Corningware

So I had to steal a Corningware percolator from my mother’s cabinet. I’m not proud of this, but she had three of them in her kitchen.

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 phone. But your cover was already blown, 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.

But I still 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 outweighed me by at least fifty pounds and was two feet taller than most boys. When it was her turn to spin the Coca-Cola bottle, everyone but me leapt away from the circle. 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 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.

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.

She didn’t make tofu, or egg whites, or meatless sausage patties. She made bacon, pancakes, and did I mention bacon? And when Charlie’s mother asked if you wanted coffee, it was a rite of passage.

“Yes’m,” you answered.

She poured it from a percolator. White. Corningware. And you were no longer boys, 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 percolators.

29 comments

  1. Pat Nichols - July 25, 2019 6:54 am

    Sean, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I would plug the percolator in, shove it into the cabinet, and shut the door because the smell of the coffee would bring on the morning sickness. Ah…the smell of percolating coffee, always a treat, except then.

    Reply
  2. Sandi. - July 25, 2019 6:58 am

    Interesting topic to write about, Sean. I so enjoy your musings. Ann Lee said to tell you she read it, too. LOL

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  3. Barb - July 25, 2019 9:01 am

    This is a “gooder” one, Sean. I about ruined my pajama bottoms just now too, and have you ever had hot coffee shoot out your nose? Just askin’ for a friend…..

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  4. Nona - July 25, 2019 10:50 am

    Percolators are still in my home along with iron skillets. And also the memories of days gone by.

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  5. Janie F. - July 25, 2019 11:34 am

    Thanks for my morning laugh. I love good old percolated coffee myself. I started drinking coffee at the age of 5 when I’d wake up early, the middle kid of 6 siblings, to sit with my parents as they had breakfast. Mother would pour me a half cup of coffee, then fill the cup the rest of the way with water. I am 64 now and still drink watery, lukewarm coffee but not from a drip coffee maker – yuck. Your description of the spin the bottle game cracked me up. Great story!

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  6. Catherine DeLoney - July 25, 2019 11:36 am

    Funny, I woke with the Beatles song ?? In my life, I think the name “there are places I remember all my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better , some are gone….and some remain. All those places have their moments, with people and things i still can recall. Some are dead and some are living….in my life I loved them all”. Old memories are the best. Rotary wall phones, lack of privacy was a right of passage. Corning Ware, etc….I wonder what kids today will miss.

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    • Robert Chiles - July 25, 2019 5:00 pm

      Catherine, several years ago, I visited Scotland and went up to the northwest coast to a place called Smoo Cave. I understand that the beach right there in the little town of Durness was was one of the places John Lennon had in mind when he wrote “Places I remember.” Go if you have the chance. It is beautiful.

      Reply
  7. Betty Nix - July 25, 2019 11:39 am

    Thank you Sean for your stories. I just love you and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. ? These times are fading fast and will be gone before long as we boomers check out. I was born in ‘53 and everything you write about rings a nostalgic bell. I even lived in Brewton for 7+ years. You’re the best! Congratulations on the book by the way!

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  8. Joe Patterson - July 25, 2019 12:18 pm

    Thanks

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  9. Sandy Pettis - July 25, 2019 12:22 pm

    You brought back many memories for me, thank you! By the way, I loved my clear glass percolator back then. I can smell it now.

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  10. Rhonda - July 25, 2019 1:04 pm

    I kept Bambi’s blue and white corning coffee pot in my cabinet for 20 years after it quit working. Just seeing it made me feel like she was in the kitchen with me. That coffee pot heard the start of every day in the life of 2 folks that are deep roots for me. Its not silly. Its a sign of love so deep it splatters all over everything around it.

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  11. Bobbie - July 25, 2019 1:13 pm

    Oh Sean, I’m waaay older than you and I feel sorry for all the things this generation and future ones will miss out on. Never had a Corningware percolator, but the regular kind, stainless steel I guess…plug in and the smell was almost better than the taste! You know, I wish they’d just do away with all the electronic games…phone, computer, all the devices….go back to board games, face to face games…but that would indeed create a chaos in this world like none we’ve seen so far! Can’t imagine.
    You mentioned chess. Made me think of a visit to Waffle House last week…yes, I frequent their establishment fairly often. I was privileged to see a sight I’ve never seen before, especially at WH. It was a quiet time of day, not but four or five people, but as I was leaving, I saw two gentlemen, one a WH employee, sitting at a booth playing chess!! It was a refreshing sight and I was so tempted to stay a while and watch. That’s something you just don’t see! They never looked up…so intent on their next move.
    So, alls not lost. Some of the simple pleasures are still about…we just have to look a little harder, or maybe just have a serendipity like I happened upon.
    Loved this story. Thanks again and God Bless❤️

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  12. Carolyn - July 25, 2019 1:36 pm

    Such a down home, feel good post Sean.
    Thanks for the memories. I want to see some Crown of Thorn plates‼️?

