Monday, September 01, 2008

"Dishing Out History" - Grandma's Cups - Carnival of Genealogy - 55th Edition

Well, it’s been a while again since I’ve gone to school, and so I’ve been feeling unsure of a subject for this, the 55th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, since the topic is:

Show & Tell! Show us and tell us about an heirloom, a special photo, a valuable document, or a significant person that is a very special part of your family history.

The other day though, during a marathon microfilm searching/reading session, a 1935 newspaper article, “Dishing Out History”, by a Mrs. M. E. McVicker caught my eye. (This is why I have to have marathon sessions! I always take time to read all the odd and interesting bits.)

1935 was the silver (25th) anniversary of the then King’s reign. George V – George Frederick Ernest Albert of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which later he changed to the ‘House of Windsor’; b 3 June 1865 – d 20 January 1936 – became King of the United Kingdom and all the et cetera, including Canada and Newfoundland, 6 May 1910; he was crowned 22 June 1911. (I did look all this up – why I do not know.)

Anyway, I read Mrs. McVicker’s introduction in which she said the 1935 anniversary was sure to “bring forth many souvenirs...Here then is an opportunity to start a new hobby –that of collecting memorial china.”

Immediately I thought of my grandmother Rogers’s ‘royalty collection’- that’s what I called it when little. (I figured all grandmas had collections - my other grandma collected shoes - little china ones mostly.)

Grandma Rogers died when I was small, so I don’t know how she kept or displayed these, nor do I know how many she had. Most of my childhood these cups were in the dining room dresser, seen only when the doors were opened to remove a larger platters or bowls.

Somehow I remember there being more of them – now there are only three, and wasn’t there a saucer for that one cup? One was made to commemorate the upcoming coronation of Edward VIII in 1937; one shows King George VI and Queen Elizabeth who were crowned in 1937, and one celebrates the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 (really Elizabeth I, except in England). Then there’s a beaker commemorating the long reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1897 – I can always remember when she became Queen – the same year as civil registration started in England and Wales.

None of these is ‘fine china’ – one is Royal Winton, one is Tams Ware – the coronation cups do all say ‘Made in England’ though. There’s a bit of gold trim, but all look ‘well used’. Perhaps one was grandma’s favourite for her cuppa?

Parts of British Columbia can be, or more properly, were, ‘quite English’. There’s a reason people used to say Victoria, our capital city, was ‘more English than the English’. Now it’s all for show, but fifty years ago or more it wasn’t. I've seen much souvenir royalty china ware here – antique and new.

Did Grandma pick these out herself ? Did someone give them to her? Was Grandma a romantic down deep – is that why she kept the Edward VIII cup? Or did these cups just remind her of ‘home’ – she was born in Cambridgeshire, England, and emigrated here in 1907, never to return. (I always thought the latter. Romance and my grandma never entered my head, I am sure.)

What would she think of her grandaughter’s ambivalence about the monarchy, as symbolized by these cups? My dad said a few times that she’d never have agreed to become ‘Canadian’ – even to get a passport to go to England and come back. She'd have had an argument or two from me (and Dad).

I’m a bit surprised I kept these cups and that they’re in a glass cabinet in my front hall too. One tea cup is one too many according to my daughter, and now she’ll see that each of these has even had its picture taken and filed away.

If mum had asked if I wanted them, I bet I’d have said no, not because they are tea cups – I have lots – because they’re ‘royal’.

I’m no royalist, but on the other hand, I do say that the concept of the Crown has been of central importance in Canada in many issues, for example, land claims. What would Grandma think of that!

One thing she would be bound to chuckle about – that Queen Victoria beaker marking her diamond anniversary as Queen? I bought it myself. Yes, it was a bargain at the thrift store, but still...what am I doing collecting this stuff?

I certainly do collect what Mrs. McVicker’s calls “geographic china’ – now I know it has a name –along with other things illustrating British Columbia scenes or marking B.C. events.

But will I end my days hunting through bargain bins for a Coronation cup showing King Edward VII & Queen Alexandra? Or for china souvenirs of every last royal visit to Canada? Mrs. McVickers says “Do not disregard any rubbish pile, or fail to look over a box of junk, for you never know your luck.” Oh my goodness – don't let my daughter know! She'll be distraught! But grandma will have the last laugh...

No comments: