This is going to sound silly, but I miss the days when people used Corningware coffee percolators. Yeah, I know this particular kitchen accessory is an antique, but not in my house.
We have been using one since our first day of marriage.
Oh, we would have gladly used an electric coffee maker if someone would have given us one for a wedding gift. But fundamentalist Baptists don’t give practical wedding gifts. They give things you will never use.
For example: Serving plates shaped like the Crown of Thorns.
So I had to steal a Corningware percolator from my mother’s cabinet on my wedding day. I’m not proud of this, but she had three of them in her kitchen.
And while we’re talking about kitchens, I also miss the era of kitchen phones. Do you know how long it’s been since I used a rotary phone? A long time.
I realize that kids who were raised on cellphones might not know what rotary phones are, but they are missing out. The wall-mounted kitchen phone was an important device in my personal childhood, and the world changed when we lost them.
Before the age of smartphones, there was only one way to talk to the opposite sex after school hours. You had to physically walk into your mother’s kitchen, dial a telephone number in front of God and country, and endure Twenty Questions from your mother.
“What’re you doing?” your mother would ask, using the same tone she used when she suspected babies of having full diapers. “Are we calling a special someone?”
And it got worse.
You knew that after you dialed the number the girl’s father would answer first. Her father was a man who worked at the mill, who shaved his back with a dull axe blade, who weighed more than a Chevy Impala, who was a decorated war hero with battleship tattoos on his forearms.
This man would answer the phone with a voice ravaged by testosterone and he would say, “Who’s speaking?”
Today, people wouldn’t say, “Who’s speaking?” because we are a civilized nation. But back then, everyone’s father said this. And you, as a respectful gentleman, were expected to—I’m nervous just talking about this—state your full name.
Once you identified yourself, this father would shout for his daughter and in seconds her voice would come over the phone. But your cover was already blown, by now her entire household knew she was talking to a boy.
Therefore you knew that her older brother, Eric, was listening from another phone with his little toadies nearby, and at some point during your private conversation Eric would probably pass gas over the receiver and laugh with his pals until he incurred serious injuries by the hands of his sister.
So I miss rotary kitchen phones. Just like I miss Mason jars, men in tweed hats, and the smell of pipe tobacco.
And old-fashioned games that did not rely on technology. Like backgammon, chess, gin rummy, or checkers. Or the way we used to play Spin the Bottle behind the church during Baptist picnics, which is where I first kissed Anne Lee Barry.
Anne Lee was two feet taller than most boys and stronger than anyone on the jayvee football team. When it was her turn to spin the Coca-Cola bottle, all my pals leapt away from the circle and left me standing there. The bottle landed on me and there was nowhere to run.
Anne Lee spit out her gum and said, “Come to Mama, sailor.”
There are a lot of things that disappeared with the old world. And even though they’re gone, you don’t forget the little things you held dear.
You can’t forget the sleepovers at Charlie Danielson’s house, when the boys would sneak out to go fishing after dark. You were giddy back then because you were young, and energetic, and so happy.
After fishing, you and the fellas would sing while riding bikes back to Charlie’s place. You would crawl into sleeping bags then tease Charlie about Meredith Weems until he called her on his kitchen phone at midnight.
And when Charlie finally called her, you boys laughed until your ruined your pajama bottoms.
Somehow, you fell asleep that night, but you don’t know how. The next morning, you awoke to a blood curdling scream when Charlie’s mother found four dead largemouth bass in her refrigerator.
But this didn’t stop her from making a huge breakfast. Mothers did that back then. And she didn’t make tofu, or egg whites, or meatless sausage patties with low trans fats. She made bacon, pancakes, and real orange juice. And when Charlie’s mother asked if you wanted coffee, it was a rite of passage, so you answered:
She poured it from a percolator. White. Corningware. And you were no longer boys in that kitchen, you were grown men. And you promised yourselves that you’d never let this world change you, but that you would remain just as sincere as you were in that exact moment. And you only hoped that you were man enough to keep your promise.
Anyway, that’s why I miss those old percolators.
Susie Hamlin - June 22, 2021 6:28 am
I can see that phone hanging on our kitchen wall. And the agony the boys had when they would call was horrible at the time but now is sweet.
Sharon Wichmann - June 22, 2021 6:32 am
The cord was extra long and my daughter could stretch it from the kitchen wall to her room and close the door!
Trey Gregory - June 22, 2021 7:00 am
I still have my Mama’s old black Western Electric phone, with its bell that even on the low setting would wake nearly everyone in the house. On its high setting that included my aunt, who was deaf. This is the phone my dad had to call the hospital on one time, for a sure-enough emergency, but had to basically order two of the neighbors to get off of the party line first. But I’m 99% sure they were still listening, ’cause the rest of the town knew we’d had an accident just moments after the Andalusia Hospital did. And to reach most people in Red Level, you only had to dial four digits. I personally think dialing ten digits is waay too many for sanity, and that explains much about the state of the world today – don’t it though?!
Christa Gettys - June 22, 2021 7:21 am
Lawdy, I didn’t feel as old I thought I was until I read this….Blasted, I’m old! I may be an XX and all that but I was full on tomboy when I wanted to be. We had a massive black rotary phone that I knocked my brother out with the handle when he was being a dork while I was on the phone. We even had a three party line until 1990 when my Gramma got cancer and we needed to get those calls fast from the hospital and not wait for the other two old bitties to stop gossiping all day. I was a derpy teen who would talk smack just to hear those old ladies gasp in horror when they’d listen in on me lol
My Gramma had everything Corningware (we live right near Corning NY lol) She had the stovetop percolator forever, but them my Grampa had one of his ‘dark moods’ and ruined it (he was bipolar but that wasn’t a word we knew back then) So when all was right with the world again, he got my Gramma nice new electric one that made coffee that to this day i know it came from a Corningware electric coffee maker! I smell these fancy brews and they’re nice and all but not the bitter black coffee my Grandpa drank. Every morning and every night at dinner the house smelled like that coffee (they raised me on and off most of my childhood and teens)
My childhood was truly a nightmare. I had things happen to me that still haunt me even after 40 some years of therapy… BUT… I made sure as a kid and teen i did so much stuff that kept me out of the house and wild and free. We lived in the inner city for the first part of my life up to 7. Then I lived on a dairy farm in the middle of bum effin nowhere until I was 13. Those years on that farm were the best and worst of my life. For every amazing wondrous thing, there were two that were horrific. But I cling to those wonderful memories. I tell my now 20 year old son all about the good times I had growing up. Shaped me to think the way i do and believe in God as I do and to love my country with all my heart. I was 10 when I voted for Reagan in a mock ballot booth they brought to school school for our social studies class.
I learned that if I didn’t stand up for something good, then I’d fall for something worthless or worse, something bad. The good and the bad teach so much.
I hit estate sales now and collect as much Corningware and Pyrex as I can! I hope if my son every does decide marriage is for him, I can pass it on. If not I hope somebody who loves it gets it.
sorry for any grammar or spelling, it’s 3:20AM I’ve already had a very long day, and I don’t feel like proofreading I don’t know if my publisher reads your work, but I hope she understands lol
Steve McCaleb - June 22, 2021 8:11 am
I can smell the coffee and the bacon frying. I remember lying in the dark thinking those were the two best smells in the world……I can hear my mother and my dad making quiet small talk as he got ready well before daylight for another shift at the mines. Another day of hard work, hard times and hard living. All I hear today is what people “deserve”. All anybody “DESERVES” is a good example and a fighting chance. I got both and I wouldn’t swap that for all the silver spoons in the world.
Sharon T - June 22, 2021 2:46 pm
Well said. We often discuss that word “ deserve” and how people need to go back to learning that you work for things, not deserve things.
