NORMAN — The year was 1945 and the war that would end all wars was finally over. My mother’s father was leaving the military after stateside service in World War I and World War II. His sons were coming home from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. From his final “mustering out” pay, he handed his wife $100 cash to buy something for herself.
Finally, a tangible reward for her service holding down the homefront, raising the children and praying the Rosary every night for her husband and two sons who were in some of the war’s heaviest fighting.
With part of her cash, she splurged and bought a set of Fiesta dishes. Eight place settings at John A. Brown Co. in downtown Oklahoma City. They were the art deco rage in the late 1930s and 1940s. It beamed “middle class,” the way a Lincoln Continental said upper crust. The dishes were made in solid colors and fired in the kilns of the Homer Laughlin China Company of Newell, W.V.
Fiesta dish production continued from 1936 until 1972. In 1986, the dishes became popular as collector’s items and the plant started making them again on the 50th anniversary of the first set. Grandmother used her set every day, sometimes with family, but usually alone. She lost her husband of more than 40 years in 1963.
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That box of dishes that my grandmother bought herself in 1945 made one more move this past month. She had wrapped them in newsprint and hauled them many times from Oklahoma City to homes and apartments in Norman. She finally entrusted them to her daughter in Santa Fe.
Grandmother didn’t need them when she went to an assisted living center and then a nursing home. Before she died at age 100 and six months in 2001, she let it be known that the first great-granddaughter of hers to get married would be getting the dishes as a wedding present long after she was gone.