Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Private Silliness, Old Kitchenware

It was mrsmurphy18 who, 30 years ago, introduced me to the eccentric yet addictive world of vintage dinnerware (in which she was dealing at the time). This is one of those "hobbies" that cries out for mockery. I can do a good job of talking about design trends in tableware, and I can even spin a good tale about finding beauty in the everyday items of yore, but at the core of it all I am simply amassing old crap. Any pretense of rescuing history from the garbage bin falls apart when you start to spend serious money because a particular mixing bowl with a particular decal is rarehoney (as in "that pattern is rarehoney"). All this has something to do with instinctive hoarding, I suspect. Some of us have this gene and some of us don't. Those of us who have this gene have to be careful lest we wind up collecting Swanky Swigs, which is the collectors name for the uselessly small glasses with decorations of no particular interest that held Kraft processed cheese spread (pimento! olive!) in the 40s and 50s. Did you know that the "Bustling Betsy" decoration came in six different colors?

Stranger than the collections themselves are the collectors you meet along the way. Back in the 70s mrsmurphy18 and I had a wonderful time mocking a monthly newsletter devoted to collecting Depression Glass ("The Daze" -- as opposed to "The Glaze", which was about depression-era pottery and china). The columnists and letter writers all seemed to be effusive midwestern ladies. And gay men. We started to talk with the voices of these characters, which mostly involved saying things like "That's really quite lovely" and "Sometimes I dream at night about finding a Cameo butterdish in pink ... sigh ... if only...".

For example, the pride of mrsmurphy18's collection is her set of late-30s Hall China cannisters (flour, sugar, tea, and coffee +matching large salt and pepper shakers) in the Radiance shape with the floral lattice decal. The Radiance cannisters are a great example of late deco design, and with the help of eBay and PayPal I myself have picked up a few of them (in solid colors). I used to tell mrsmurphy18 that someday I would find one of these Floral Lattice cannisters with her name on it (instead of, say, Sugar) and we could use it to hold her ashes when she died. Or perhaps she should simply change her name to "Sugar", which would help.

Now you see, I think that's only funny if you've actually met people who say that sort of thing half-seriously, as if they really and truly would want their ashes kept in their Parrot sugar bowl or Mayfair cookie jar.

Well, now there's eBay and photo-editing packages, so there's no limit to what you can claim to have found. I recently sent this photo to mrsmurphy18 of a pair of rarehoney Radiance shakers in lettuce green:

It's the rarely-seen Tang shaker! And the matching shaker for Tuna Fish!

And then I sent along this photo of an entire set of the matching cannisters, in what I claimed must have been a "special order":

Because, you know, it's really all just a bunch of old crap. Of which I have so very, very much.
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