- Kate Barker
Out of the Blue
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Our collection of Blue Willow started with My Sweet Husband’s grandmother in 1968. Married and struggling to work our way through college, we had purchased most of our dishes at the Salvation Army store. We received a lovely set of silverware, and lots of Corning Ware for wedding presents. Good dishes, we didn’t have.
One day, out of the blue, Grandma and Grandpa arrived with two boxes of wrapped dish ware. She had been saving these Blue Willow dishes for My Sweet Husband. She told me that when he was a little boy, she was cleaning her dish cabinet and had set all the Blue Willow dishes in the give-away pile. My Sweet Husband ask her why she was giving them away, and she replied she didn’t need them anymore. “But Grandma, I love those dishes,” he said. So she stuck them back in her cabinet and moved them several times, saving them for this very moment.
She had purchased the Blue Willow from a restaurant in Alturas, California that was buying a new set of serving dishes. These particular Blue Willow are known as “grill plates”.
Popular during the 1930’s to the 1950’s, these plates were ideal for the “Blue Plate Special” that was standard fare at many diners and cafes.
The deep blue color and the the Legend of Blue Willow are part of what contributes to it’s long term appeal for collectors.
There are many versions of The Legend, but here is one: Once a wealthy Chinese mandarin, Li Chi, had a beautiful daughter, Koong-see. She fell in love with her father’s humble accountant, Chang. Her father was very angry, since it would be inappropriate for them to marry, due to their different social classes. The mandarin dismissed the young man and built a high fence around his house to try and keep the lovers apart. Her father arranged for her to marry a powerful Duke. The Duke arrived by boat to claim his bride, bringing a box of jewels as a gift. On the day the blossoms fell from the willow tree the Duke was to marry Koong-see.
The night before the wedding, the young account, disguised himself as a servant and slipped into the palace unnoticed. The lovers, escaping over the bridge, with the jewels, were spotted. The alarm was sounded and the mandarin chased after them. They escaped on the Duke’s boat and arrived at a secluded island where they lived happily for many years. One day, the Duke discovered their secret. In revenge, he sent soldiers who captured them and put them to death. The Gods, moved by their misfortune, transformed the lovers into a pair of lovebirds so they could fly together forever, over the willow tree where they first declared their love for one another.
If you look closely at Blue Willow, you will be able to find many elements of the legend.
We have enjoyed adding to our collection when we travel or go “antiquing”. One treasure I found in an old antique store in Missouri is this precious child’s tin tea set. I can just imagine the mud pies placed delicately on those little plates and the delicious “tea” poured from the teapot into the cups.
One other great find was the Blue Willow measuring cup we found in a small shop in Fall River Mills, California.
Out of the blue, we were given a gift that has given us joy in continuing to accumulate. I hope you, too, have a collection that gives you immense pleasure every time you find another new piece !