Shirley - June 22, 2021 3:50 pm
Mark3:26 - June 24, 2021 6:45 pm
Well Said my friend!
Karen - June 22, 2021 8:25 am
In a couple of days we will walk into the kitchen of our 100 year old cottage and see the big black wall phone on the wall! It still works. A couple of years ago my d-i-l taught my 7 year old grandson how to make a call. He was so excited to learn how to dial, and finally completed the call to his mom’s cell phone across the room!! It warmed my heart to see the wonder on his face at the magic of it ( and how hard it was to turn the dial all the way around). At that moment I knew for sure why we resisted replacing it with a modern contraption.
Don Simms - June 22, 2021 9:22 am
There are certain strengths in icons. Thanks for having the talent to let us recognize and remember that.
Donna R - June 22, 2021 9:36 am
Thanks Sean, it’s great to be reminded of those good old days!!! Party lines, long cords on rotary dial phone so you could go all over the house and talk and the smell of coffee in the mornings…..
Teresa Poole - June 22, 2021 10:11 am
I’ve heard my mom say that coffee in an electric CorningWare pot is the best. Too bad it was recalled and never remade due to some safety issue. I still use CorningWare with the blue flower every day.
Laura Wilson - June 22, 2021 10:19 am
When my mom passed and I eventually got the house organized for an “estate sale”, a guy came through and asked me if the rotary phone hanging over the built in desk in the kitchen was for sale. I told him if he had the tools to remove it he could have it for a few dollars. He went home and came back with a tool box, he really wanted that 50 year old, beige, rotary dial, land line phone.
Becky Moon - June 22, 2021 10:52 am
I have a rotary phone. It’s just a decoration but it’s real and it’s red. I like to think I can pick it up, dial and tell the President what I think about the job he’s doing. It is a source of fascination to young children who come visit and endless fun for them to dial and pretend to talk to whomever. I don’t know if they care about the job the President is doing but I’m thinking they could give some good advice.
Debbie g - June 22, 2021 10:58 am
Good memories 😀😀😀😀
Ginny Judson - June 22, 2021 11:01 am
Sean, some days you really speak to my soul. My grandma had a Pyrex percolator, clear glass. I keep eyeballing them on Etsy, EBay, and in antique stores. Our kitchen phone was yellow with a really long cord. I miss those times too and your words paint a picture of them so beautifully.
Linda Clifton - June 22, 2021 11:13 am
I remember the coffee pot & the yellow mud color wall phone! Gosh kids today have missed a lot!
Joey - June 22, 2021 11:23 am
“Come to Mama, sailor!”
I just snorted coffee out my nose!!!
eliz - June 22, 2021 12:23 pm
Camilla Stambaugh - June 22, 2021 11:34 am
You made me laugh right out loud and though I only cry at Publix Thanksgiving commercials, my eyes were percolating by the end. Thanks for revealing the subtle changes we’ve all lived through with a type of poetry in your phrases.
Anne B - June 22, 2021 11:38 am
When I was 29 (late 80’s) I moved into a very rustic cabin in the woods of the Florida panhandle. No electricity, no running water. I got a propane stove and refrigerator and found a corningware percolator at the flea market. We put in a shallow well with a pitcher pump, got oil lamps and lots of other non-electric kitchenware and lived life more like the 1880’s than the 1980’s. It was hard but joyful and peaceful. You definitely learn to conserve water when you have to go out and pump it, then carry the water to where you need it! We lived like that for many years and always started the day with the corningware percolator on the stove filling the cabin with the wonderful smell of our liquid energy for the day to come. Although we are living a more “modern” life now with an electric coffeemaker I’ve kept the percolator, still comes in very handy to use when the power is out. It always brings back memories of those early years that despite all the hard work and inconvenience I am very happy to have experienced!
