A Blue Mountain ashtray and what it tells us about the past

Blue Mountain Pottery ashtray

Whether you’re a smoker or not (and of course most of us aren’t), you kind of have to admire the design of this four-smokers-at-a-time Blue Mountain ashtray. At least I do.

Do you remember Blue Mountain pottery? Of course you do. If you live in Ontario, chances are you might even have a piece or two of it kicking around your house. Once upon a time, everybody did.

Blue Mountain pottery came from Collingwood, Ont., and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, was produced from 1947 to 2004. I am pretty sure that my childhood at the Manse in Queensborough, in the 1960s and early 1970s, was its heyday. The stuff was unavoidable in those days – filling the shelves of every gift shop and every home. It was a staple as shower and wedding gifts. Mostly it was blue-green stuff, but I also remember seeing orangey-red Blue Mountain – and, again according to our friend Wikipiedia, the Blue Mountain factory also cranked out stuff in harvest gold, mocha and pewter, among other colours. (You can see examples on the site of the Blue Mountain Pottery Collectors Club, here.)

So here’s the thing: because Blue Mountain pottery was so ubiquitous in people’s homes (in our part of the world) in the middle part of the 20th century, it is now ubiquitous at the yard sales now being held by the next generation, wanting to clean the old stuff out of those homes.

giant Blue Mountain fish

Don’t you wish you had the giant flat Blue Mountain fish adding to your home decor? A classic. (Photo from glassmenagerie.com)

I have to say I was never fond of Blue Mountain stuff, and still don’t find anything aesthetically pleasing about it – but now of course it has a nostalgic attraction for me. Seeing a Blue Mountain vase or mug or cream-and-sugar set or (lord help us) animal figurine (Have you ever seen the enormous flat fish? Now that is a – well, it’s something, that’s for sure) just tugs a little at my heart, reminding me of the days when this stuff was considered beautiful and desirable.Things were simpler then.

So it won’t surprise you to hear that I’ve picked up a few – just a few, mind you! – pieces of Blue Mountain stuff at Hastings County yard sales of late.

Blue Mountain pottery label

The label of authenticity asserting that this is genuine Blue Mountain pottery.

Including the ashtray in the photo at the top of this post, which I picked up at some yard sale or other, probably for a dime or so. I couldn’t resist it, and you know why? It’s not only because it’s Blue Mountain (this photo here at the left shows the label of authenticity on the bottom; heaven forfend that one would end up with fake Blue Mountain stuff!). It’s because of what it tells us about people’s lives and habits once upon a time.

Take another look at that photo of the ashtray at the top. It is an ashtray for four smokers, presumably all sitting around a small square table. A card table, probably. So the ashtray would be parked right in the middle of the card table, and it was designed so that all four smokers/players could easily and ergonomically lay their cigarettes down when they needed two hands to examine and play their euchre hand. Such design! Ingenious!

But in 2013, when a lot fewer people smoke cigarettes (and I assure you that Raymond and I are among the non-smoking crowd, save for Raymond’s occasional cigars), it seems so strange to think how common, and how well-used, this four-person card-party ashtray would have been. It was another time, that’s for sure. Another century.

13 thoughts on “A Blue Mountain ashtray and what it tells us about the past

  1. I remember those things, and I didn´t grow up in Ontario. They bring up horrid images of elbow-deep butts and disgusting smells that wafted through whatever room the ashtray resided in. Its funny how times change….because when you think back, it was commonplace to hold a baby in your arms and have a butt hanging from your lips…..

    Also, am I the only person to recognize this ???? In those pics of the Hastings Co. website, there is one of the woman on the phone as she sits next to the lake……but there´s mountains in the right side background ! I didn´t know there were mountains in Hastings Co. LOL.

    • Oh yes, I sure do remember overflowing ashtrays (Blue Mountain and otherwise) – notably in offices and such. It’s wild to think about it now. As for the mysterious “blue mountains” in the background of one of the three main photos on the homepage of Hastings County’s website, I will admit I hadn’t really noticed them before – very perceptive of you, Mark! – but, like Grant and Gayle in the followup comment, I assume the photo was taken in the hilly, even mountainous region “north of 7” (Highway 7, that is). But you’ve aroused my curiosity and I am in fact in the process of doing some investigatory work on this topic. More anon, I hope!

      • I dunno, they look to me as if they’re snow-capped mtns…..and the lake looks like its from western Canada or something. Since it looks like summer weather when her pic was taken, it is highly unlikely it is anywhere in Ontario…..

  2. Oh, there are certainly mountains in Hastings County, all situated north of seven. However with our typical Canadian reserve, we tend to make mole hills of them. That is why you folks don’t know about them.

  3. For some reason, I see the hind quarters of four animals (without tails) — horses, perhaps? Or, the heel end of four high-heeled shoes, all nested together. Just me?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s