Slow Boat to China

A great episode of the Twilight Zone is Time Enough at Last with Burgess Meredith. Meredith plays a man who loves to read, but is annoyingly interrupted by those around him. He survives a nuclear war while reading in a bank vault, and then discovers a post-apocalyptic world with no people and all the time to read for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, he drops his glasses and is left with time and books, but cannot see them. I have a similar irony, albeit less dramatic.

I love dishes and drinking glasses. I have too many of these. But, I live in a region where earthquakes cause breakage. I’m also concerned that my guests will break a glass or dish. So I keep the collections in a cabinet, and use the Melmac plastic dinnerware. I typically say, “I know you won’t mind using plastic, but we’re all family and can be casual.” Of course I say this to everyone regardless of my relationship and carefully watch the dish cabinet. I realize this is selfish and stupid. Is my goal to maintain a complete set of Russell Wright Iroquois Casual dinnerware intact until I die?

One of my absolute favorite sets is Salem China Company’s Pat Prichard Nostalgic Old America from 1956. Viktor Schreckengost designed the forms, and Pat Prichard created the art. Old Gloucester is a fantastic collection of New England forms such as clipper ships, rooster weathervanes, baked beans, and a seaside village. I guess baked beans are big in New England. Old Comstock depicts a western scene with happy horses, old west saloons, and a stagecoach. Clearly, this is New England nostalgia from another time. Unlike the HBO mini-series John Adams (yes related), there is no depiction of surgery with no anesthesia. And on Old Comstock, unlike Deadwood, there is no whoring or liberal use of the “C” word (and I don’t mean China).

Nostalgia for Retro

LP Cover, 1955

I like retro-retro. This is a little complicated and we could quickly veer into post-modern appropriation and pastiche of a previous era’s appropriation and pastiche. Don’t worry, I won’t. Put simply, I like a reinterpretation of another time's nostalgia, like the 1970s version of the 1950s on Happy Days, or the 1960s love for the 1920s.

Starting during World War II, there was nostalgia for America at the turn of the century. There is a classic episode of The Twilight Zone involving a harried executive and a small town, Willoughby, in 1890, Meet Me in St. Louis has a Technicolor version of Missouri in 1904, and, of course, Main Street, USA at Disneyland is a perfect example of a 1950s interpretation of small town America, 1890-1910. Fitting perfectly within this arena is Firehouse Five Plus Two, a Dixieland jazz band formed by Ward Kimball and a group of animators at the Disney studios in the 1940s. The band wore turn of the century fireman outfits, antique fire hats, and had a 1914 American La France fire truck. They made 13 albums and often performed on Main Street. This aesthetic and their LP covers talk about a perceived simpler time, when an increasingly complicated 1950s public imagined an even simpler time when firemen formed their own band and sat on the porch of the old firehouse with a Dalmatian and creaky rocking chairs.

LP cover, 1958

LP cover, 1956

LP cover, 1956

LP cover, 1954

LP cover, 1955