Friday, August 13, 2010

Socially Crippled?

Almost certainly each of us found that life after EHHS took us in different directions than what we had anticipated. I know mine did. If my own experience was in any way typical, then most of us probably had little concept of what lay ahead. However, based on our limited experiences gained while growing up, we probably had a variety of different preconceptions about the future. We had the examples set by our parents to draw on for modeling our own paths. Sometimes they worked out the way we thought they would, often they didn’t.

For instance, I thought that if you invited your new neighbors over to your new house for dinner, they would know how to conduct themselves properly in a social situation. He had a low alcohol tolerance, even for wine, and after his second glass of a nice Cabernet, ended up face down in his dinner plate. She had a better tolerance, but once over her line, she ended up oblivious that her husband was face down in his dinner plate. We tried it one more time with that couple and suffered the same result. Several other attempts with other young couples to establish a group of 30-somethings up and comers yielded different, but similar disappointments, so we said to hell with it and stopped trying to emulate our parents' social practices.

About that same time the Hunt brothers tried to corner the silver market, driving silver prices to $50/oz or more, effectively killing the market for new sterling flatware. At that price a sturdy 2 oz. sterling fork had over $100 of silver in it and a lot of fine old sterling flatware was melted down. Sometime later the price of silver dropped back to the $4/oz range but the sterling flatware industry never recovered, probably due to the materials cost problem, but also probably due to the fact that our generation was not headed in the same direction as before, socially.

I thought of these things recently as I looked over my mother’s c.1955 sterling service and another service that dates to my great grandmother’s day, c.1891. Both patterns are nicely detailed, even fussy. Mom treasured hers and saved it for special occasions such as holiday dinners and special guests. I clearly recall washing and drying all that stuff by hand and carefully packing it away, ready for the next special occasion. Same for her special china.

Those traditions date back at least to the 1880’s when machine stamping capabilities were enhanced by a large influx of immigrant European artisans and highly skilled craftsmen to produce a dazzling variety of intricate designs. Meals were a nice way to combine good food, good company, and excellent craftsmanship into a memorable event. That is, until our generation screwed it up, starting about the times my neighbor stuck his face in his dinner plate. Dumb bastard.

Bon app├ętit

1 comment:

Carol said...

Great story Gus. My mother also treasured her sterling and I also had to clean and polish it more times than I could count.

The pieces you show are wonderful antiques and as a collector I recognize them as some very special patterns.