When I was seven or eight, my grandmother gave me a fountain pen with a ring on the top to hang from a necklace. It was broken, tarnished and missing a tiny chip about a quarter of an inch square at the capped end where the ink was poured. I don’t know if it still holds ink. I have never opened it. I liked it because she gave it to me straight out of her dresser drawer, not because I ever imagined using it.
I never asked her who gave it to her. I was thrilled to receive a treasure. It is a sterling silver filigree Parker Fountain pen with the Lucky Curve design, no. 14 which cost $5.00 in 1913. This vintage pen advertisement was a big help in the identification process for my pen. I do love the Internet.
Were you in love with someone before Grandpop?
My grandmother was born in 1900, she married my grandfather in 1930. Her older brother, Oliver Kenneth King, was twenty-one when he registered for the draft on 5 June 1918. I have imagined one of his friends from Morristown, Hamblen Co., Tennessee gave her the pen before enlisting during World War I. I never asked. In 1914 Henry Ford made news when he paid some of his workers $5.00 per day, more than twice the industry average of $2.34. Extrapolating, this could mean $5 then is comparable to $300 now. Who gave her this pen? Was she in love with someone before my grandfather? The timing certainly suggests losing a loved one in the War. I don’t know because I never asked. If her parents had given her this pen, she most likely would have said so and said when, and for what occassion. The US Inflation Calculator, measures buying power over the years, suggests a cost of $114.35 in 2011 for a $5.00 price in 1913. Any way you look at it, this was not a casual gift. I wish I had asked.
The pen which is extremely tarnished, resembles the middle of these five pens, a ring top but it also has a more elongated endpiece like the fourth pen. Two of my grandmother’s initials engraved on it, again giving credence to the non-family member gift, as someone in the family would have used all three of her initials. Thanks to the Parker Pen Penography for help in identifying this pen, as nearly as possibe.
The best and/or most salacious stories come out during holiday cleanup in the kitchen. This Thanksgiving, offer to help in the kitchen afterwards. Do not offer your opinion about running hot water over every dish until it’s clean prior to placing in the dishwasher, pro or con. If the house policy is no stainless steel utensils next to the silver in the dishwasher, cooperate. If the hostess doesn’t put bottles or cans in the garbage, you don’t either. When the holidays are at your house, you rule. In the meantime, help, don’t proselytize.
Good questions might be:
- who was the first boy you ever kissed
- what was the worst thing your dad ever did to one of your dates
- did you ever date a “bad” boy
- did anyone in the family elope
- who had the happiest marriage
- did you love anyone else before you married your spouse
Questions that may or may not cause offense:
- Did anyone have a 12 pound seven month first baby?
- Why doesn’t cousin Ralph look at all like Uncle Howard?
- Did Aunt Myrtle really work as a show girl in Las Vegas?
You might find out the answers to the second set of questions, in fact, you are likely to, just don’t ask them. Scrubbing up releases tensions and things get said in the kitchen that will never be said in the parlor. Someone may have heard from or about cousin Velva, and someone else will say something like, Daddy never did like that boy. Previously, all you knew about Velva was that she was a secretary in Chicago for some big firm. This is a big clue. Check the article about Marriage Records for one father’s solution to a potential son-in-law he didn’t want.
Be aware of the dishes, crystal, serving silverware and if conversation lags, ask about them. That will probably get you to the wedding presents and non-wedding presents in the bunch. You may find out who sent great presents and who was always trying to impress the rest of the family with their presents. Conversely, you may find out who sent re-gifts or horrid ugly porcelain statues. Find out why the cranberry sauce is always served in the one particular crystal or ceramic dish, especially if no one likes cranberry sauce. Enjoy.