Table fetches $900 in online auction as center looks to get back to normal

By Pamela Dozois

You never know where or when a real hidden treasure will be unearthed. Quite often, that treasure has gone unnoticed, right in plain view. 

And so it was with the small odd-shaped table which sat in the Solvang Senior Center for years, moving from room to room while serving as a handy catch-all. Over the years, hundreds of people passed by the table every week without giving it a second glance or noticing the beauty in its simple utilitarian form. But all of that changed when Center Board member Diane Olmsted decided to do some heavy-duty cleaning when the center was closed due to COVID-19.

As she was moving all furniture from the computer room, Olmstead noticed the little table hidden under a mound of membership flyers. Upon closer examination, she also took note of a metal plaque on the underside of the table with the name of the manufacturer: Edward Wormley. An applied signed green manufacturer’s label also confirmed it was an Edward Wormley piece. 

With her curiosity peaked, she turned to the internet to find more information only to discover that sweet little treasure was a product of Edward Wormley (1907-1995) designed as a magazine table for Dunbar USA. 

Olmsted contacted Elizabeth Stewart, aka the “Golddigger” columnist for the Santa Barbara News-Press, for advice on how and where to sell the table as she hoped it would bring in a small sum to benefit the center. Stewart suggested the best option would be to auction the table and recommended Clars Auction Gallery in Oakland. 

When contacted, a Clars representative mentioned that the gallery held furniture auctions (online and in person) and the table might find a buyer through this broader audience. Additionally, it was noted that the table might be worth between $800 and $1,200 in its current unrestored condition.

Almost one year later, the table was delivered to Clars in Oakland with a scheduled auction date of April 17. On the given day, family, friends and members of the center watched online, waiting in anticipation until the Edward Wormley table came up before the auctioneer. Bidding started at $400 and slowly crept upwards until the gavel finally fell with the top bid of $900.

But the story of a real hidden treasure didn’t stop with the final sale but continues. The proceeds will be contributed to the Solvang Senior Center Building Campaign Fund to help rebuild another hidden treasure — the Solvang Senior Center. 

“When COVID hit, like everyone else, the Solvang Senior Center had to switch up our game plan,” said Ellen Albertoni, executive director of the Solvang Senior Center. “We had just started our Building Campaign Fund and that had to be put on the back burner for the time being.” 

In order to keep in contact with members of the center, a group of volunteers took it upon themselves to get in touch, on a regular basis, with each one of them to see how they were doing.

“We have members not only in the Valley, but in Lompoc, Santa Maria, Guadalupe, and out of state snowbirds,” Albertoni said. “People were so happy to hear from someone at the center and that we were concerned about them. 

“By keeping in touch with them we were able to let them know what services we could still offer such as our medical equipment lending service; library availability, our Support the Troops special project yarn supply for the knitting group, board games and puzzles, everything to keep their minds busy,” she continued. “And, of course, meals-to-go were also supplied curb-side along with fresh produce from Veggie Rescue for those in need. Our lunch service increased even though we were closed to the public — no indoor activities, no indoor dining. We even started curb-side service for our monthly ‘Dinner Night.’ 

And that wasn’t all, according to Albertoni.

“We also offered two exercise classes — tai-chi and yoga, outside. We were basically closed to all our normal routines,” she said. “Previous to COVID, we offered approximately 20 activities a week, scheduled daily, so we needed to be as creative as possible and work within the guidelines and still keep in contact with our members. We kept our newsletter going, which everyone looked forward to seeing in their mailboxes. We also helped people sign up for the vaccine and provided transportation to and from.

“It made people so happy that the Solvang Senior Center had some continuity of routine, providing some sense of normalcy. The really happy moment was when we realized just how essential the center is to our seniors and community. We all worked together to get through this.”

At present the Solvang Senior Center is opening cautiously, continuing with its lunches-to-go program. In August, the hope is to go back to the dine-in-lunches while still offering lunches-to-go. 

“We are transitioning back to what activities the Solvang Senior Center had going on before the shutdown,” said Albertoni. “Plus, we will be offering new classes as we continue the reopening process.

“The most exciting thing is that we are once again moving forward with our plans for a new building center and our Building Campaign Fund. We now have been reenergized, solidifying how important the Solvang Senior Center is to our community. We are like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.”

The Solvang Senior Center is at 1745 Mission Drive, Solvang. To donate to its Building Campaign Fund or for more information, visit, call 805-688-3793 or email