was on a dirt road the other day that was named Tipper RD so you have one road with you name on it in south Ga.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 8:27 am

    We definitely say “Chester drawers” in south Alabama!

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Definitely, Chester Drawers is the tall piece, Dresser has the mirror, and the fancy dresser is the Bureau or Bureaur. There is also the Night Stand between the beds. My mama’s bedroom still has a double bed and a single bed in the same room.
    If Mama wants something quick, she’ll say its on the chest but I know she means the chester drawers.
    At her house, one bedroom is always dark and cool and the other bedroom is always open and light. (I’m glad that somethings never change.)

  • Reply
    Vera Guthrie
    August 8, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Chester Drawers it is!! If it had a mirror we called it a dresser. But if it was tall and no mirror it was a Chester Drawer. Brought back a great memory Thanks!!!

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    August 8, 2011 at 8:18 am

    To me a dresser is a thing with drawers and a big mirror in it. Chester Drawers (yes, I say chester drawers though I know it is really a chest of drawers!) but they are tall things with just drawers in it. One day when my son was really small I said, “get your yo-yo out of your drawers and put it back in your toy box.” His face got real red and he said, “how did you know I was taking that to school?!” He had tried to sneak out with a yo yo to take to school, and where had he decided to hide it?… in his drawers! (undershorts!) haha! And there is you another word for “do you call it this, or that blogs?” haha!

  • Reply
    Wayne Newton
    August 8, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Tipper, as a very young boy,I remember a clothespress in our cabin.
    With just three rooms, built in 1887, closets were not a consideration; we used every square inch in it for living.
    Papa’s “city living sisters”, said chifferrobe; no matter, it was the place where our church going clothes were hung up.
    I don’t remember where we put our every day work clothes; with times being so hard, we probably didn’t have but one or two changes.
    Mama did get a Kenmore wringer washer the year after the REA brought us electricity (1938), so scrubbing over a #3 washtub was a thing of the past.
    It was a good thing too, because she had a new baby just about every year and a half.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Oh, no — not chester drawers. But we did call chocolate chips “tickens.” I have no idea why.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    August 8, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Yep there were chester drawers in my house growing up. I think now I refer to them more often than not as a dresser.Have a good week : )

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    August 8, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Chester drawers it is, Tipper-although I would write it correctly. There’s also something my Mamaw called shifrobe which I don’t remember what that is or if it’s really a piece of furniture.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Have always called them chester drawers and still do. Didn’t learn they were chest of drawers til i was grown. Now i hear folks call them chest. Guess it doesn’t matter just as long as you get the meaning across.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    August 8, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Tipper: To have your very own Chester Drawers was a rare thing in my childhood world. Today we have not one in our house! We don’t need them and prefer using the space for musical instruments. We must have a half a dozen instruments in our guest bedroom. Just this morning I was cleaning for a guest who is arriving from Spain next week. As I was moving the guitars out I thought, “She probably plays a guitar – and I should leave one in the room for her!” AND we may need a chester drawers for her also!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Phyllis Salmons
    August 8, 2011 at 7:30 am

    We always said “dresser,” but it seems like I have always known the meaning of “chester drawers.”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 8, 2011 at 7:28 am

    I recently saw an ad on Craigslist for chester drawers!! It was listed in Asheville NC area.

  • Reply
    John Dilbeck
    August 8, 2011 at 5:33 am

    Tipper, I laughed when I saw your subject line this morning!
    I was in my 20s, too, before I realized what chester drawers really were. That was back when I was working hard to speak more like the people I watched on the evening news. (Silly boy that I was.)
    Now, even though I know the difference and would probably use the correct term in writing, I still think and say chester drawers.
    I wonder what Chester from Gunsmoke would think about us talking about his underwear? (grin)
    I’m feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed. Hope you are, too. It’s a great day to be alive!
    Gotta go; I’m racing the birds to catch that worm this morning!
    All the best,

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