Last Friday night my suburban kitchen resembled an old-fashioned diner.
I had a crowd over for dinner and instead of serving the meal on unreliable paper or plastic plates, I put the food I had prepared for the party on heavy, solid, dinner plates known as “restaurant china.”
Restaurant china usually means the thick, and incredibly durable, dishes manufactured in the United States to be used in diners, on trains and in restaurants across the country.
My dishes were manufactured by the Buffalo China Co. sometime after World War II.
Buffalo China Co. was established at the turn of the last century as Buffalo Pottery and manufactured semi-porcelain china until 1915 when the company began to manufacture vitreous china.
During the first World War Buffalo supplied dinnerware for the US government. After the war, the company focused primarily on producing commercial and institutional tableware for restaurants, railroads, ship lines and hotels across the country.
I purchased my dishes at the annual rummage sale at a large, historic inner-city church with a big, busy kitchen. The church was getting rid of the high-maintenance china that had to be put through a dishwasher and sterilized, and took up a lot of cabinet space, and going to disposable dinnerware.
They sold the hundreds of plates, bowls, cups and saucers from the church kitchen for less than a $1 apiece.
I picked up the heavy pieces of pottery and imagined the use they had seen and survived in their years of service in that busy dining room, and thought surely they could endure being washed and dried by my crew of less-than-enthusiastic children.
I was right. In 10 years, we’ve only broken one plate. And it’s not like the dishwashers didn’t try.
Restaurant china, made by companies like Shenango Pottery, Buffalo China and Iroquois China, is collectible and plentiful. And because so many pieces were made, and it was made to last, there is a lot on the market today.
Prices are low. A quick look at eBay turned up a number of pieces in my “Leaf and Berry” pattern, most in the $3 to $5 range.
Heavy crockery has substance, and it imbues any meal with homey “comfort food” status. It is virtually indestructible, and an important part of our culture. Who wouldn’t love that?
Restaurant China: Identification & Value Guide for Restaurant, Airline, Ship & Railroad Dinnerware, (Volume 1) by Barbara J. Conroy. Published 1998, Collector Books. List price $24.95.
Restaurant China: Identification & Value Guide for Restaurant, Airline, Ship & Railroad Dinnerware, (Volume 2) by Barbara J. Conroy. Published 1999, Collector Books. List Price, $39.95.
Another Reader Recommendation
Lila Heydon called to add to our list of reader recommended antiquing spots. Her favorite is The Shabby to Chic Shoppe on the Lake in Coeur d’Alene. “If you haven’t been by there, you should try it,” she said. “It’s definitely my favorite place.”
This Saturday, from 10 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Spokane Valley Rotary Club is holding a rummage sale at the Opportunity Center, located at the corner of Sprague Avenue and Pines Road.
All proceeds will benefit community projects within Spokane Valley. Unsold merchandise will be donated to Goodwill.
This weekend also brings the flea market to town. The Lewis and Clark Traders Gun Show and Flea Market will be at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center located at 404 N. Havana St, Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission for each day is $4. For more information call (208) 746-5555
The 12th Annual “Mom’s Weekend Antique Show,” in Pullman will be next weekend, April 8, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and April 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Gladish Gym on Main Street. Admission is free. Dealers include Sherry and Ted Folk, Susan Heise, Lisa Reichart, Warren and Bonnie Smith, Jolene Laven and Barbara Feil.
Items for sale include vintage jewelry and clothing, textiles, dolls, ephemera and small furniture.