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.
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.
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.