Many years ago we received several sets of dishes as wedding gifts. I remember the fine china we registered for at the jewelry store which we hardly ever used and is now in the hutch in the dining room.
I also remember a set of milk glass dishes with gold bands at the outer edge of the plates which we used until almost all of them were broken.
There were several other sets we went through, but all were 16 piece service for four. This meant as our family grew our dishware became more mixed and seldom matched.
Since Bill worked at Corning he would visit the company store now and then and bring home odd pieces which were sold at bargain prices to add to the general mix.
The glassware was also well mixed. Back then peanut butter and jelly were sold in decorated jars which were meant to be used as glasses. So we had Mickey Mouse characters along with Smurfs and whatever else was on sale, along with a general mix of dime store glasses and what had not yet been broken out of various gift sets.
The silverware was even wilder. We went through several sets and had hand-me-downs from relatives who had too much silverware and passed the extras on to us. In those days it was almost impossible for me to imagine anyone had too much silverware. We even had a set of golden stuff which lasted for quite a while before it was all lost.
As different ones of the children reached the age of discrimination, I tried to make sure their place setting matched—at least until they moved on to the age of “whatever.”
Actually it didn’t bother me a whole lot because we always had enough food to go around, and as long as the food covered the plates it didn’t matter what the plates looked like.
I think it bothered my dad though. He had to drive back and forth to work. And in the olden days gas stations actually gave away free dishes when you bought gas. They don’t have time for such niceties any more, too busy raising prices.
So Dad always bought his gas at Niley’s because they had the prettiest dishes. He managed to accumulate 16 place settings along with all the extras of a beautiful lily of the valley pattern of “fine china” which Mom stored carefully in her attic so we wouldn’t break them as he collected them.
We did use them for very special occasions, and we did break a few of them, but we still have most of them stored carefully on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard.
Even before all our children moved out we had shifted from mix and no match dishes to complete sets of various Correlle patterns, and I began to have leftover dishes I could wish on young singles and couples for their first apartments.
Finally I found the everyday pattern I could live with the rest of my life. Bill bought a big set for me several years ago, and I’m still happy with it. Of course shortly after we bought it, the manufacturer discontinued he pattern. But, this is OK. With just the two of us eating here, we can go for a little while without using the dishwasher every day. And our breakage rate on dishware is almost nonexistent.
So now, after 45 years of marriage, we have all of this pretty, matching tableware. But tomorrow when 30 to 40 of our children and their children come home for Thanksgiving dinner, we will use what they recognize as our “family china.” Yep, the good old Hefty plastic foam plates are ready and waiting. No washing, drying, and putting away. Just throw them away with the garbage and go on with the festivities.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate Nov. 11, 2001.