Desert Rose Franciscan China Brings Back Happy Memories
Desert Rose Old and New
Holidays at My Grandmother's House
My grandmother was the Queen of Entertaining. It was a rare day she didn't have company. She loved to host big Christmas Eve dinners, a tradition she continued into her 90s.
At one time, she also invited as many people as would come to Thanksgiving dinner, Palm Sunday dinner and Easter dinner. Going to her house on Sunday invariably meant running into friends and relatives who just dropped by, because they knew they were always welcome.
Holidays were when my grandmother took out her prized possessions, Franciscan Desert Rose dishes, which she collected sometime after this pattern was released in 1941.
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of sitting at her dining room table and eating off of thick ceramic plates, decorated with hand-painted pink roses. Passing the salt and pepper meant picking up rosebud-shaped salt and pepper shakers and handing them to someone. My grandmother, an avid Desert Rose collector, also had a set of tall, thin shakers that matched her set. She owned many of the 105 different pieces of Desert Rose released by the Gladding, McBean Co., the original producer of this Franciscan ware.
Desert Rose Helps Us Remember a Wonderful Woman
My grandmother's death was devastating, both for her children and for her grandchildren. She was matriarch of a large family and her house was a hub. We miss her dearly. Things within our large, extended family were never the same after her death. I think some family members, myself included, never really thought there would come a time when she wasn't around, and we didn't prepare ourselves for her eventual departure from this world.
She had a larger-than-life presence. Some older people may feel lonely, unloved or unwanted. I don't think this was ever the case in her life. She continued to make new friends even as she became very elderly. It wasn't unusual, stopping by for a visit, to find her sitting at kitchen table, sharing a cup of tea with the woman who was supposed to be cleaning her house.
My Sister Hits Upon a Great Idea
My younger sister is the one who hit upon a wonderful idea. Why not buy ourselves some Desert Rose dishes to honor our grandmother, and all the memories of holiday dinners at her house?
Franciscan still produces Desert Rose and the popular Apple pattern. A few years ago, my sister found settings for 12 people at Marshall's and TJ Maxx. These were seconds and each dinner plate sold for just a few dollars. She was also able to get salad dishes and other accessories.
These look a bit different than the original Franciscan ware, with the raised, hand-painted flowers made by Gladding, McBean. The first Desert Rose releases were produced in Southern California, and then, in the 1980s, production shifted to England, and the dishes were made by Wedgewood.
The dishes my sister purchased were made in China and can be loaded into the dishwasher when the party's over. Original Franciscan ware must be hand washed.
Later, my mother, found about nine place settings of the original Franciscan ware for my sister at an auction and gave it to her as a Christmas present. (You can also find entire sets of Desert Rose on Craigslist.)
These are the dishes my sister now uses when she has big family gatherings at her house.
My sister encouraged me to also get some plates to remember my grandmother, and all the happy dinners at her house. Shortly after, I found some of these plates at Marshall's. Looking at them reminds me of my grandmother.
It took multiple trips to Marshall's and TJ Maxx before I was able to find enough of these plates for a crowd. I was also able to pick up some pieces of the original Desert Rose on eBay, although, because old pieces from this pattern in good condition have now become collector's items, it was very difficult bidding because they'd get scooped up so quickly. I was able to find some cups and saucers, salt and pepper shakers, bread dishes and serving bowls in good condition. Dinner plates and unusual pieces, such as soup tureens, seem to be in most demand. I wonder how many people buy these because their mother or grandmother once owned them.
I now have enough of these plates when I have some of my relatives over for dinner on Christmas Eve. I think my grandmother is very happy, as she watches us from Heaven.
Newer Desert Rose is Still Beautiful
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