I know exactly what you are talking about with the gossip bench. I grew up in an old farmhouse that had been in my Dad's family for years. The phone, which at one time was a rotary, was right smack in the middle of the house, We also had a chair to sit in. But I remember Dad talking about the bench that used to sit there. I wonder what happened to it?
Anyway, that brings back memories. Although gotta say I hated the phone in the middle of the house when I was a teenager. Everyone could hear everything.