From Our Holiday Table to Yours
Holiday dinner at my grandparents’ house when I was growing up meant the privilege of eating in the Dining Room, a formal, imposing, and mostly unused part in the house reserved for good company and special occasions. All other family meals were more informally served in their kitchen.
Dinner in the Dining Room meant eating on the good china, drinking out of crystal wine and water glasses, and using the sterling silver monogrammed with my grandparents’ initials. It also meant being on our best behavior and minding our manners.
In the days leading up to holiday dinner I remember my grandparents’ household alive with activity: the china was taken down from the storage closet and removed from its special quilted bags, the best linen tablecloth and napkins were re-cleaned, starched and ironed, and the silverware and other table adornments were polished to a high shine. It was an exhausting labor of love when you take into consideration that in addition to preparing her table, my grandmother also needed to prepare the meal!
I think back on the items that graced her holiday table and reflect on the pride my grandmother and other hostesses of her generation placed on showcasing their refinement. Many of these items have since become family heirlooms, having been passed down to my mother, and now me. Now when we gather for a holiday meal my table is set with these tangible reminders of family and holidays past.
May you, too, be surrounded this holiday season by the people and things in life that inspire you, and bring you comfort and joy. From all of us at The Journal of Antiques & Collectibles, Happy Holidays!
Living Local History
Living and working in Sturbridge, MA has wonderful side-benefits; like being close to Brimfield and around the corner from Old Sturbridge Village, a New England Living History Museum.
This past October, our new Managing Editor Judy Gonyeau and I had the opportunity to attend a Collectors’ Forum at Old Sturbridge Village entitled, “A Taste for the Past: Collecting in America.” This day-long conference, presented in conjunction with their exhibition Kindred Spirits: A.B. Wells, C. Malcolm Watkins and the Origins of Old Sturbridge Village, looked at the origins of collecting in America, as well as influences, trends, personalities and some of the same challenges collectors face in today’s market.
As a life-long learner, hobby historian, and genetic collector, this day was tailor-made for me, and I was not alone as I learned while talking with other attendees. We were all there because we were interested in the topic, and to learn something new from people who really know what they’re talking about. A day well spent! Six presentations that presented an interesting arc to examine collectors and the history of collecting in America.
On a topic close to home, Historian & Curator of Mechanical Arts at Old Sturbridge Village Tom Kelleher gave a presentation entitled “A Little Bit of Everything: A.B. Wells, Malcolm Watkins and the Origins of Old Sturbridge Village,” which profiled the individuals and shared the story behind the founding of Old Sturbridge Village.
Albert B. (A.B.) Wells was a successful businessman and avid collector of “primitives,” whose out-of-control assemblage of “everyday furnishings, tools, gadgets, and ‘oddities’ of early America” found their purpose through a chance meeting with C. Malcolm Watkins in around 1935. Watkins, a recent graduate of Harvard, was looking for inspiration when the two men met at a meeting of The Rushlight Club, whose mission was, “To shed light on the lights of the past.” Their relationship led to Watkins becoming the first curator of the Wells Historical Museum in Southbridge, MA and later of Old Sturbridge Village, opened in 1946. If you have never gone to the Village, or haven’t been there since you were a child, like me, it is worth a visit the next time you come to the area.
Maxine Carter-Lome, Publisher
From Our Holiday Table to Yours