Barbara Shields - June 22, 2021 11:47 am
My grandma had one. My son is buying up cookie jars and things he remembers from my mother’s kitchen from eBay. I love that boys from that era care about such things. They were not ruined by gruff, hairy dads of girlfriends, Baptist love, chance encounters at spin the bottle or even real food. Good boys all around!
Karen Holderman - June 22, 2021 11:55 am
Such good memories. Best way to start the day.
connectedbylearningblog - June 22, 2021 12:03 pm
Jed Dillard - June 22, 2021 12:05 pm
Hah! The kitchen?
Ours was in our parent’s bedroom, and we were on a party line.
Fifty years later, I still speak to women in a voice they can barely hear.
Nancy Crews - June 22, 2021 12:15 pm
eliza - June 22, 2021 12:27 pm
Omg, this is a great one. You’ve written about the stove-top percolator before and I actually went out and bought one. It saved us during the freeze. I don’t use it every day, never could get the measurements correct. I’ve had cowboy coffee for years so pretty used to it, but dang it is strong compared to regular coffee maker. We also had a phone in the kitchen and gosh, those were the days. There were no family secrets.
Tammy Troutman - June 22, 2021 12:33 pm
So many memories rolling down my wrinkled cheeks right now. I had my own princess phone as a teen but most calls came in during family TV time which put you right by the old kitchen rotary with the cord stretched to the next county….
Rhea Wynn - June 22, 2021 12:48 pm
The flow of your stories is always fun to watch. How you get from a percolator to bass fishing is a random ride but well worth taking. No matter what, you always manage to bring it full circle and make the story flow together. This old English teacher looks forward to reading your column every day. Thank you for shedding light on the good things!!!
C - June 22, 2021 1:00 pm
JOY to the World !!!!!!!!!
Our friend and burden-lightener has come.
How we do thank you for your contribution to remembering how it felt to have a light heart.
May you have many light days yourself.
We thank you with each and ALL of our light hearts.
Phil (the Brown Marlin) - June 22, 2021 1:00 pm
Thanks, Sean. I’m drowning in waves of nostalgia, but what a way to go!
JonDragonfly - June 22, 2021 1:22 pm
“So many memories rolling down my wrinkled cheeks right now.”
Nicely said, Tammy.
Tina Pynes - June 22, 2021 1:39 pm
I still use a stovetop Corningware percolator every single day! It makes the best coffee
Bob E - June 22, 2021 1:39 pm
Sean, thanks for jogging fond memories from the 50s and 60s – very satisfying to recall friends and lots of good times.
Patricia Canfield - June 22, 2021 2:58 pm
I sure miss the kitchen rotary phone and the calls from boy friends whose names are long gone from my 85 year old brain. I love Corningware, but didn’t make good coffee with the old blue and white coffee pot. You are welcome to it. Thanks for bringing back old images from the good old days!
Christina - June 22, 2021 2:59 pm
I love all of this!
Michelle - June 22, 2021 2:59 pm
I’m noting that it says “first kissed” Anne Lee. 😂
Lauren Lopez - June 22, 2021 3:26 pm
Sean, I enjoy reading everything you write!! I work at a library as a page and I first came across your writings when I saw your book, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” The title intrigued me. I read it and I was sold on it right then and there! I found your website and your blog and I’ve shared your writing with my family and friends. I’m presently reading Stars of Alabama. Wow!! What characters and how I pull for them! I have 10 chapters left. I placed on reserve The Incredible Winston Browne, which I should be picking up today. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing gift of writing! Abundant blessings to you!!
T.C. - June 22, 2021 4:25 pm
Oh man, I didn’t grow up with you, but you nailed my childhood right on the head.
Patricia Gibson - June 22, 2021 4:50 pm
Thanks for the great memories ❤️
Sandy Preble - June 22, 2021 6:11 pm
Even though you are quite younger than I am, you have a way of bringing back all my childhood memories. Many of them forgotten. What a gift to read your stories remembering all the wonders of my childhood, from the coffee pot, breakfast, sneaking out on sleepovers and lots of fishing. Thanks again for the memories Sean. You always make me happy and grateful.