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  13. Donna Rae - July 25, 2019 2:27 pm

    Seems you have early onset ‘the way we were’ as it appears to me you are but a youth.When my husband told me Rutger Hauer died at 75 I blurted out “that’s not old.” Then I started laughing, because I am ‘only’ 73. Give it a few more years. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Loved your article. Donna Rae

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  14. Linda Moon - July 25, 2019 2:50 pm

    I understand why you miss those percolators. As a former Fundamentalist Baptist, I never used the Crown of Thorns serving plate, but I used plenty of Corningware. I will spend time today with people of a certain age and era who also used Corningware. We buried one of “us” yesterday. So, in spite of never using that Crown of Thorns plate, I can look forward to seeing the real One who wore that crown! In the meantime, I plan to keep on perkin’!!

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  15. Tim House - July 25, 2019 3:30 pm

    Great little “blast from the past”. Reminded me of my youth, too.

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  16. jswearen - July 25, 2019 6:25 pm

    The first phone I remember was in my grandmother’s kitchen. A wooden box with a hand crank to ring up the operator. Think Lassie, early days. AND, my college roommate and I lived on percolated coffee. One night, studying for exams, we re-percolated the coffee until it was so thick, it poured like molasses. Those were the days.

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  17. Janet Mary Lee - July 25, 2019 9:38 pm

    I am at that age being wistful for times past. We had a glass percolator with glass insides! I miss the perking sounds and smells! On a mission I looked up that pot on Ebay. There was one for $145.00….How times have changed! At that price I will continue to be nostalgic. I miss neighborhood bakeries and shops, glass milk deliveries and the fun of watching the coal truck dump your winter coal down the chute to the coal room!! We still play all those board games! What a fun yet tugging on the heart column!!
    .

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  18. Lois Young - July 25, 2019 10:38 pm

    Oh yes. The kitchen phone. And board games. I need to play one of those soon. Thanks for the memories.

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  19. Ann - July 25, 2019 11:03 pm

    This is sooooo refreshing! Thank you

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  20. Dereck in Demopolis - July 26, 2019 2:13 am

    My mom had one if these. I remember how good the coffee was. Mom died in 2013, but my mother in law still has her’s and I am going to get it tomorrow from her and brew a long lost memory. Thanks for exciting that dormant brain cell that held that.

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  21. Jody - July 26, 2019 2:30 am

    Great story. Memories are treasures

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  22. sholmes53 - July 26, 2019 4:07 pm

    Sweet, sweet memories!

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  23. Linda Chipman - July 26, 2019 5:44 pm

    I found one of those Corningware percolators in a cabinet when cleaning out my Mother’s house. I could not let it go so it sits in a cabinet of mine now. Must admit I’ve never made coffee in a percolator. I also miss rotary dial phones. I do still have a kitchen wall phone that works but it has push buttons.

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  24. Paul Morton - July 26, 2019 6:49 pm

    I remember staying at my friend Ken’s house in a sleepy little coastal north Florida community in 7th grade. A wood structure on concrete footers so when the river flooded the floors would stay dry. Anyhow Ken’s mother Mrs. Annie Ruth had one of those percolators and she made coffee using Chock Full O’nuts coffee and a handful of acorns. That coffee may have been responsible for the birth of my first chest hair. Stout!

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  25. Nell Thomas - July 27, 2019 8:17 am

    Is it just me or do things just not taste the same as they did back then – days of Corning ware and wall phones?
    Speaking of wall phones or even desktops- we were limited to so many minutes- depending on the mood Pop was in. Sometimes you could get away more than 5- sometimes phone service was suddenly disrupted. Back in the day you couldn’t just plug it back in. A long distance call seemed to be a MAJOR set back to the budget.
    How different things are today.

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  26. Patsy Clairmont - August 2, 2019 5:57 pm

    Dear Old Soul…thanks for another stroll down streets lined with porches and homes fragrant with life. May you always enjoy the perks of yesterday, the bacon of today, and the adventure packed into tomorrow. Your writerly ways chime familiar.

    Reply

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