Donation serves up memoriesThere’s a dish of a mystery afoot in Superior. Two sets of china, each claiming ties to Central High School’s past, are circulating about town. A full set of fine English china that was used in Central High School’s Coolidge room during teas and other events was donated Thursday to Superior Public Museums.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
There’s a dish of a mystery afoot in Superior. Two sets of china, each claiming ties to Central High School’s past, are circulating about town.
A full set of fine English china that was used in Central High School’s Coolidge room during teas and other events was donated Thursday to Superior Public Museums.
“Oh, this is wonderful,” said Maggie Scheibe, collections manager, when she saw the white china banded with gold. “It’s beautiful.” Central served as President Calvin Coolidge’s “Summer White House” in 1928. The Coolidge room was the corner office where he conducted business.
The china service traveled to Superior Senior High School with Director of Guidance Alice Mitchell when the new school opened in 1965, according to retired SHS home economics teacher Wanda Gerard. But the back story of the “Dover” pattern fine bone china has been lost. Although it is believed to date back to the 1960s, such teas were being held in the Coolidge room earlier than that, according to Central High School graduates.
“I was in a sorority, we had mother-daughter luncheons there,” said Marlene Case, with the class of 1954. They had to set the places properly and learn etiquette. “Girls were expected to know that then.”
That was back when they cooked dishes like creamed chicken in nests of French fries, said Central alum Marilyn (Reed) Marino of Minneapolis.
Harriet “Bunchie” Thomson, a 1949 Central grad, remembers giving teas with the booster club in the Central High School library.
Mitchell stored the Coolidge room china in a hutch at Superior High School for decades, Gerard said, but only aired it out occasionally for special events. So Gerard pitched the idea of giving it to Fairlawn Mansion and Museum. The Superior School Board approved the donation, an estimated $3,600 value, in November.
“It’s a complete set, which is what we’re really excited about,” said Denise McDonald, events coordinator for Superior Public Museums. The china, nearly 70 full sets — dinner, salad and bread plates along with cups and saucers — will be stored at Fairlawn and served up for special occasions.
“We’re going to put it to use,” McDonald said.
Gerard said they were also passing on a set of flatware and silver tea service.
Central graduates were pleased when news broke of the dishes moving to Fairlawn.
“I think that would be a really neat place for a fine set of china,” said Thomson, who lives in Menomonee Falls.
“I think it’s perfect,” said Maureen (Yaworski) Ladich, a 1955 Central graduate who lives in Lake Nebagamon.
A second china mystery rests at the Douglas County Historical Society with a set of dishes that was once housed at Fairlawn.
“It’s always been called the ‘Coolidge china,’” said Kathy Laakso, executive director of the historical society. The cream-colored plates, cups and saucers, ringed with a golden wheat pattern, were stored away in a closet at the mansion, Laakso said. The historical society now houses the china, which is not stamped with any pattern or maker name, at their Vasa Temple home and pulls it out for the annual dinner and other events. But there is no back story, no documentation, to prove or disprove the china’s history.
Both the Douglas County Historical Society and Superior Public Museums are curious to learn the scoop on their dish mysteries. Anyone with information on either of the sets of china can contact Telegram reporter Maria Lockwood at the above email address or at 715-395-5025.