A Handsome Table Enhances Hospitality!

I love pretty dishes and I really enjoy having friends over for dinner. Of course I strive to serve scrumptious food, but I also find great pleasure in setting an attractive table. My assortment of dishes allows me to do that. Each of my five sets has a beauty all its own and so as to not show favoritism, I rotate them giving each group its turn at the table.

Meet my dish family!

I received my first set (pure white with gold trim) as a premium for hosting three Tupperware parties in a 12-month period. Remember those days? It was the 1960s and we lived in Great Falls, Mont., at the time. It was also in Great Falls during those years that a gas station, yes, a gas station gave a place setting of gold flatware with each fill of the tank. That’s how I acquired my gold flatware which goes beautifully with each set of dishes. I also was very blessed to receive my grandmother’s set of gold flatware after she died.

Set No. 2: Some years ago, my Ruby Girl sister, Lori, and I were looking at fine china in a store in Minot, N.D., when my eyes happened upon the Florisse Black pattern by Mikasa. My exact words to my sister were, “Someday I’m going to have those dishes.” Not long afterward, I came home from work and found that the mail carrier had left a box at the back door. Inside was my birthday present from Lori – a large Florisse Black serving bowl. Oh brother was I excited. No turning back now.

Soon after that, while visiting friends in Oregon, we stopped at an outlet mall. There was a Mikasa store and there was my Florisse Black. I purchased 10 place settings and was thrilled to learn that Oregon has no sales tax. Look at the money I saved!

Set No. 3: Purchased at an estate sale. I’ll get to that story in a minute.

Set No. 4: When I was a child, my wonderful grandmother, Ida, had a set of blue dishes and how I loved eating her delicious mashed potatoes off a blue plate. I vowed I would one day have blue dishes. Well, I found mine in a catalog. They are from France, which sounds rather romantic, but they were very inexpensive. They are so pretty on bright yellow placemats. (As a side note: I once had a bright blue and yellow outfit that I wore to work at the Herald. One day my friend, Chuck Haga, said I looked like the Swedish flag). Sometimes my table does, too.

Set. No. 5: My most recent — Christmas dishes. I’ve always wanted Christmas dishes, too, and these I purchased in December 2010 at another estate sale in a home just a few blocks from me. They belonged to the late Marie Achen, whose son, Dave, is a friend from church. I very much enjoyed chatting with Dave and his sisters while looking at their mother’s precious things.

Now back to Set No. 3. I told of these dishes in a July 1991 “In the Spirit” column for the Herald. Readers still remember and comment on that column which the editors placed on the editorial page.

I want to tell it again and so here goes:

I’ve never met Margaret Amble Wicken. But I want her to know I’ll take very good care of her dishes. I’m enjoying what she treasured for many years and they’ve been mine only a few short weeks.

Margaret is 88. A year ago in June, she fell in her Grand Forks home and broke her hip. Now she lives in Lutheran Sunset Home, Grafton, N.D. Her family tells me she’s sometimes forgetful these days. She’s got to be a lovely lady, if she’s anything at all like her daughters, Marion Hove, Fairdale, N.D., and Gloria Anderson, Casselton, N.D., or her son, Lyle Wicken, Grand Forks.

I’ve met her children in the home they grew up in. It’s empty now, waiting to be sold.

For years, Margaret was very active at Sharon Lutheran Church. She was great at making lefse. When she and her husband, Arnt, built their home at 1432 Chestnut St., in 1938, they were outside the city limits.

Now I’m not one who likes to traipse around to garage sales. Not like some people I know who leave the house early in the morning with newspaper in hand and ads circles in red. They have their route mapped out. They know just where to go so they miss no sale along the way.

But, a few weeks ago, I saw an ad for an estate sale. Now, to me, estate sales are different. You can find real treasurers at an estate sale. Believe me, I did.

I stopped at this home on Chestnut Street on a Saturday morning. It was Margaret’s. I’ve always had a weakness for pretty old dishes. When I spotted a set in a cardboard box in the dining room, they immediately drew me to their corner.

So beautiful, they were! Lacy-looking, elegant and cream-colored, with pink, orange and blue flowers in the center. The scenes of Holland (windmills) and of dancing couples on the outer edge of all eight dinner plates seemed to tell a story.

There were eight cups, eight saucers, eight dessert plates, seven sauce dishes and one serving bowl. The only pieces missing were one sauce dish and the platter. Every single piece is trimmed in 22-carat gold. It says so right on the back. In my mind, I pictured them between my pieces of gold flatware.

Two women were nearby, watching, probably recalling all the times they’d eaten off those dishes. That’s when I met Margaret’s daughters. I asked about the dishes and they were happy to tell about them.

Their mother purchased them in 1938, after her own mother bought an identical set to give as a wedding gift. Margaret liked the dishes so much she had to have a set of her own. She bought them at Giese’s Hardware Store in East Grand Forks. And even though Margaret had another set of china, she has liked this set of Old Holland Ware the best.

I liked them immediately, too, but I almost never buy something right off the bat. I had to go home and think about it.

My husband, Jim, and I stopped back at the estate sale Sunday morning after church. The dishes were still there. That told me they were supposed to be mine.

Margaret’s daughters and her son were there again, too. I asked if they were absolutely certain they wanted to sell those lovely dishes. I was told they had kept everything of their mother’s they possibly could.

So, Lyle Wicken carefully carried his mother’s set of Old Holland Ware to our car. And we carefully drove home.

The set has been washed and now is at home in my hutch. I have another set of china, too, but something tells me this 1938 model will always be my favorite.

As we took the dishes into our home, something occurred to Jim. “The sad thing is,” he commented, “someday, somebody will be doing all this for us.”

Margaret can count on me to use her treasure often and to handle each piece with care.

End of column!

It was Old Holland Ware’s turn last Friday evening when our friends, Gail and Herb, joined us at our table.

Next time – next up – Florisse Black.

Until Soon

2 Responses

  1. Grace (little ruby girl)

    oh how i long to see you! i think you should call my dad and tell him that he needs to come over soon… or else.

  2. Lori Duesenberg

    I think your dishes are lovely!!!! I remember when we saw the black dishes in Minot…
    a nice story and I liked the addition of the pictures…..thanks Jim. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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