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Discover Mid-America — April 2006

A banana dish and other odd pieces

There is hardly a show or antique mall that does not have a WHATZIT sitting on the counter or in a booth. As the world has become more high tech, there has certainly been a change in how we do things and the things we use for jobs within the home.

Farm equipment and tools have really borne the brunt of now-useless tools. Just think steam-driven tractors, steam-driven railroad engines — the list is long.

As we are situated in farm country, there is usually some kind of tool held up at auction for which there is no known use. Always there is someone who is fascinated by the unusual, the unwanted, who will bid and take home such a relic.

I bought what I thought was a real treasure the first year we lived in Missouri. As this was the first auction I had been to — without my husband — I really thought I was getting some real rarity. When I got home with my “one-dollar purchase,” I got laughed at — my husband knew that it was a corn planter. Mind you, this was a few kernels at- a- time-planter. The only other kind of planter I knew about a mule pulled. My “purchase” became a reminder to be more careful in my choices.

An elderly friend has always been willing to tell me about her collections of glassware. I have marveled at some of the things she has but have been more interested in her unusual pieces. She has a lovely home with all the things that someone who has lived a good life might have. Now that she incapacitated, she does like to talk about the good old days and show me her things.

“Now these grapefruit dishes are something you will probably never see any place else,” she said to me.

This whetted my interest and I opened the cabinet to see what she was talking about. Her grapefruit dishes are large enough to hold a half grapefruit, and they have a very nice grape motif pattern, shaped like a sherbet but much larger and no mark.

That was disappointing as some identification mark might help steer the researcher in the right direction much more quickly. She has four dishes, which had belonged to her mother-in-law. My friend is ninety and her deceased mother-in-law died about fifty years ago. That does help verify that these lovely things are old.

Another of her prized possessions is her banana dish. This one had some familiarity. I have seen several larger milk glass dishes, usually with a pedestal, that look like a cake plate with two sides curled up. One can see that bananas would look quite nice in something like this. My friend’s banana dish is about eight inches in diameter, and its curled-up side indicates pattern glass; it lacks a pedestal and it’s very pretty. It could only hold three bananas at best.

I told her that I recalled another elderly friend telling me about a still life she had. She told me here were no bananas in the fruit arrangement, as bananas had not been shipped to the States at that time. So when the lady of the house was able to get this new fruit, why not have it in a showy dish to give the impression that this household had all the latest?

Today, the showy is more like a plasma TV or a handheld technical helper or maybe a high-powered barbeque grill. Gone are the simpler days when a banana caused a stir in the neighborhood!

Norma Crews is a native Texan, graduate of Texas Tech, former teacher and rancher, mother of three grown sons and six grandchildren, and raised in South Texas on a ranch as a member of two pioneer families.

Upon retiring from teaching and ranching, she and her husband James became pickers for large Texas shops, before branching into doing shows for a number of years in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. She currently resides in Neosho, MO.

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