Dolores Kuhnert never imagined a 12-piece place setting of Manhattan dishes her grandmother gave her more than 50 years ago would lead to an addiction that has brought her exceeding joy and happiness.
Sitting in the living room of her Independence home with four other members of the Heart of America Glass Collectors Inc., Dolores says the dinnerware was displayed in a lighted cabinet for years. But to her, the place settings were just “Grandma’s dishes.”
It wasn’t until years later, she says, that her interest in those dishes spiked while attending a Heart of America Glass Collectors show in Independence. There, she spotted a piece of her Manhattan dinnerware, manufactured by the Anchor Hocking Glass Co.
“I’ve got a bunch of that,” she thought of her discovery. Minutes later, she learned the pattern name from a dealer, who, after answering all her questions, sold her a Manhattan pattern book. With book in hand, she decided it would be fun to collect the rest of the pieces to the set. Today, she has some 800 pieces.
On Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22, Dolores and her husband, Dewayne, will join other addicts and visitors at HOAGC’s spring Depression Era Glass and Pottery Show and Sale at the Roger T. Sermon Community Center at Truman and Noland roads in Independence. Admission is $4 for both days.
A dozen dealers from across the country will be showing and selling their wares from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Among the glassware are Depression, Elegant, Cambridge, Carnival, Fenton, Fostoria, Heisey, Imperial, Tiffin, Pattern, Fiesta, Franciscan and Hall, of as well as pottery.
With each dealer allowed up to six display tables in the Sermon Center gymnasium, there will be “thousands and thousands of pieces of glassware,” Dolores says, noting Heart of America members won’t be showing their collections because of space limitations. Twelve is the maximum number of tables the Sermon Center can accommodate, she says.
What show chairman Mark Evans likes best about the show, he says, is the “overall experience and lasting memories from times past.”
“To me, it brings back memories of Thanksgiving dinner,” says Mark, who has been a collector 13 years. “I think it is fascinating to see the various different table pieces that you can have, like 12 stem glasses at a single setting. It’s fascinating to see all that put together, and when you see it all in one cohesive table setting, it is breathtaking in my mind.”
As for Depression glass – a clear and colored translucent glassware distributed free in the United States and Canada during the Great Depression – all pieces had a purpose, Dolores notes.
“Like today, we have a lot of vases that we use for decorations. But everything made back then had a definite purpose. And when you finally realize what the purpose is, it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh! They had something for that.’”
As an example, “They made match holders for long, wooden matches out of glass,” she notes, adding toothpick holders, sugar cube holders, cigarette holders, and flower pots in dinnerware patterns were also produced.
And what seemed strange to club President Tony Patterson when he became a collector some 13 years ago was there were different bowls for different kinds of soups.
“Cream soup had a different bowl (from) a broth-based soup,” he says, adding: “Just the fact that you have two different types of soup bowls seemed odd to me .”
Why attend the two-day show?
Dolores believes it’s the beauty of the glass, explaining the sunlight shining through the large windows reflects off the sparkling glassware, bringing back memories of (seeing) such stunning beauty.
The show, Tony believes, is “a great place to look for pieces to complete a set. But even for noncollectors, there are some really amazing pieces that you can decorate with.”
Club member Jim Harris says the show has extremely knowledgeable dealers who are good resources, noting that many make their living collecting and selling glass.
“They know glass and they can help anybody that comes in with questions about glass.”
Between 300 to 400 visitors are expected to attend the show, which made its Independence debut in 1984 at the now-defunct Howard Johnson’s motor lodge on Noland Road. Before moving to the Sermon Center, shows were presented at the old Jackson County 4-H Club building on Frontage Road, just west of Missouri 291.
In the spring of 1977, a dozen people interested in glassware organized Heart of America Glass Collectors Inc. for the purpose of sharing knowledge and information about American-made glassware manufactured during the Depression era.
The newly formed club wasted little time making itself known in the community. It hosted the National Depression Glass Convention in Kansas City in 1978. Then in 1994, HOAGC hosted a national show in Topeka, Kan., and another show in 2002 at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit.
The club meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Community of Christ church, 801 SW 19th St., Blue Springs. For more information about HOAGC, visit www.HOAGC.org.
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.