Anita Smith - June 22, 2021 6:27 pm
I miss those days too. I love your writing, thanks for making my day.
Linda Moon - June 22, 2021 7:23 pm
I like silly. So, I like your nostalgia for Corningware. I own lots of it, but no coffee percolator. I did own some fundamentalist “gifts” for a short while. So, theft and Crown of Thorns….how did that dichotomy work for ya’ there? Simpler times with fewer devices worked for me. When my grandkids ask me if I own a smartphone, I always answer, “No, but I have a smart brain.” One brilliant grandson has been converted to a flip phone just like his granddad’s. CONVERTED. Thank you, Columnist, for not leaving the world of us smart, silly, and happy readers. I would miss all these words from your columns that you and I have agreed upon for perpetuity. Keep on typing…like you promised.
Rebecca Souders - June 22, 2021 7:24 pm
I made some pretty strong coffee in a percolator like that…. These days this old lady makes it one drip-through-a-cone a cup at a time! 🙂 But I really miss the Corning ware tea pot we got for a 1970 wedding gift… my husband was a tea drinker and having that pot reminded me of him. But, if you can believe that any Corningware would break, that pot did. Shucks.
Thanks for the memories.
Bill Harris - June 22, 2021 7:42 pm
Thank you Sean
MAM - June 22, 2021 8:22 pm
I think you are still sincere, just like in that moment. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to continue to write the loving, nostalgic, beautiful stories you do, Sean. I thank you every day, even when I don’t comment.
Shirley Jensen - June 22, 2021 9:32 pm
Wow!! This one brought back such fond memories. And made me laugh! Thanks.
Carol M - June 23, 2021 1:37 am
Have me mama’s blue cornflower Corningware coffeepot with stainless guys. Love it and use it when the power is out!
Pam - June 23, 2021 3:12 am
Never doubt your abilities as a writer! You had my daughter and I tee-heeing all though this one! She said, “He is a Good Writer. He is a good writer!”( She is a writer herself! ) We both were intrigued by the subject line, “Corningware”, because we live 20 minutes from Corning, NY, birthplace of that white percolator you speak of! ❤️😊
Mark3:26 - June 24, 2021 6:43 pm
“Come to Mama, Sailor” ???
That was the best belly laugh I have had since COVID 19 began.
God Bless You Sean and pass the percolator!
Carole Woodard - June 24, 2021 6:59 pm
We had an electric Corningware percolator and I loved it and used it until my husband wanted one of those K cup things. Back in the late 70’s when they determined the percolators unsafe you could send them in for an exchange—the exchange items were cooking dishes—not a new percolator. I finally got rid of mine when we downsized, but it made the best coffee ever. Also had a harvest gold wall phone with the longest spiral cord in the universe that frequently needed untangling. Good times!
Kate - June 25, 2021 2:44 am
My aunt still has a wallphone in her kitchen and it is harvest gold as are most of her applicances. She also has a rotary phone in her living room. So funny to think about that. She did get a cell phone, a jitterbug. She is 88, her husband is 94 and they have been married 67 years.
Larry Wall - July 22, 2021 6:07 pm
Sean – You are like a hard-ridden bicycle rim. You are warped. But it is in the very best way for your columns. This was delightfully funny and I never knew where it was going. My sweet wife kept looking across at me when I snickered at the mental images that you conjured up. Not to mention the memories from my own childhood antics.
No doubt about one undeniable fact – you are truly a very talented writer of undeniable great wit and intelligence.
Thank you for what you give us each day.
Kathi harper-hill - July 25, 2021 10:27 pm
We still have a wall phone in our kitchen. It’s made by Ma Belle. It rings so loud you can hear it out in the yard. Even when my daughter was a kid, and she’s 31 now, her friends didn’t know how to dial a phone. Sigh.