Last summer, my mom sent this silky little ditty my way:
She found it at a church rummage sale and described it over the phone as something that had lace and was probably silk with a bunch of flags and was from a factory in New Jersey.
I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about.
When it arrived, I immediately recognized that it was made of cigarette silks – little fiber freebies that used to come with a pack of shit-sticks to entice women to smoke, or encourage the men in their lives to smoke more…
Mad quilts and other decorative home textiles were made from these little beauties.
My favorite patch in the above piece is the “Michigan Beach Girl” poised to dive in what was undoubtedly a woolen swimming costume and stockings that would have done more for drowning than swimming…
As much as I hate today’s overabundance of factory made shite, I’m quite smitten with the original versions of the stuff – the explosion of goods and advertising from the late 19th century to nearly halfway up the last.
I would have loved to open a box of oats (though I would have hated it was called “Mother’s Oats” and would have written a terse letter to the company to rename them “My Oats” or “Oats Aren’t Just for Children” or “Men Eat Oats Too” or “Woman Does Not Always = Mother” or “Women Without Children are Busy and Desirous of a Fast Breakfast Too” or “My Mother Ate Gruel Made of Ground Corncob with Stones, So Don’t Remind Me”) and found a new teacup inside. Perhaps I would have been so strapped for cash working at the shirtwaist factory, I could only dream of buying the oats with the swag and only been able to purchase a box a year or every other year, and by the time I was wasting away from an early death of consumption or radium poisoning I’d have had just a service for one and a half…
(Image yanked from page that didn’t identify its source and was selling butchered publications – shame on you!)
But the past is past – thankfully, for the most part.
And I’m slowly dealing with all of my collected old things that I purchased with less sweat and toil than that of my predecessors, and for much less, even factoring in the cost of oats, since they were discards at the thrift stores.
But in researching some of the things I’m thinking about selling, I found out I had a few pieces of oat china!
I think both of these were made by Homer Laughlin (the company that makes my beloved Fiestaware) and date from the 1940s – ’50s, not the 1930s which I had originally guessed them to be…
So that didn’t get me any closer to getting rid of them, but at least I’m a more informed hoarder, right?
I’m disappointed that we don’t get free things in boxes of oats and soap powder and whatnot these days – and the free things in the cereal boxes of my childhood were always a disappointment (that is, when I got real cereal, and not that godawful desiccated puffed wheat bullshit…)
But then I remembered Red Rose tea.
I drank gallons of the stuff along with a brand of coffee too embarrassing to admit in my poorest student years as they were the cheapest sources of caffeine. I think I still have some of the figurines that came in the tea (somewhere) but I wanted that small rush again of finding a little porcelain freebie.
But now I find the tea undrinkable – it gives me a stomachache – the product and/or processing has gotten so cheap to be able to afford putting in the swag? My delicate system only tolerates organic, fair-trade, ripened by the harvest of the solstice moon?
So I’ll just call it dye instead.